Today's News & Commentary — March 28, 2016
Six years after the recession, ten states still have fewer jobs, a figure which the New York Times reports illustrates the “uneven nature of the rebound since the recession ended in 2009.” Wyoming has sustained the largest loss, with 3% fewer jobs than it had when the recession began. Alabama, Connecticut, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New Jersey, and West Virginia also remain at or below pre-recession jobs levels.
Recent agreements to raise the minimum wage in California are likely to put pressure on restaurant industry, where businesses “already operate on very slim margins” according to the LA Times. One restaurateur says that, with wage increases, it becomes pivotal not only to increase the price of food items but also to “reengineer” the menu to “require fewer kitchen workers.” At the forefront of employers’ concerns is that the new minimum wage legislation does not account for tips earned by service workers. The legislation is set to increase the hourly wage to $15 by 2023.
In international news, German business leaders who had until recently been the most vocal proponents of Germany’s open door migration policy for asylum seekers and refugees are beginning to change their stance, reports the Wall Street Journal. Although Germany has more than a million vacancies in their labor market, employers are becoming concerned that “[i]ntegrating refugees into the German labor market will be a big challenge,” according to Ingo Kramer, president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations. One reason cited is that many refugees are unable to speak German, a requirement for most jobs. Additionally, businesses are reticent to hire refugees because their residency rights are initially limited to three years. One proposal to increase employment for refugees and asylum seekers has been to lower minimum wage for certain groups to incentivize employers to hire refugees. However, this policy has not yet received the widespread political support it would need to pass. The government is also working to provide vocational training for refugees, and they recently opened a training program which could accomodate 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees.
In light of the recent Easter holiday, when Americans spend over $2 billion on Easter candy, Fortune reports that there is reason to be concerned that the chocolate Americans are consuming was made with child labor. According to study by the Department of Labor, 2.1 million children were engaged in child labor in cocoa farming in Ivory Coast and Ghana from 2013-14, and that number appears to be increasing in recent years. While some companies appear to be taking steps to address the problem, according to Elizabeth Jardim of the non-profit Green America, “[a]t the moment, no major chocolate company can guarantee their cocoa supply is not tainted by child labor.”