The economic and financial crisis has posed a stern test of many countries, though in Ireland, which enjoyed a boom for over a decade, the challenge was particularly stark. The scars are still there, but so are opportunities. Well-targeted, sensitive social policies can yield positive results. 

©Rights reserved/www.JoanBurton.ie

Ireland’s job market has improved markedly, thanks in no small part to strong policies for new skills to meet evolving demands and engagement with people out of work. 

For all the signs of improving labour market conditions in many OECD countries, there is still a substantial way to go to close the jobs gap caused by the Great Recession of 2008-09. Unemployment will continue to fall in most countries, but by the end of 2017, it will still be well above pre-crisis levels in a number of them. 

The world is still repairing the damage done to employment prospects and social equality by the crisis. Governments are trying to create not just more jobs, but better jobs. A new OECD framework helps them to define what job quality means and to measure whether their policies are succeeding. 

©Randstad

"A real problem for the world economy is the location mismatch between available jobs and employees."

 

"There are many opportunities for lifelong learning available at the click of a button, so why is it that many employers still report a 'skills gap'?"

©Rights reserved

Social entrepreneurs and governments speak different languages. However, understanding each other is essential to achieve quality of life through the businesses we start, grow and scale. While sharing a goal for a healthier society, it remains a challenge for new entrepreneurs and governments to work together: first, to integrate the different ambitions, values and cultures of (social) entrepreneurs, civil servants and politicians; second, to be aligned in the acceptance, timing and implementation of societal solutions through enterprising citizens. What is the role of business in creating spaces for social entrepreneurship and a more collaborative economy?

©BlaBlaCar

Thanks to smart online and phone technologies, dynamic new business platforms that are altering the parametres in property, transport and other service-driven markets are fast emerging.

Companies such as Airbnb (helping you to rent or let out a room) and TaskRabbit (helping you pack boxes, walk the dog and other personal chores) have hit the headlines not just for their new business models, but their disruptive effects on established markets and services. Proponents say this “sharing” economy creates more choice and control for customers, while critics say it unfairly undermines competition.

Policymakers are now taking a closer look at how fair the sharing economy really is and to see if any rules need to be rewritten.

We asked the founder of France’s BlaBlaCar, Frederic Mazzella, how his ride-sharing company has evolved to become a prime example of the sharing economy.

.....................................

©TUAC

A structural shift to a low-carbon economy will entail gains in jobs, but also losses, and the first jobs to be lost are not those that you think. A just energy transition will be needed, but how? 

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Unequal pay between men and women continues to pose problems, despite decades of legislation by governments to address it, like the Equal Pay Act in the United States and the French labour code on wage equality introduced about half a century ago. In fact, not only are women still paid considerably less than men throughout the world, but UN predictions suggest the gap will persist for 70 years to come.  

How will workers’ current skills match new requirements for labour in a green economy? So far, few countries have put in place real plans to address this question, yet there is risk of a significant mismatch between skills and jobs. Would you know who to call if your geothermal system crashes? Should construction workers learn new skills for retrofitting buildings?

Since 2009 the French government launched a new “auto-entrepreneurs’’ status to help small, often one-person, businesses below a certain earnings threshold to bypass many formalities of registration, in an effort to stimulate entrepreneurial activity and jobs. By mid-2014, the number of auto-entrepreneurs reached nearly 1 million, according to a French business creation agency, APCE. However, according to the national statistics office, INSEE, most of these businesses have made little if any money at all. The crisis has hardly helped, but is there a recipe for success?

Becoming an entrepreneur has become increasingly popular since the economic meltdown of 2008, not least in Europe.

When the OECD was mandated to develop a Green Growth Strategy this June, ministers specifically referred to the "green jobs" that such a strategy would support. But what exactly are "green jobs"?

"Investing in the future while tackling youth unemployment."

The 30% Club is a group of company chairmen, chairwomen and CEOs committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of their organisations through voluntary actions.

The Spinoza Factory, together with Campagne Première Productions, have organised the Happiness at work days (journées du Bonheur au travail), in Paris from February 12-14. This three-day conference will include round tables, debates, and interventions by business leaders, psychologists, researchers, trade unions and employees.

The question of whether or not migration, and in particular free mobility within Europe, can play a role in reducing unemployment is a highly topical one. In the EU, harmonised unemployment rates rose between 2007 and Q3 2014 from 7.2% to 10%.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer

©Andrew Biraj/Reuters

As G20 leaders look distraught at a global economy that is faced with weak growth, high unemployment and rising income inequality, they should repeat to themselves that this is not inevitable. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), while putting out another downward revision of growth forecasts, admitted that recovery is too slow and fragile, while recognising the problem of income inequality. The OECD, in its reports on New Approaches and Economic Challenges (NAEC) and its 2014 OECD Employment Outlook, acknowledges that rising inequality affects economic growth and social cohesion, sapping trust in markets and institutions.

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Did you know that the pace of productivity growth is slowing sharply across the OECD area? Moreover, the trend has continued downward since the early 2000s after a brief upward tick in the 1980s and 1990s, which in part reflected the diffusion of new information and communications technologies

Time progresses inexorably. Six years have already elapsed since the onset of the global financial crisis, and employment in many countries is still far below its pre-2008 levels. Even for people who still have jobs, working conditions have deteriorated. Until recently, we were decrying a jobless recovery, but now the data suggest that growth itself may be fading in several countries. The conversation has become one of job losses among family and friends, as everyone feels exposed to cutbacks at work, falling wages, falling activity, insecurity, and the task of simply trying to make ends meet.

Only a fine performance: Actress Judy Davis in the 1979 film adaptation of My Brilliant Career © AFP/Kobal/The Picture Desk

“I am only a woman!” declares Sybylla Melvyn with deliberate irony, in the Australian classic novel, My Brilliant Career. When Miles Franklin wrote the novel in 1901, aged just 19, she was embarking on her own career path, and though successful, like Sybylla, she encountered many social, economic and cultural hurdles along the way.

Eric Abetz, Australian Minister for Employment, and Chair of the 2014 G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting ©Australian Government

The world economy is still suffering from the strains of the longest crisis of modern times, and nowhere is this more evident than in the high unemployment numbers. Over 100 million people are out of work in the G20 countries, with joblessness at historically high levels in several of them. Long-term and youth unemployment, and low female participation, pose particular challenges.

Even in countries where recovery has begun to take hold, the reduction in joblessness has been frustratingly slow, and all too often achieved via low-skill, low-paying jobs. Resilient, inclusive and smart societies need more.

Policymakers have a key role to play in introducing the reforms and measures needed to improve labour markets and bring unemployment back down. In this OECD Observer Roundtable, we asked a cross-section of ministers:

“What actions are you taking to create more and better jobs in your economy?”

©OECD Observer Roundtable No 12.

Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer.

You say working longer in life is becoming part of a trend, and that it is becoming "more normative to keep working" past normal retirement ("Older candidates, please apply" in OECD Yearbook 2014, www.oecd.org/yearbook). But that does not mean a formal retirement age should be allowed to disappear. Just like a schoolgoing age or a voting age, a retirement age gives signals to guide policymaking as well as personal life decisions.

"Social perception is a prerequisite for a level playing field among all entrepreneurs."

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is no longer just a marketing buzzword but has become a mainstream part of business operations in companies the world over. From so-called triple bottom line accounting through legal frameworks to stock market indices that reward responsible business conduct on social and environmental fronts, company values increasingly reflect CSR values too. But what of their global supply chains, do they hold the same high values? How can multinational companies in particular be sure that the myriad firms they source from in poorer countries do not cut corners with people’s lives or the environment? The death toll from the collapse of the brand-driven Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013 was another tragic reminder that for CSR to have real value, much more needs to be done.

In this OECD Observer roundtable, we asked a range of stakeholders, from government, business, labour and civil society, for their views:

“What actions are you taking to encourage responsible business conduct and what new steps do you think are needed to strengthen corporate social responsibility worldwide?”

On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

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