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The Labour Divide


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Communism abolished official unemployment. It had no place in the dictatorship of the proletariat, where all means of production were commonly owned. Underemployment was rife, though. Many workers did little else besides punching cards on their way in and out.

For a long time, it seemed as though Japan succeeded where communism failed. Its unemployment rate was eerily low. It has since climbed to exceed the United States' at 5.6%. As was the case in Central and Eastern Europe, the glowing figures hid a disheartening reality of underemployment, inefficiency, and incestuous relationships between manufacturers, suppliers, the government, and financial institutions.

The landscape of labour has rarely undergone more all-pervasive and thorough changes than in the last decade. With the Cold War over, the world is in the throes of an unprecedented economic transition. The confluence of new, disruptive technologies, the collapse of non-capitalistic modes of production, the evaporation of non-market economies, mass migration (between 7.5% - in France - and 15% - in Switzerland - of European populations), and a debilitating brain drain - altered the patterns of employment and unemployment irreversibly and globally.

In this series of articles, I study this tectonic shift: employment and unemployment, brain drain and migration, entrepreneurship and workaholism, the role of trade unions, and the future of work and retirement.

I. The True Picture

According to the ILO ("World Employment Report - 2001"), more than 1 billion people - one third of the global workforce - are either unemployed or underemployed. Even hitherto "stable" countries have seen their situation worsen as they failed to fully adjust to a world of labour mobility, competitiveness, and globalization.

Unemployment in Poland may well be over 18% - in Argentina, perhaps 25%. In many countries, unemployment is so entrenched that no amount of aid and development seem to affect it. This is the case in countries as diverse as Macedonia (35% unemployment) and Zimbabwe (a whopping 60%). The much heralded improvements in the OECD countries were both marginal (long term unemployment declined from 35% of the total to 31%) and reversible (unemployment is vigorously regaining lost ground in Germany and France, for instance).

Official global unemployment increased by 20 million people (to 160 million) between the nadir of the Asian crisis in 1997 and 2001. The situation has much deteriorated since. The ILO estimates that the world economy has to run (i.e., continue to expand as it has done in the roaring 1990's) - in order to stay put (i.e., absorb 500 million workers likely to be added to the global labour force until 2010). How can this be achieved with China unwinding its state sector (which employs 13% of its workforce) - is not clear. Add to this stubbornly high birth rates (esp. in Africa) and a steady decline in government hiring al over the world - and the picture may be grimmer than advertised.

But the rate of unemployment is not a direct and exclusive result of growth or the lack thereof. It is influenced by government policies, market forces (including external shocks), the business cycle, discrimination, and investment - including by the private sector - in human capital.

The problem with devising effective ways of coping with unemployment is that no one knows the true picture. Taking into account internal, rural-to-urban, migration patterns and the growth of the private sector (it now employs 5% of the labour force) - China may have a real unemployment rate of 9.5% (compared to the official figure of 3.1%). Egypt's official rate is 8% -but it masks vast over-employment in the public sector. Lebanon's is 9% - due to a one-time reconstruction bonanza, financed by the billionaire-turned-politician, Hariri. Algeria's unemployed easily amount to half the work force - yet, the published rate is 29%. In numerous countries - from Brazil to Sri Lanka - many people are mainly employed in casual work.

The average unemployment rate in Central and Eastern Europe is 14% - but it is double that (more than 30%) among the young (compared to 15% for West European youths). The average is misleading, though. In Georgia the rate is 70% - in the Czech Republic 16%.

Even in the OECD, the tidal wave of part-time workers, short term contracts, outsourcing, sub-contracting, and self-employment - renders most figures rough approximations. Part time work is now 20% of the OECD workforce (German attempts to reverse the trend notwithstanding). Temporary work and self-employment constitute another 12% each. No one knows for sure how many illegal economic migrants are there - but there are tens of millions of legal ones.

II. The Facts

IIa. Labour Mobility

"Mobility", "globalization", "flextime" - media imagery leads us to believe that we move around more often, and change (less secure) jobs more frequently. It is not so. By many measures, the world is less globalized today than it was a century ago. Contrary to popular perceptions, job tenure (in the first 8 years of employment) has not declined, nor did labour mobility increase (according to findings published by the NBER and CEPR). Firms' hiring and firing practices are more flexible but this is because "sarariman" jobs are out of fashion and many workers (80% of them, according to the Employment Policy Foundation) prefer casual work with temporary contracts.

Workers keep moving, as they always have, among firms and between sectors. But they are still reluctant to relocate, let alone emigrate. The subjective perception of job insecurity is high, even after the most prosperous decade in recent history. Witness the sparse movement of labour among members of the EU, despite the existence, on paper, of a single labour market. Still, rising systemic unemployment everywhere serves to increase both the efficiency and productivity of workers and to moderate their wage claims.

IIb. Collective Bargaining

Studies linked collective bargaining to an increased wage level, decreased hiring and more rigid labour markets. But unionized labour has greatly contracted in almost all OECD countries. Why has unemployment remained so persistently high?

In France and the Netherlands collective agreements were applied to non-unionized labour (close to four fifth of the actually employed in the latter). Employment increases only where both union membership and coverage by collective agreements are down (USA, UK, New Zealand, Australia).

There are different models of wage bargaining. In the USA and Canada agreements are sometimes signed at the firm or even individual plant level. Throughout Scandinavia (though this may be changing in Norway and Denmark now that centre-right parties have won the elections), a single national agreement prevails. There is no clear trend, though. Britain, New Zealand and Sweden decentralized their collective bargaining processes while Norway and Portugal are still centralized.

Both types of bargaining - centralized and decentralized - tend to moderate wage demands. Centralized bargaining forces union leaders to consider the welfare of the entire workforce. Either of the pure models seems preferable to a hybrid system. The worst results are obtained with national bargaining for specific industries. Hybrid-bargaining Europe saw its unemployment soar from 3 to 11% in the last 25 years. Pure-bargaining USA maintained a low unemployment rate of 5-6% during the same quarter century.

IIc. Unemployment Benefits

Blanchard and Wolfers studied 8 market rigidities in 20 countries (including the EU, USA, Canada, and Japan) between the years 1960-96. The unemployment rate in an imaginary composite of all the studied countries should have risen by 7.2% in this period. But unemployment increased by twice as much in countries with strict employment protection laws compared to countries with laxer labour legislation.

Unemployment in the country with the most generous unemployment benefits grew five times more than in the most parsimonious one. It grew our times faster in countries with centralized wage bargaining than in countries with utterly decentralized bargaining. Labour market rigidities all amplify the effects of asymmetrical shocks - which bodes ill for the eurozone.

Other studies (e.g., the 1994 OECD one year study, the more substantial DiTella-MacCullouch study) seem to support these findings. The transition from a rigid to a flexible labour market does not yield immediate results because it increases labour force participation. But the unemployment rate is favorably affected later.

IId. Minimum Wages

In the USA, the minimum wage is 35% of the median wage (in France it is 60%, in Britain - 45%, and in the Netherlands it is declining). When wages are downward-flexible - more lowly skilled jobs are created. A 1% rise in the minimum wage reduces the probability of finding such a job by 2-2.5% in both America and France, according to the NBER (Lemieux and Margolis).

The proponents of minimum wages say they reduce poverty and increase the equality of wealth distribution. Their opponents (such as Peter Tulip of the Federal Reserve) blame them for job destruction, mainly by raising the NAIRU. The OECD's position is that wage regulation cannot remedy poverty. As "The Economist" succinctly puts it, "few low paid workers live in low-income households and few low-income households include low paid workers. (Thus), the benefits of the minimum wage, such as they are, largely bypass the poor."

Again, it is important to realize that unemployment is not universal - it is concentrated among the young, the old, the under-educated, the unskilled, and the geographically disadvantaged. One in eight of all workers under the age of 25 in the USA are unemployed, more than twice the national average (the figure in France is one in four). A 10% rise in the minimum wage - regardless of its level - reduces teenage employment by 2-4%, calculates the OECD.

Many countries (USA, UK, France) introduced "training wages" - actually, minimum wage exemptions for the young. But even this sub-minimum wages still represent a high percentage of mean youth earnings (53% in the USA and 72% in France) and thus have an inhibiting effect on youth employment.

Minimum wages do reduce inequality by altering the income distribution and by equalizing wages across ages and genders - but they have no effect on inequality and poverty reduction, insists the OECD. "The Economist" quotes these figures (in 1998):

"In American households with less than half the median household income, only 33% of adults have a low-paid job. (compared to 13% in the Netherlands and 5% in the UK). In most poor households no one is employed in a regular job. Many low earners, on the other hand, have well-paid partners, or affluent parents ... Only 33% of those Americans who earn less than two-thirds of the median wage live in families whose income is less than half the national median. (In the UK the figure is 10% and in Ireland - 3%). Over a 5-year period, only 25% of low paid Americans are in a poor family at some point; in Britain 10% are."

Thus, minimum wages seem to hurt poor families with teenagers (by making teenage employment unattractive) while benefiting mainly the middle class.

Still, the absolute level of the minimum wage seems to be far more important that its level relative to the average or median wage. Hungary's unemployment went down, from 9% to 6%, while its minimum wage went up (in real terms) by 72% in 1998-2001. During the same four year period, its economy grew by an enviable 5% a year, real wages skyrocketed (by 17%), and its inflation dropped to 7% (from 16%).

IIe. Structural Unemployment

Most unemployment in Europe is structural (as high as 8.9% in Germany, according to a 1999 IMF study). It is the ossified result of decades of centralized wage bargaining, strict job protection laws, and over-generous employment benefits. The IMF puts structural unemployment in Europe at 9%. This is compared to the USA's 5% and the UK's 6% (down from 9%). The remedies, though well known, are politically unpalatable: flexible wages, mobile labour, the right fiscal policy, labour market deregulation, and limiting jobless benefits.

Some hesitant steps have been taken by the governments of Germany and France (cut jobless benefits and turned a blind eye to temporary and part-time work), by Italy (decoupled benefits from inflation), and by Belgium, Spain and France (reduced the minimum wage payable to young people).

But piecemeal reform is worse than no reform at all. In an IMF Staff Paper, Coe and Snower describe the Spanish attempt to introduce fixed term labour contracts. It established two de facto classes of workers - the temporary vs. the permanently employed - and, thus, reduced labour market flexibility by granting increased bargaining power to the latter. France introduced a truncated, 35-hours, working week. Other countries imposed a freeze on hiring with the aim of workforce attrition through retirement. Yet, these "remedies" also led to an increase in the bargaining power of the remaining workers and to commensurate increases in real wages.

IIf. Unemployment and Inflation

Another common misperception is that there is some trade off between unemployment and inflation. Both Friedman and Phelps attacked this simplistic notion. Unemployment seems to have a "natural" (equilibrium) rate, which is determined by the structure and operation of the labour market and is consistent with stable inflation (NAIRU - Non Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment).

NAIRU is not cast in stone. Employment subsidies, for instance, make low skilled workers employable and lower NAIRU. So do unilateral transfers which raise incomes. According to Phelps, big drops in unemployment need not greatly increase permanent inflation. Stiglitz calculated that America's NAIRU may have dropped by 1.5% due to increased competition in the markets for jobs and goods. These findings are supported by other prominent economists. Stiglitz concluded that NAIRU, in itself, is meaningless. It is the gap between the estimated NAIRU and the actual rate of unemployment that is a good predictor of inflation.

IIg. The Rhineland Model, the Poldermodel, and Other European Ideas

The Anglo-Saxon variant of capitalism is intended to maximize value for shareholders (often at the expense of all other stakeholders).

The Rhineland model likes to think of itself as "capitalism with a human face". It calls for an economy of consensus among stakeholders (shareholders, management, workers, government, banks, other creditors, suppliers, etc.).

Netherlands, too, has an advisory Social and Economic Council. Another institution, the Labour Foundation is a social partnership between employees and employers. Both are relics of a corporatist past.

But the Netherlands saw its unemployment rate decline from 17% to less than 2% while ignoring both models and inventing the "Poldermodel", a Third Way. Wim Duisenberg, the Dutch Banker (currently Governor of the European Central Bank), quoted in an extensive analysis of the Poldermodel prepared for "The Economist" by Frits Bolkstein (a former Dutch minister for foreign trade), attributed this success to four elements:

Improving state finances; 
Pruning social security and other benefits and transfers; 
Flexible labour markets; 
A Stable exchange rate. 
According to Thomas Mayer and Laurent Grillet-Aubert ("The New Dutch Model"), the "Dutch Miracle" traces its beginnings to 1982 and the Wassenaar Agreement in which employers' organizations and trade unions settled on wage moderation and job creation, mainly through decentralization of wage bargaining. The government contributed tax cuts to the deal (these served to compensate for forgone wage increases). These cuts generated a fiscal stimulus and prevented a contraction in demand as a result of wage moderation. Additionally, both social security payments and the minimum wage were restricted. Wage increases were no longer matched by corresponding increases in minimum social benefits. Working hours, hiring, firing and collective bargaining were all incorporated in a deregulated labour market.

Small and medium size businesses costly regulation was relaxed. Generous social security and unemployment benefits (a disincentive to find work) were scaled back. Sickness benefits, vacation periods, maternal leave and unemployment benefits were substantially adjusted.

The Netherlands did not shy from initiating public works projects, though on a much smaller scale than France, for instance. The latter financed these projects by raising taxes and by increasing its budget deficit. The Dutch preferred to rely on the free market.

Long term (more than 12 months) unemployment in Europe constitutes 30% of the total. About half the entire workforce under the age of 24 is unemployed in Spain - and about one quarter in France and in Italy. Germany, Austria and Denmark escaped this fate only by instituting compulsory apprenticeship. But the young unemployed form the tough and immutable kernel of long-term unemployment. This is because a tug of war, a basic conflict of interest, exists between the "haves" and "have-nots". The employed wish to defend their monopoly and form "labour cartels". This is especially true in dirigiste Europe.

While, in the USA, according to McKinsey, 85% of all service jobs created between 1990-5 paid more than the average salary - this was not the case in Europe. Add to this European labour immobility - and a stable geographical distribution of unemployment emerges.

The Dutch model sought to counter all these rigidities. In a report about "The Politics of Unemployment" dated April 1997, "The Economist" admiringly enumerated these steps:

The Dutch reduced social security contributions from 20% (1989) to 7.9% and they halved the income tax rate to 7% (1994). 
They allowed part time workers to be paid less than full timers, doing the same job. 
They abandoned sectoral central bargaining in favor of decentralized national bargaining. 
They cut sickness benefits, unemployment insurance (benefits) and disability insurance payments (by 10% in 1991 alone - from 80% to 70%). 
They made it harder to qualify for unemployment (from 1995 no benefits were paid to those who chose to remain unemployed). 
The burden of supporting the sick was shifted to the employer / firm. In 1996, the employer was responsible to pay for the first year of sickness benefits. 
Even the Dutch model is not an unmitigated success, though. More than 13% of the population are on disability benefits. Only 74% of the economically active population is in the workforce - one third of them in part time jobs.

But compare the Dutch experience to France's, for instance.

The Loi Robien exempted companies from some social security contributions for 7 years, if they agree to put workers on part time work instead of laying them off. Firms promptly abused the law and restructured themselves at the government's expense.

The next initiative was to reduce the working week to 35 hours. This was based on the "Lump of Labour Fallacy" - the idea that there is a fixed quantity of work and that reducing the working week from 39 to 35 hours will create more jobs.

In Spain, hiring workers is unattractive because firing them is cost-prohibitive. The government - faced with more than 22% unemployment in the mid-90's - let more than 25% of all workers go on part time contracts with less job protection, by 2001.

Still, no one knows to authoritatively answer the following substantial questions, despite the emergence of almost universally applied UN-sponsored Standard National Job Classifications:

How many are employed and not reported or registered? How many are registered as unemployed but really have a job or are self-employed? How many are part time workers - as opposed to full time workers? How many are officially employed - but de facto unemployed or underemployed? How many are on "indefinite" vacations, on leave without pay, on reduced pay, etc.?

Many countries have a vested interest to obscure the real landscape of their destitution - either in order to prevent social unrest, or in order to extract disproportionate international aid. In a few countries, limited amnesties were offered by the state for employers' violations of worker registration. Firms were given a few, penalty-free, weeks to register all their workers. Afterwards, labour inspectors were supposed to embark on sampling raids and penalize the non-compliers, if need be by closing down the offending business. The results were dismal.

In most countries, the unemployed must register with the Employment Bureau once a month, whether they receive their benefits, or not. Non-compliance automatically triggers the loss of benefits. In other countries, household surveys were carried out - in addition to claimant counts and labour force surveys, which deal with the structure of the workforce, its geographical distribution, the pay structure, and employment time probabilities.

Yet, none of these measures proved successful as long as government policies - the core problem - remained the same. Faced with this trenchant and socially corroding scourge - governments have lately been experimenting with a variety of options.

III. The Solutions

IIIa. Tweaking Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits provide a strong disincentive to work and, if too generous, may become self-perpetuating. Ideally, unemployment benefits should be means tested and limited in time, should decrease gradually and should be withheld from school dropouts, those who never held a job, and, arguably, as is the case in some countries, women after childbearing. In the USA, unemployment benefits are not available to farm workers, domestic servants, the briefly employed, government workers and the self- employed.

Copious research demonstrates that, to be effective, unemployment benefits should not exceed short-term sickness benefits (as they do in Canada, Denmark, and the Netherlands). Optimally, they should be lower (as they are in Greece, Germany and Hungary). Where sickness benefits are earnings-related, unemployment benefits should be flat (as is the case in Bulgaria and Italy). In Australia and New Zealand, both sickness benefits and unemployment benefits are means tested. Unemployment benefits should not be higher than 40% of one's net average monthly wage (the "replacement rate").

Most unemployment benefits are limited in time. In Bulgaria, to 13 weeks, in Israel, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands to 6 months and in France, Germany, Luxemburg and the United Kingdom - to 12 months. Only Belgium offered time-unlimited unemployment benefits. In most countries, once unemployment benefits end - social welfare payments commence, though they are much lower (to encourage people to find work).

In many countries in transition (e.g., in Macedonia), the unemployed are eligible to receive health and pension benefits upon registration. This - besides being an enormous drain of state finances - encourages people to register as unemployed even if they are not and distorts the true picture.

Some countries, mainly in Central Europe, attempt to provide lump sum block grants to municipalities and to allow them to determine eligibility, to run their own employment-enhancement programs, and to establish job training and child care centers. Workers made redundant can choose to either receive a lump sum or be eligible for unemployment benefits.

A third approach involves the formation of private unemployment, disability, and life, or health insurance and savings plans to supplement or even replace the benefits offered by the relevant state agencies.

An intriguing solution is the municipal "voucher communities" of unemployed workers, who trade goods and services among themselves (in the UK, in Australia, and in Canada). They use a form of "internal money" - a voucher. Thus, an unemployed electrician exchanges his services with an unemployed teacher who, in return tutors the electrician's off-spring. The unemployed are allowed to use voucher money to pay for certain public goods and services (such as health and education). Voucher money cannot be redeemed or converted to real money - so it has no inflationary or fiscal effects, though it does increase the purchasing power of the unemployed.

IIIb. Enhancing Employability

In most such schemes, the state participates in the wage costs of newly hired formerly unemployed workers - more with every year the person remains employed. Employers usually undertake to continue to employ the worker after the state subsidy is over. Another ploy is linking the size of investment incentives (including tax holidays) to the potential increase in employment deriving from an investment project. Using these methods, Israel succeeded to absorb more than 400,000 working age immigrants from Russia in the space of 5 years (1989-1994) - while reducing its unemployment rate.

IIIc. Encouraging Labour Mobility

Workers are encouraged to respond promptly and positively to employment signals, even if it means relocating. In many countries, a worker is obliged to accept any job on offer in a radius of 100 km from the worker's place of residence on pain of losing his or her unemployment benefits. Many governments (e.g., Israel, Yugoslavia, Russia, Canada, Australia) offer the relocating worker financial and logistical assistance as well as monetary and non-monetary incentives.

The EU is considering to introduce standard fixed term labour contracts. They would reduce the insupportable costs and simplify the red tape now involved in hiring and firing. The only country to buck the trend is Germany. It is looking to equate the rights of part time workers and full time ones. Similar ideas are debated in Britain. In France and most countries in Central and Eastern Europe, to dismiss a worker, the employer has to show that it has restricted hiring, applied workforce attrition, and reduced overall overtime. The EU's "social chapters" - now on of every member's law books - provides sacked employees with recourse to domestic and European courts against their employers. In other parts of the world, the two parties are subject to conciliation, mediation, or arbitration.

IIId. Reforming the Minimum Wage

Minimum wage hinders the formation of new workplaces - and yet almost all countries have it. Both the USA and the UK have just increased it. Many are considering a scaled minimum wage, age-related, means tested, and skills-dependent.

IIIe. Administrative Measures: Early Retirement

A favorite of post-communist countries in transition, early retirement was liberally applied in order to get rid of "technologically-redundant" workers and thus trim under-employment.

Romania, for instance, offered its workers a handsome up-front payment combined with unemployment benefits. A special Early Retirement Fund was created by setting aside receipts from the privatization of state assets and from dividends received by the state from its various shareholdings.

IIIf. Administrative Measures: Reduction of Working Hours

France has recently implemented the second phase of its transition to a 35 hours working week, making it obligatory for medium and small businesses. It is considered by many economist to be a wasteful measure, based on the "lump of labour" fallacy.

IIIg. Administrative Measures: Public Works

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in the USA in 1932. It offered work for young and unmarried men. They planted trees, erected flood barriers, put out forest fires, and constructed forest roads and trails. They lived in semi-military work camps, were provided with food rations and a modest monthly cash allowance, medical care, and other necessities.

At its apex, the CCC employed 500,000 people - and 3 million people throughout its existence. It was part of a major "public works" drive known as "The New Deal". This Keynesian tradition continues in many countries - from deflationary Japan to racially imbalanced South Africa - to this very day. Such workers are usually paid a salary equal to their unemployment benefits (Workfare).

The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about public works:

"The weakness in the proposal to use disguised unemployment for the construction of social overhead capital projects arises from inadequate consideration of the problem of providing necessary subsistence funds to maintain the workers during the long waiting period before the projects yield consumable output. This can be managed somehow for small-scale local community projects when workers are maintained in situ by their relatives - but not when workers move away. The only way to raise subsistence funds is to encourage voluntary savings and expansion of marketable surplus of food purchased with these savings."

Public works financed by grants or soft loans do serve as an interim "unemployment sink" - a countercyclical buffer against wild upswings in unemployment - but, for all we know, they may simply be displacing existing employment at great cost to the public purse.

IIIh. Administrative Measures: Public Education and Dissemination of Information

Employment Bureaus throughout the world - spurred on by stiff competition from the private sector - have transformed themselves from mere registries to active (and computerized) labour exchanges. Many also strive to educate workers, retrain them, and enhance their employability through the acquisition of new skills. The unemployed are taught how to prepare a professional bio, a business plan, a marketing plan, feasibility studies, credit applications and interview skills.

Employment Bureaus now organize job clubs, labour exchanges and employment fairs.

IIIi. National Employment Contract

Many countries - especially in Latin America and in Central and Eastern Europe - have signed "National Employment Contracts" between government, trade unions, employers (represented by the Chamber of Commerce), and Central Bank.

In this neo-corporatist approach, employers usually guarantee the formation of new work places against a freeze on employee compensation, the exclusion of part time labour from collective bargaining, and added flexibility on minimum wages, job security, hiring and firing procedures, social and unemployment benefits, indexation of wages and benefits, the right to strike, and wage increases (increasingly linked to productivity gains).

Trade unions, in return, are granted effective control of the shop floor - issues like unemployment insurance, employment protection, early retirement, working hours, old age pensions, health insurance, housing, taxation, public sector employment, vocational training, and regional aid and subsidies to declining and infant industries.

In Sweden and Germany there is co-determination. Workers are represented even in non-wage related matters (such as the work organization).

Wages and unemployment benefits are perceived as complementary economic stabilizers. Many countries instituted an "Incomes Policy" intended to ensure that employers, pressurized by unions, do not raise wages and prices. In Sweden, for instance, both labour and management organizations are responsible to maintain price stability. The government can intervene in the negotiations and even threaten a wage freeze, or wage AND price controls. In Holland the courts can set wages.

Another possibility is a Guaranteed Wage Plan - Employers assure minimum annual employment or minimum annual wages or both to tenured employees. In return, firms and trade unions forego seniority (LIFO, last in first out, firing the newly hired first) and the employer is given a free hand in hiring and firing employees, regardless of tenure.

IIIj. Labour Disputes Settlement

Most modern collective agreements require compulsory dispute settlement through mediation and arbitration with clear grievance procedures. Possibilities include conciliation (a third party brings management and labour together to try and solve the problems by themselves), mediation (a third party makes nonbinding suggestions to the parties), arbitration (a third party makes final, binding decisions), or Peer Review Panels - where management and labour rule together on grievances.

IIIk. Non-conventional Modes of Work

Work is no longer the straightforward affair it used to be.

In Denmark, a worker can take a special leave. He receives 80% of the maximum unemployment benefits as well as uninterrupted continuity in his social security rights. But he has to use the time for job training, a sabbatical, further education, a parental leave, to take old people (old parents or other relatives), or the terminally ill. This is also the case in Belgium (though only for up to 2 months). These activities are thought of as substitutes for social outlays.

In Britain, part time and full time workers are entitled to the same benefits if wrongfully dismissed and in Holland, the pension funds grant pensions to part time workers. In many countries, night, shift and weekend workers are granted special treatment by law and by collective contract (for instance, exemption from social benefits contributions).

Most OECD countries now encourage (or tolerate) part-time, flextime, from home, seasonal, casual, and job sharing work. Two people sharing the same job as well as shift workers are allowed to choose to be treated, for tax purposes and for the purposes of unemployment benefits, either as one person or as two persons. In Bulgaria, Macedonia, and a host of other post-communist countries, a national part time employment program (called in Macedonia the "Mladinska Zadruga") encourages employers to hire the unemployed on a short term, part time basis.

IIIl. Full Employment Budgets

The national accounts of many countries now produce a full employment budget. It adjusts the budget deficit or surplus in relation to effects of deviations from full or normal unemployment. Thus, a simple balanced budget could be actually contractionary. A simple deficit may, actually, be a surplus on a full employment basis and government policies can be contractionary despite positive borrowing.

IIIm. Apprenticeship, Training, Retraining and Re-Qualification

In France, Germany, the UK, the USA, and many other countries, sub-minimum wages are paid to participants in apprenticeship and training programs. Most of the unemployed can be retrained, regardless of age and level of education. This surprising result has emerged from many studies.

The massive retraining and re-qualification programs required by the technological upheavals of the last few decades are often undertaken in collaboration with the private sector. The government trains, re-trains, or re-qualifies the unemployed - and firms in the private sector undertake to employ them for a minimal period of time afterwards. It is a partnership, with the government acting as educational sub-contractor for the business sector (with emphasis on the needs of small to medium enterprises) and a catalyst of skill acquisition. Such programs include vocational training, entrepreneurship skills, management skills, and even basic literacy and numeracy. Students are often employed as instructors in return for college credits and scholarships.

IIIn. Entrepreneurship and Small Businesses

Small businesses are the engine of growth and job creation in all modern economies. Even the governments of rich countries encourage innovative credit schemes (such as micro-credits) and facilities (such as business incubators), tax credits, and preference to small businesses in government procurement.

About the Author

Sam Vaknin is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited" and "After the Rain - How the West Lost the East". He is a columnist in "Central Europe Review", United Press International (UPI) and and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia. 
His web site: 

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-06-17 21:16:07 in Economic Articles

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