Labor laws need to be overhauled

06/16/14

Permalink 11:05:33 am, by dacare, 648 words, 440 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, News of China

Labor laws need to be overhauled

You see them everywhere in Asia.

They push street carts selling food and drinks, sell newspapers and water on busy intersections, and collect garbage for recycling while breathing in thick black smoke from the exhausts of trucks, buses and cars.

In the countryside they tend to small plots, growing just enough food to survive.

Despite Asia's massive economic gains over the last 30 years, very little of this new wealth has managed to trickle down to the grassroots, or what economists call the "informal economy".

The millions who work in the informal economy are not covered by formal employment agreements, which are so common in developed economies.

The International Labour Organization estimates the informal economy accounts for 60 percent of Asia's workforce.

The real challenge facing governments in emerging Asia is how to improve and protect those in the informal sector who have no protection from the non-payment of wages, and who can be retrenched at any time without notice or compensation.

They work in dangerous, low-skilled jobs with poor occupational health and safety conditions. None of them are protected by social security nets.

On the other hand, the formal sector - areas such as manufacturing, financial services and technology - is suffering from a growing skills shortage.

Asia reaped huge economic benefits when manufacturing migrated from many developed countries. Low-end manufacturing has even been migrating from China.

The World Bank has said the region's policymakers need to enact "labor regulations and social protection policies to benefit all workers, including those in the large informal economy".

Christophe Duchatellier, the Tokyo-based CEO of human resources firm Adecco Asia, says there has been a "significant deregulation of challenging labor laws" in many countries in Asia.

But he says that more deregulation still needs to be done if countries are to become "competitive from a labor perspective". Duchatellier says that over the last 20 years there has been a steady shift of industrial manufacturing from the West to the East.

Much of that shift was prompted by low productivity, high taxes and high wages in the West. "Companies need to do things cheaper and faster," he says, adding that the idea of a full-time job or 'job for life' is fast becoming a thing of the past in many global and regional markets."Young people want more options and will have more employers than we did in the past."

He believes Asian universities and schools need to better prepare young people entering the workforce with the right skills to help them get jobs.

"We need to remember that for the majority of the world, education is about preparing people to get a job. More 'later-in-life' retraining and re-skilling is needed for those in sunset industries and where new technologies are emerging. And companies need to encourage more apprenticeships," Duchatellier says.

A report released earlier this year by the World Bank, East Asia Pacific at Work: Employment, Enterprise and Well-Being, said: "Asia has seen rising productivity amid a brisk structural transformation, with large movement of people into cities and higher output in agriculture, manufacturing and services."

"Countries that were poor a generation ago successfully integrated into the global value chain, taking advantage of low labor costs," the report said.

Commenting on the report, Axel van Trotsenburg, regional vice-president of World Bank East Asia and Pacific, said: "The unprecedented economic development in East Asia Pacific has provided jobs and lifted millions of people out of poverty and has been a triumph of working people.

"It's time now to consolidate growth by adopting social policies that protect people, rather than any particular sector, location or profession."

When well-designed, those policies should make sure social protection and labor regulations benefit the most vulnerable workers in society."

The World Bank said that as economic growth is moderating and labor costs are rising, "constraints of the region's current labor market and social protection policies are becoming a more pressing issue".

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