Today's News and Commentary – September 23
In the New York Times, economist Nancy Folbre argues that the opposition of several business associations, as well as the Congressional Republicans, to the rule changes recently announced by the labor department that extend basic federal minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers can be explained according to the likely impact of these rules on home care agencies. Folbre contends that the new rules will have the likely effect of reducing the profitability of home-care agencies by making it more attractive for consumers to hire home care workers directly. Bypassing agencies will be cheaper for consumers, and the demand for agency screening and management services could decline as standards in the home care labor market improve.
The Washington Post reports that only one state is adding jobs faster than its population is growing. While Friday’s monthly unemployment numbers had some good news, showing that unemployment fell in 17 states between July and August, this data must looked at in context. Only oil-rich North Dakota is adding jobs faster than its population is growing.
In international news, a United Nations report released Monday reveals that child labor fell by nearly 78 million between 2000 and 2012 to 168 million, according to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Nevertheless, the rate of progress is not fast enough to meet the goal of having no child laborers by 2016. The U.N. report attributed the drop in child labor to national labor laws and the political will to provide more social protection and education for children.
For the third straight day police forces in Bangladesh clashed with thousands of garment workers demanding better wages, writes the Washington Post. Workers threw stones at police, who retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas. The workers are demanding that their minimum monthly wage be raised to 8,114 takas (around $100) from the current 3,000 takas (around $38). More than 100 factories were closed for the day.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Better Factories Cambodia, a monitoring group backed by the United Nations, has announced it will begin to publicize garment factories’ compliance with workers’ rights and safety standards in Cambodia. Under the new program, during the first year factories will get one opportunity to resolve any violations before they are disclosed. From then on, their performance will be published without negotiation. Ken Loo, secretary-general of the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, dismissed the efficacy of the new program: “Consumers talk, talk, talk, but at the end of the day, they just buy the cheapest thing on the shelf.”
The government of Singapore announced measures on Monday that will compel companies to give priority to local residents in the job recruitment process, according to the New York Times. The new measures will require companies operating in Singapore to advertise vacancies to local residents for two weeks before they can apply to fill a position with overseas workers. While Singapore is highly dependent on imported labor, opposition has risen among locals who see themselves as missing out on opportunities.