Sunday, August 7, 2011

Looking for a decent job


Unemployment is one of the main problems for governments, be it in rich or poor countries. According to statistics, the highest unemployment rate is for Zimbabwe, with 90% of its active population with no job. At the bottom of this list we find Andorra and Monaco, with officially no unemployed citizen. Moreover, the current crisis has increased the unemployment rate in rich countries to the point that, in many cases, it is similar to the rates in poor countries. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), in 2010 there were 205 million people unemployed worldwide, which is a historic record. 
Besides having high unemployment rates, there is an even more serious problem: not all jobs are the same and not all jobs are fairly paid. Statistics reveal the number of people working, but there is no information about their work conditions or their salaries. In this same report by the ILO, there is an even more staggering figure: besides the 205 million unemployed people, there are 630 million people (one in five workers in the world) who earn less than 1.25 dollars a day, and 1,530 million people (every other worker) are in “vulnerable” employment, as described by the ILO. And this is a clearly increasing trend in the labour market.
After struggling for more than 150 years to get decent work conditions, since the 90s workers’ rights have worsened worldwide. This is the dark side of globalization and we all know about it because, to a greater or lesser extent, we all have suffered from it or seen someone suffering from it. Globalization affects workers in rich countries due to the relocation of production and services to a low-pay labour market, and it also affects workers in poor countries because their work conditions are inhuman and their salaries are miserable, without legal protection from their governments, which are in turn pressured by these same companies.
In this context, by the end of the 90s the ILO launched the concept of decent work, measuring work conditions and salaries to qualify for being considered a “job”. According to the ILO, work should be a source of personal dignity, family stability and community peace. Therefore, and just to set a well-known example, weaving shirts for 16 hours a day for just 1 €, without labour rights or health care, cannot be qualified as a job.
The main difference is not between employed and unemployed people, but between decent jobs and not decent jobs, regardless of unemployment rates. The rest is just sheer statistics.

Sources:
List of countries by unemployment rate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_unemployment_rate#cite_note-0
Unemployment in Zimbabwe: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/06/30/zimbabwe-crisis-china-idUSLU6431520090630
ILO report about unemployment: http://www.ilo.org/global/publications/ilo-bookstore/order-online/books/WCMS_150440/lang--en/index.htm
Decent work according to ILO:  http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/decent-work/lang--en/index.htm

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