The working environment

WORLD LABOUR REPORT 1194 International Labour Office

 
By Bibek Debroy
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

There is today a worldwide emphasis on liberalisation and economic reforms coupled with the phenomenon of reduced government spending. Economic reforms can be broken down into two components, stabilization measures and structural adjustments.

The costs of economic reforms are essentially borne in the short-run period of stabilisation, and reform experiences from various countries highlight the reduction in real incomes that can take place during such a process.

All reform documents talk about segmented labour markets and the need to break down this segmentation. The point is, such social security as exists today, is almost entirely restricted to the organised labour market. With a breaking down of this segmentation, it is necessary to ensure social security measures to the informal sector. This is especially important since many transistory social safety nets are required during a period of stabilisation, particularly for socially disadvantaged groups.

In this context, any discussion of labour markets that goes beyond standard economic reform blueprints is welcome. The World Labour Report has been published annually twice before and received a favourable response. But the Report is disappointing as one looks for new issues or for new ways of solving new problems.

The paper on the world employment situation, trends and prospects is useful but cliched. Take for instance child labour. This has a three paragraph box devoted to it and there is nothing in it that is not already known. The same is the case with the article on promoting harmony between work and family and role of support services and flexible working arrangements.

The treatment given to health care in developing countries is also not very different from what the World Bank and other such reports say. Yet, the section on cost-effective health insurance for developing countries is well written.

Though chemicals in the working environment do not fit in with the rest of the volume, at least not directly, there is a useful compilation of facts related to it. And it makes relevant important points.

The statistical annex is however disappointing. Quite often the WLR has been used as a source for cross-country information. Cross-country figures on socio-economic indicators are there, but these are available elsewhere as well. But other figures like annual rates or growth in employment are missing for many countries. This is also true of unemployment figures and data on real wages and social security.

It is thus a good volume to acquire if one does not have access to other reports, but not for profound research insights.

Writer Bibek Debroy is a former professor of the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade

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