Aguinaldo, un beneficio que no es para todos

Por: Francisco Escobar 

Según entidades que analizan el tema laboral de Guatemala, coinciden en que casi el 83% de toda la población labora en el sector informal, por lo que la mayoría carece de recibir el aguinaldo.

La tendencia va en aumento, según indican estudios y encuestas que han realizado los distintos centros de investigación, se puede establecer que hay mayor número de personas sin una relación formal de trabajo, informó el analista de la Asociación de Investigación de Estudios Sociales (Asies), Luis Linares.

Se calcula que menos de la mitad de la población trabajadora recibe aguinaldo y solo un 35% con respecto a toda la población económicamente activa, disfruta del Seguro Social, otro beneficio al que obliga la ley reguladora, afirmó.

Por su parte, el analista del Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales (CIEN),  Hugo Maúl, indicó que hay coincidencias pero manejan un porcentaje que donde el 17% de guatemaltecos registrados, reciben este derecho laboral. Además, consideró que el beneficio del aguinaldo en su mayoría se cumple por parte de los patronos formales, porque conocen las consecuencias al infringir este compromiso.

Pero se debe estar consciente sobre la existencia del otro 83% de guatemaltecos, quienes laboran en la informalidad, esto quiere decir que la mayoría está al margen de la ley laboral de nuestro país, y por lo tanto, dejan de percibir este tipo de beneficio. ‘En muchos casos producen para sí mismos y en otros, son pequeñas empresas que no tienen la capacidad para atender las reglas que corresponden’, agregó el analista del CIEN.

Enfatizó que la clase trabajadora puede hablar de derechos, pero debe conocer por cuáles medios lograrlos, ya que si el Ministerio de Trabajo y Previsión Social (Mintrab) procediera a cancelar cada negocio o empresa informal, se enfrentaría con el reto de lograr crear mayor cantidad de puestos de trabajo. Por tal razón la informalidad incumple la ley pero demuestra la incapacidad de las autoridades.

Lo preocupante de estos análisis consiste en reconocer  la realidad cruda donde tal vez solo unos pocos guatemaltecos logran recibir una bonificación tan gratificante pero una gran mayoría sobrevive como pueden.

LEGALMENTE ESTABLECIDO

Se establece, según Decreto 74-78 del Congreso de la República de Guatemala,  el 50% del aguinaldo debe hacerse efectivo en la primera quincena de diciembre y  la parte restante durante la segunda semana de enero del año siguiente. Si el empleado,  laboró el año completo, el pago corresponde a un sueldo y  se cancela el promedio del salario de los últimos 12 meses.

La mayoría de empresas formalmente registradas, tanto del sector público y privado, sí cumplen con el pago del aguinaldo, de acuerdo con lo que indican las estadísticas del Mintrab.

Se reconoce que este cumplimiento lo realizan ante el temor de ser sancionados por el Mintrab, según lo establecido en la Ley Reguladora del Aguinaldo. Para este año, se tiene previsto que Q4 mil millones se aporten a la economía nacional con el pago del aguinaldo.

Estadísticas proporcionadas por el ente regulador del trabajo, indica que hasta 2016, se verificaron un total de tres mil 35 empresas formalmente registradas, de las cuales dos mil 305 cumplen con el pago de esta bonificación a los empleados. También existen un 13% de empresas que obstruyen la inspección del Mintrab, para verificar el cumplimiento de esta regla.

En la cartera de Trabajo se tienen registros únicamente hasta el año pasado, ya que las de este año están en elaboración. Pero el porcentaje de empresas a las que se les detectó alguna anomalía en el pago del aguinaldo se registró con un 18.81%.

EXCEPCIÓN:

Existen casos en los que las empresas o patronos particulares, pagan el 100% de este beneficio laboral, lo cual ocurre por la existencia de convenios, pactos colectivos y también porque están acostumbrados a realizarlo voluntariamente.

INSPECCIONES

En este año, autoridades del Mintrab,  han procedido a verificar el cumplimiento del pago del primer 50% del aguinaldo, lo que debió haber iniciado a partir del 18 de diciembre de 2017, la medida se implementa a nivel nacional por parte de la Inspección General de Trabajo.

Representantes del Mintrab, indicaron que esta acción se realiza todos los años y han registrado datos significativos, en promedio desde 2013 entre el 72% y 79% de las empresas cumplen el pago del aguinaldo.

SANCIONES

Entre las sanciones que impone el Mintrab por el incumplimiento del pago de esta prestación, está la imposición de multas que van desde los 2 hasta los 9 salarios mínimos y se emitirán las resoluciones administrativas de la sanción, aplicando lo establecido en el  artículo 272 del Código de Trabajo. Posteriormente, las autoridades correspondientes buscarán los mecanismos idóneos y necesarios para que el patrono cumpla con esa obligación de pago tal y como lo exige la ley. 

MARCO LEGAL

Existen varios marcos legales que dan vida y avalan esta prestación que favorece a los trabajadores entre ellos ‘el inciso 18 del artículo 114 de la Constitución, establece que los patronos están obligados a otorgar un aguinaldo anual no menor del 50% del sueldo ordinario mensual que devenguen sus respectivos trabajadores’. 

Se destaca que el Estado de Guatemala toma como base los reglamentos en la Ley de Servicio Civil, donde rige todo sobre prestaciones y que supletoriamente también se apoya en el Código de Trabajo.

PACTOS COLECTIVOS

Al respecto, el analista de Asies, Luis Linares, indicó que los pactos colectivos, son el tipo de ‘arreglos’ que  afectan porque exigen y aumentan los bonos navideños, pagos extras y complementarios, esto genera descontento a un alto  número trabajadores que no reciben por igual estos beneficios.

ORIGEN DEL AGUINALDO

El aguinaldo forma parte de los derechos y beneficios de los trabajadores guatemaltecos, su imposición como medida, se enmarcó en un contexto donde ocurrían muchas luchas sociales y políticas en Latinoamérica.  Fue en 1965, durante el  gobierno de  Peralta Azurdia, cuando se impuso y se consideró una medida de alcance social, porque lo rige como obligatorio en el Código de Trabajo.

El Decreto Ley Número 38 promulga que ‘los patronos deberán otorgar a sus trabajadores que hubieren laborado ininterrumpidamente durante el año anterior al 1 de diciembre próximo entrante, un aguinaldo no menor del 50% del salario mensual ordinario o el que ya estuviere establecido, si fuere mayor. Si este fuere menor, se ajustará al porcentaje determinado en esta ley’.

Es así como el aguinaldo se convierte en un beneficio que se recibe en una época oportuna, pues en una gran parte se destina para pagos previos obligatorios de las familias guatemaltecas, como compra de útiles, saldar deudas del año y ocasionalmente para participar en actividades tradicionales de las  festividades de Navidad y fin de año.

La entrada Aguinaldo, un beneficio que no es para todos se publicó primero en Siglo.21.

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Salario mínimo, broche de cierre de diciembre

La fijación del salario mínimo para el año entrante devino hace mucho tiempo el broche de cierre del mes de diciembre en Guatemala, donde la polémica casi siempre rodeó a las propuestas en ese sentido, porque nunca implicaron la llegada de los aumentos esperados, ni la solución de los problemas de la población económicamente activa.

Con base en esa visión, es previsible la eventual controversia que sobrevendrá a partir de este martes, si la Comisión Nacional del Salario (CNS) anuncia finalmente las tasas de pago supuestamente acordadas como resultado de los debates sostenidos desde el mes de septiembre acerca del particular.

De ser así, el anuncio de la propuesta del ente llegará casi en el último momento, como en años anteriores y ello acortará una vez más el margen de tiempo que tendrá el presidente Jimmy Morales para aprobarla o desestimarla.

El mandatario apenas tendrá hasta el 29 de diciembre para decidir en torno al asunto y ordenar la publicación de la fijación final en el Diario de Centro América, el 30 de diciembre, como paso previo a la entrada en vigencia de lo decretado el 1 de enero. Eso, en caso de que haya un plan real de salario mínimo para el año próximo, porque algunos actores concuerdan en que los involucrados en el debate previo no llegaron todavía a un consenso respecto al ajuste.

171212 SALARIO MÍNIMOInfografía: Isabel Soto Mayedo

Según el directivo de la Federación de Trabajadores Campesinos y Urbanos (FECUR), Rigoberto Dueñas, ese sector sugirió un incremento de Q135 diarios a la comisión, pero para las actividades de comercio y agrícolas no presentaron ajustes, solo propusieron delimitar este conforme con la fórmula recomendada por la Organización Internacional de los Trabajadores (OIT).

Frente a las contradicciones, entre el empresariado y los sindicalistas, el dictamen pudiera terminar en manos del Ministerio de Trabajo y Previsión Social, lo cual implicará que la fijación salga por decreto presidencial, ya que este 12 de diciembre concluye el período asignado por ley para el trabajo de la CNS.

De acuerdo con la OIT, el salario mínimo es la cuantía mínima de remuneración que un empleador está obligado a pagar a sus asalariados por el trabajo que estos hayan efectuado durante un período determinado, cuantía que no puede ser rebajada ni en virtud de un convenio colectivo ni de un acuerdo individual.

A partir de esta definición, se considera que existen salarios mínimos en más del 90% de los Estados Miembros de la OIT, entre los cuales está Guatemala.

El objetivo de establecer un pago límite es proteger a los trabajadores contra las remuneraciones bajas definidas de forma arbitraria y contribuir a articular políticas destinadas a superar la pobreza, la desigualdad, y las disparidades entre hombres y mujeres. Es decir, que estos sistemas deben ser diseñados de forma tal que actúen como complemento y refuerzo de otras estrategias sociales y de empleo destinadas a establecer las condiciones de trabajo.

Cuando se define un salario mínimo, añade la OIT, es importante indicar de manera específica qué componentes del salario podrán contabilizarse para calcular la cuantía mínima, cuáles serán las condiciones, bajo las cuales se admitirá un pago en especie y el valor máximo de esta parte del pago, cuál será la forma de cálculo del salario mínimo para los trabajadores remunerados a destajo (es decir, por unidad de obra realizada), y si la tasa mínima corresponde a una tarifa horaria o a una mensual.

En Centroamérica, el país que tuvo mayor incremento en la paga mínima para todos los sectores este año fue Nicaragua (8.25%), aunque continúa siendo el que paga los más bajos de la región. En cambio, Costa Rica sigue destacando como la que más favorece a sus trabajadores desde esa perspectiva, lo que tampoco soluciona problemas esenciales pero si se considera el elevado costo de la vida en ese país.

Datos de los ministerios del Trabajo de cada una de las naciones de esta zona geográfica muestran las diferencias al delimitar estas tasas, por lo general con base en las diferentes actividades o renglones productivos -agrícola, no agrícola y de exportaciones y maquila-, o por la ocupación específica y el nivel de calificación del trabajador; con base en el indicador internacional Clasificador Uniforme de Actividad Económica (Cuaen), o según la cantidad de trabajadores.

Al término de diciembre de 2016, Morales decretó un aumento cercano al 5% para todas las actividades económicas con vistas al presente año.

Con el Acuerdo Gubernativo 288-2016, el salario mínimo para las actividades agrícolas y no agrícolas ascendió en Q5.03 diarios, es decir, de Q81.87 a Q86.90 por día. Mientras que para la actividad exportadora y de maquila el alza fue de apenas Q4.59 más por día, lo cual redundó en el tránsito de un total de Q74.89 a Q79.48 diarios.

De tal suerte, los trabajadores debieron devengar de Q2 mil 893.21 a Q2 mil 667.52 mensuales, contando la bonificación o incentivo de Q250. En caso de que ello no ocurriera y conforme con lo estipulado por la ley, los patronos incumplidores pudieron llevar multas de 3 a 12 salarios mínimos mensuales vigentes para las actividades no agrícolas.

Sin embargo, poco o nada trascendieron denuncias o procesos legales en ese sentido, a pesar de las constantes críticas al salario mínimo y a los presuntos incumplimientos por parte de los empleadores en cuanto a su pago.

Valer recordar que el ajuste vigente hasta este 31 de diciembre lo fijó el presidente, ante la falta de consenso de la CNS, algo que ocurrió en casi todos estos años, excepto en 2012.

Como ahora, la disputa en igual etapa del año precedente giró en torno a la propuesta de los sindicalistas de elevar las tasas para todos los sectores a Q140 diarios, algo que chocó con el empeño de los empleadores que propusieron  mantener los mismos pagos que en 2016.

La entrada Salario mínimo, broche de cierre de diciembre se publicó primero en Siglo.21.

El 55% de la población mundial carece de cobertura de protección social

Más de cuatro mil millones de personas (algo más de la mitad de la población mundial) carecen de cobertura de protección social, según un nuevo informe de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) publicado este miércoles.

El informe mundial sobre la protección social 2017-2019, revela que solo el 45% de la población mundial se beneficia efectivamente de al menos una prestación social, mientras que el 55% restante no tiene ninguna protección.

El nuevo estudio también muestra que solo el 29% de la población mundial dispone del acceso a una seguridad social integral, lo que representa no obstante un “pequeño” aumento frente al 27% de 2014-2015, en tanto que el 71% o 5 mil 200 millones de personas no están protegidas o lo están únicamente parcialmente.

El estudio muestra asimismo que solo el 35% de los niños del mundo se beneficia de un acceso efectivo a la protección social, por lo que más de mil 300 millones de menores no están cubiertos, la mayoría en África y Asia.

En promedio, sólo el 1.1 % del PIB es destinado a las prestaciones familiares y a la infancia entre 0 y 14 años, “lo cual pone en evidencia que la inversión en los niños es significativamente insuficiente”, señala la OIT.

Por su parte, la cobertura de la protección social para las personas en edad de trabajar sigue siendo limitada.

Solo 21.8% de los trabajadores desempleados se beneficia de prestaciones de desempleo, mientras que 152 millones de trabajadores desempleados no tienen cobertura, destacó Ryder.

Con respecto a las mujeres, solo el 41.1% de las madres de recién nacidos perciben una prestación por maternidad y 83 millones de las nuevas madres no tienen cobertura.

Los nuevos datos de la OIT muestra también que en el mundo solo 27.8% de las personas con discapacidades severas reciben una prestación por discapacidad.

Sin embargo, la investigación indica que, a escala mundial, el 68% de las personas que superan la edad que da derecho a la jubilación reciben una pensión por tal motivo, lo que la OIT atribuye a la expansión de las pensiones contributivas y no contributivas en numerosos países de ingresos medios y bajos.

En promedio, y con grandes variaciones regionales, el gasto en pensiones y otras prestaciones para los adultos mayores representa el 6.9% del PIB, pero el informe pone de manifiesto que “el nivel de las prestaciones es con frecuencia demasiado bajo e inadecuado para permitir que los adultos mayores salgan de la pobreza”.

Esta tendencia suele estar incentivada por las medidas de austeridad”, destaca la OIT.

El estudio igualmente muestra que el derecho a la salud todavía no es una realidad en muchas regiones del mundo, en especial en las zonas rurales, donde 56% de la población carece de cobertura de salud, frente al 22% en las zonas urbanas.

La OIT calcula que serán necesarios otros 10 millones de trabajadores sanitarios para poder alcanzar la cobertura universal de la salud y garantizar la seguridad de la población.

Los cuidados de larga duración – necesarios sobre todo para los adultos mayores – siguen excluyendo a más del 48% de la población mundial y las mujeres resultan desproporcionadamente afectadas.

Sólo el 5.6% de la población mundial vive en países que ofrecen una cobertura de cuidados de larga duración para toda la población, de acuerdo con su legislación nacional, según la OIT.

Como consecuencia, se estima que unos 57 millones de trabajadores “voluntarios” no remunerados dispensan la gran parte de los cuidados de larga duración, principalmente mujeres que llevan la mayor parte del peso del cuidado informal de los familiares.

“En el año 2017 esta carencia global en la protección social es y debería ser vista como algo completamente inaceptable”, dijo Ryder.

Para remediar esta situación, el informe recomienda aumentar el gasto público destinado a la protección social, a fin de extender la cobertura social, sobre todo en África, Asia y los estados árabes, para garantizar al menos un suelo de protección social básico para todos, señaló el director general de la OIT.

Ryder también dijo que es importante la “idoneidad” del nivel de las prestaciones sociales, ya que a menudo son insuficientes para sacar a personas de la pobreza y la inseguridad.

También destacó la necesidad de extender la protección social a los trabajadores de la economía informal como una manera de formalizar su actividad y mejorar sus condiciones de trabajo.

http://www.prensalibre.com/economia/el-55-de-la-poblacion-mundial-carece-de-cobertura-de-proteccion-social

This is what parental leave looks like around the world

The Trump administration earlier this year included a plan for paid parental leave in its 2018 budget proposal, with a stated goal of offering eligible workers six weeks of leave.

The proposal was a landmark: The US is one of eight the UN’s 193-member states that do not already have a national program for paid parental leave. Questions remain whether the proposal will ever make it into policy, but its inclusion highlights a national and international conversation about paid leave.

Business Insider has several editions worldwide, and we asked our international colleagues about the parental-leave policies in their respective countries. Several of them, including Ghana and Singapore, are talking about extending leave periods, and in some other countries, such as Australia, market forces are pushing companies to increase their support for new parents as they look to recruit and retain talent.

Here’s what parental leave is like in 11 countries.

Australia: There is a legal requirement to provide 12 months’ maternity leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Time off before birth is not specified under law, but most women stop work a few weeks before their due date. There is a legal requirement to provide 12 months of maternity leave. New mums can also ask for an extra 12 months, for a range of factors, including if there are complications with health or in the family.

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

The payment is $695 per week, for a maximum of 18 weeks. Almost all new mums — anyone on a salary of up to $150,000 per year — can access this. This includes small-business owners and one-person companies — for example, it applies to someone who provides a beautician service from home, even if that business is running at a loss. The qualifying criterion is that the person has been doing the same thing for 10 months of the 13 months before birth.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Childcare in Australia is a major social issue, particularly in densely populated areas on the east coast. There is significant support for childcare: 50% of the cost is repaid by the federal government, though this isn’t available to families on high incomes. The amount of government relief is capped at over $7,000 per year, a benefit aimed at encouraging people into work after the arrival of additions to the family.

Childcare can cost well in excess of $100 per day in some parts of the major cities. There’s a shortage of childcare workers and childcare spaces in the major cities, and successive governments have wrestled with how to tackle it with varying levels of success. As a result, promises to include childcare benefits are a political weapon for the major political parties.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

Official statistics show that in 2011, over half (53%) of Australian mums had returned to work by the time their child was 2 years of age. For most, this was to part-time or reduced hours of work. It is a legal requirement that the role vacated for maternity leave is still available when a new mum is ready to return to work.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

New dads get two weeks off, at the national minimum wage of $695, as long as they earned an individual income of $150,000 or less. This ensures most dads get two weeks’ paid leave at home.

While these are the legally required minimums, Australia for many years was the only OECD country beyond the US to have no legally mandated maternity leave. This was changed in 2011, with the introduction of maternity leave for at least 12 weeks at the national minimum wage. Parenting support is now a major source of competition in some major professional sectors, with more generous work-life balance and in-office childcare facilities being among major draw cards that companies offer to attract staff.

Ghana: There are plans to extend maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

There are plans to extend the maternity leave from 12 weeks to 16 weeks for mothers.

What is the pay during the time off and how does it change over time?

The pay is the same as the salary on an employment contract and does not change.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Private companies might enlist employees in health-insurance programs to offset some of the cost of childcare. Childcare is expensive and could cost as much as a $1,000 a month.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

About 65%.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

As a father in Ghana, there is no paternity leave by law. But the Constitution Review Implementation Committee has proposed a statutory five-day paternity leave for male workers. In this review, the male worker will still be entitled to his salary.

—Godfred Akoto Boafo, Business Insider SSA Editor

India: Mothers get 26 weeks’ leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Female employees can get paid maternity leave for 26 weeks. This benefit can be used by women for a period extending up to eight weeks before the expected delivery date and remaining 18 weeks can be availed after childbirth. But a woman with two or more children already is entitled to 12 weeks’ maternity leave (that is, six weeks prenatal and six weeks postnatal expected date of delivery).

What is the pay during the time off and how does it change over time?

A mother is entitled to maternity benefits at the rate of her average daily wage for the period of her absence, for a maximum period of 26 weeks. The average daily wage means the average of the woman’s wages payable to her for the days on which she has worked during the period of three calendar months immediately preceding the date from which she absents herself because of maternity.

There is a condition to this: The employee can claim maternity leave only if she has worked at least 80 days for her employer in the past 12 months. The company will pay full wages to her and not just the basic salary.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

There’s no support toward childcare cost yet. But the recent amendment to India’s maternity law that has been passed this year and is effective April 1, 2017, onward, allows:

—A work-from-home option, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks leave period. Depending upon the nature of work, female employees may be able to avail this benefit on terms that are mutually agreed with the employer.

—Crèche (day nursery): The MB Amendment Act makes crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees. Women employees would be permitted to visit the crèche four times during the day.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

There is no official data to suggest the exact percentage of women abandoning their career after childbirth, but a survey by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry suggests that a quarter of women in India don’t return to work after having their babies. This is one of the most credible surveys for reference.

The challenge for India is different than other countries. According to a 2013 World Bank study, only 27% of the female population over 15 is working in India. This is the lowest rate of women’s participation in any workforce.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

There is no provision on paternity leave in Indian labor law for private-sector workers. The civil servants (Central Government), however, are entitled to paternity leave. A male civil servant with less than two children is eligible for paternity leave for a period of 15 days before or up to six months from the date of delivery of the child. Paternity leave must be taken within six months of the birth of child. Workers on paternity leave are paid their leave salary equal to the pay drawn immediately before proceeding on leave.

—Anushree Singh, Business Insider India

Sweden: Both parents are allowed to stay off work until the child is 18 months old.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Swedish mothers can go on maternity leave starting seven weeks before the due date, and may prolong it up to seven weeks after the birth. They are afforded additional time off for parenting courses.

Fathers are entitled to 10 days of paid paternity leave in conjunction with delivery (20 in the case of twins). These days can be taken anytime within 60 days of the baby’s leaving the hospital.

Both parents are allowed to stay off work until the child is 18 months old. They can choose to be paid during this time by taking from the paid parental leave quota of 480 days.

Mothers and fathers are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave (180 bonus days for twins) to split between themselves as they choose, though one parent cannot transfer more than 150 days onto the other.

The time off can be saved until the child is 8 years old. Legislation from 2014 states that new parents can save a total of 96 days after the child turns 4, and that these days can be used until the child turns 12. Parents with children under 8 are also legally provided with the right to work 32 hours a week instead of 40, if they so choose.

So, in theory, a parent (regardless of sex) could insist on being off work unpaid the first 18 months after the birth and after that they could be off work for another eight months based on paid parental leave (and up to another five months if they are granted the days of the other parent). That’s plenty of time to produce a new child to reset the allowance for time off and paid parental leave. With five properly spaced children a person could stay off work for a decade and have a legal right to reclaim their job afterward, and, if they felt like it, they could insist on working only four days a week for another six years.

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

Parental leave pay is at sick-leave level for 390 of the total 480 days. If you have the average salary of $4,000, your parental-leave pay would be $2,600 (it’s actually 80% of regular pay for lower-income brackets). For the remaining 90 days of parental leave, the benefit is only $22 a day.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Childcare costs are means-tested and capped at $150 per child per month, with the third child costing a maximum of $50 per month and consecutive children free of charge, according to The Guardian. On the other hand, parents get child support of $130 per month for each kid under 16, with a bonus which increases with a number of children you have. For example, if you have five kids you would get $650 per month plus a bonus of $350 and you would pay a maximum of $350 per month in childcare costs.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

Statistics Sweden found that in 1990 only about 20% women had returned to work 12 months after childbirth. Average parental leave in the Nordic countries is longer than in other European countries.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

Mothers and fathers have 480 days to divide among themselves as they choose. At least 90 days must be kept by each parent, so a father could take a maximum of 390 days (13 months) of paid parental leave on top of the 18 months of unpaid time off allowed after the baby is born. An increasing proportion of the total days of paid parental leave are used by fathers. In 2013, 25% of the total parental-leave days were used by men.

—Vilhelm Carlström, BI Nordics

US: The Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks’ unpaid leave, but it doesn’t apply to everyone.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

The US doesn’t have a law that specifically covers parental leave. There is another law, called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), that may be used toward parental leave, though it does not apply to everyone. It provides up to 12 weeks and requires the employer to maintain employees’ health benefits, but it’s unpaid and comes with restrictions on who is eligible. It is, however, applicable to both men and women.

States have cobbled together their own policies, meanwhile, and some states may offer better benefits than what’s available under the FMLA. Parental leave is also largely dependent on the policies decided by Americans’ employers. Many companies offer none.

What is the pay during the time off and how does it change over time?

There is no requirement for an employer to provide pay for parental leave.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Families can receive credits worth 25 to 30% of childcare costs, capped at $3,000 per child per year, with the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC). Actual childcare costs, meanwhile, are much higher than what the tax credit covers.

The average cost of full-time care in childcare centers for all children age zero to 4 in the US is $9,589 a year, according to research from New America, a think tank. Childcare takes up a large share of Americans’ paychecks.

“Nationally, the cost of full-time care in child care centers is 85 percent of the monthly US median cost of rent,” New America said in a report.

Some employers offer a dependent-care assistance plan. In that case, you can exclude up to $5,000 from taxable wages per year. This limit is reduced to $2,500 for married employees filing taxes separately, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

About 56% of employers say they provide this benefit, according to a 2016 “National Study of Employers.”

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

From 2005 through 2007, 70% of women returned to work within a year of their first birth, according to US Census data; sixty percent returned within five months.

Meanwhile, 29% of moms don’t work outside of the home (as of 2012), up from a low of 23% in 1999, according to the Pew Research Center. “The share of stay-at-home mothers has risen since 2000 among married mothers with working husbands and single mothers,” says Pew.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

A father who falls under the FMLA can take up to 12 weeks off during the birth of a child and to care for a spouse who is incapacitated by the childbirth, according to the Department of Labor. But as noted above, not every American is covered by the FMLA.

With assistance from Emily Martin, the general counsel and vice president of workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center.

—Rachael Levy, Business Insider

Singapore: Mothers get 16 weeks’ leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Working mothers are entitled to either 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave or 12 weeks of maternity leave. This depends on whether the child is a Singapore citizen, among other conditions. This maternity leave can be taken starting four weeks before delivery.

Under a new three-year pilot announced this year, public-sector officers and their spouses will get an additional four weeks of unpaid infant-care leave per parent. The government will decide if this should be rolled out nationally after the pilot ends in 2020.

What is the pay during the time off and how does it change over time?

Working mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave if their child is a Singapore citizen.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Depending on which option you go for, prices can vary drastically, ranging from S$700 a month for the more affordable childcare centers to over S$2,000 a month for the premium brands.

A basic subsidy of S$300 is provided by the government to all parents with children who are Singapore citizens in childcare centers licensed by the Early Childhood Development Agency, but getting additional subsidy fluctuates according to the household-income level.

For families that have a combined monthly income of S$7,500 or less, this additional subsidy can cover up to 99% of the childcare fees.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

There are no statistics for this, unfortunately.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

In Singapore, working fathers (including those who are self-employed), are entitled to two full weeks of paid paternity leave, funded by the government.

Working fathers also have the option of using their shared paternity leave — wherein they can apply to share up to four weeks of their spouse’s 16 weeks of government-paid maternity leave, subject to agreement between both parties.

Japan: Childcare leave runs until the child reaches the age of 1.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Mothers are able to leave six weeks before the expected due date (14 weeks, if expecting a twin). They are guaranteed a time off of eight weeks after giving birth. But they could return in six weeks if their doctor approves.

Japan also has childcare leave, which applies to both parents. This period begins after the guaranteed maternity leave mentioned earlier and runs until the child reaches the age of 1. This leave may be extended until the child reaches 14 months old, if both parents take leave, while it can extend to 18 months if only one parent takes leave.

What is the pay during the time off and how does it change over time?

Typically, companies do not pay salary during leave. Instead, social insurance covers the employee’s salary during maternity leave and labor insurance covers the salary during the childcare leave.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

A parent will receive tw0-thirds of their base salary for the first six months of leave. After six months, the amount is reduced to 50%. If the father takes leave after the first six months along with the mother, both parents will receive tw0-thirds of their base salary for 14 months.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, in 2015, 31.8% of full-time employees returned to work within a year of giving birth.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

Fathers are entitled to take 12 months off, just like mothers, and also receive compensation during the period. But only 2% of fathers eligible for leave took it in 2015.

—Shayna Olsan, BI Japan

The Netherlands: There’s a minimum of 16 weeks’ leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

If you translate it literally, we have “pregnancy leave” and “delivery leave” in the Netherlands.

You can stop working six weeks in advance of your expected due date (“pregnancy leave”). If you’re feeling fine and want to work longer because you enjoy it, you can work until four weeks before your due date. This is required by the government. The days you didn’t take off in this two-week period you can add to your “delivery leave.”

When you’ve delivered the baby, you have the right to 10 weeks’ maternity leave (“delivery leave”).

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

You will get the same salary as always. The company will receive a benefit from the government during your pregnancy and delivery leave. When you’re studying or receiving an unemployment benefit, the government will pay for your time off.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Yes. Depending on your income, you receive an allowance from the tax authorities if your child goes to registered childcare. Costs vary. The maximum daycare allowance you can get is 7.18 euros an hour. Most childcare costs about 7 or 8 euros an hour.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

According to the Dutch statistical office, CBS, 89% of the women returned to work within a year after childbirth in 2014-15.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

This is a point of discussion in the Netherlands. The partner has the right to two days paid time off, in which he or she also has to go to the local authority to register the baby. Further, the partner can take an additional three days time off without payment.

We’re in the middle of forming a new cabinet, but at the moment a majority of our House of Representatives want to extend paid paternity leave. Chances are something will change in the coming years.

Italy: Every mother gets at least five months’ maternity leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

In Italy, every mother-to-be stays home two months before the baby is due and three months after. In some cases, a woman can ask her doctor for authorization to work up until one month before the baby is due. This means that she will have one more month (four months) off after the birth. The five months are at 80% of the wage (but usually the company adds the remaining 20% so that you can obtain 100%) and mandatory. There are also two days mandatory, and fully paid, for the fathers.

After this time, there are 10 more months of voluntary parental leave shared between mothers and fathers (maximum six months for mothers and seven for fathers). It can become 11 if the father takes off at least three months (this period can be taken in a row or time to time). During voluntary parental leave you get 30% of your wage, but only for six months; the other months will be at no wage.

No company can refuse the voluntary leave, but you have to inform the company at least 15 days in advance. You can take the voluntary parental leave in the first 12 years of the child.

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

The first five months are at 80% of the wage (but usually the company adds the remaining 20% so that you can obtain 100%), then you have other six months at 30% of your wage and then another four or five months at no wage.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

People who give up the whole voluntary parental leave will receive 600 euro a months for six months. There is some support toward childcare costs through tax exemptions. Health assistance is always guaranteed for free, but still childcare is quite expensive.

What percentage of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

The only official number provided by Istat is that the employment rate of mothers is 14 points lower than the employment rate of women with no kids.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

Two days is mandatory and fully paid. The other six or seven months are shared with mothers.

—Giuliano Balestreri, Business Insider Italia

France: Mothers get 16 weeks’ leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

French law provides expecting mothers with 16 weeks off, generally split into six weeks before birth and 10 after. Depending on one’s personal situation and health, this can be shifted a little. If you already have two children, the 16 weeks is extended to 26 weeks: eight before birth, 18 weeks after. If you expect twins, you get 34 weeks (12 weeks before, 22 after).

If you expect triplets, you get 46 weeks (24 before, 22 after). Some industries or companies offer longer leaves than the typical 16 weeks.

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

Maternity leave is paid for by public healthcare, or Sécurité sociale. If you’re an employee and have worked for a sufficient amount of time, depending on your industry, it’s a percentage of your salary up until 3,269 euros a month or 84.90 euros a day maximum. In banking, it’s 100% of your salary.

If you’re unemployed, it’s about 50% of your last three paychecks. There are many other variations on this depending on whether you are, for instance, an artist, the wife of a baker, or working in healthcare.

If you extend your leave beyond the 16 legal weeks for “congé parental” (parental leave), this stops, but depending on your income and the number of children you already have, you can get some support from social security of about 400 euros monthly.

“Congé parental” leave lasts for a year and can be renewed twice if you had one or two children — until they turn three, and up to five times if you had three children or more — up until the sixth birthday.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Yes. Different organizations can support you based on income and other children already being supported. For example, the national Organisation can give about 130 euros, then the region can pay another 150, and you can get a tax break of 50% of the money spent paid for childcare services, with limits depending on the type of childcare you choose (such as public or private nanny).

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

According to a 2010 study, 80% of women were working or looking for a job within nine to 11 months after birth.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

Paternity leave is 11 days for a simple birth and 18 days for multiple births, on top of three days off for the birth.

—Marie-Catherine Beuth, Business Insider France

Germany: Mothers can take up to three years’ family leave.

How much time off, if any, is afforded before the baby is due? How much time off after the birth is afforded?

Before: six weeks; after: eight weeks. This jumps to 12 weeks if more than one baby is born. This is a must. After that, you can work or you can take family leave. That would be up to three years, but only one year with 60% of your last pay. If the father takes also two months, the time you get paid increases to 14 months.

What is the pay during the time off, and how does it change over time?

Mothers receive 13 euros a day, plus 65% of their last pay.

Is there any support toward childcare costs? How much does childcare cost?

Childcare is taken care of in some Bundesländer [a German state], when the child is older than 2 years. If the child is younger, or in some Bundesländer in general, the parents have to pay a certain percentage of their pay. When they earn more money, the part of the pay for the childcare will be higher.

What % of women return to work within a year after childbirth?

About 43% of women return to work after the first two years.

How much time off is afforded for paternity?

If the woman takes 12 months, a man can get two months’ paid leave, but it is also possible that the man takes 12 months off and the woman two months after that.

—Matthias Olschewski, Business Insider Deutschland

 

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/this-is-what-parental-leave-looks-like-around-the-world?utm_content=buffer47e71&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Salario mínimo será base para optar a vivienda

El Gobierno y empresarios analizarán ingresos de núcleos familiares para acceder a vivienda social.

El próximo año se prevé que se empiecen a construir edificios de apartamentos para vivienda social, proyectos impulsados por el Gobierno y otros por el sector privado de la construcción. En ambas opciones de residencia se analiza la forma en que se seleccionarán a los beneficiarios, el registro de sus ingresos por salarios mínimos será una de ellas.

La Conred identificó 270 áreas de riesgo para familias que viven en casas de estructuras débiles e inadecuadas. (Foto Prensa Libre: Hemeroteca PL)
La Conred identificó 270 áreas de riesgo para familias que viven en casas de estructuras débiles e inadecuadas. (Foto Prensa Libre: Hemeroteca PL)
El surgimiento de nuevos proyectos de residencia social se debe a la demanda que existe. Según investigaciones del Ministerio de Comunicaciones Infraestructura y Vivienda (CIV) hay tres segmentos y forman el 97 por ciento de ese mercado.
Selección de familias

La residencia de bajo costo en el mercado está dividida en tres segmentos con base en los salarios mínimos que obtiene una familia cada mes, según los cálculos del CIV. Las autoridades han propuesto hacer la selección de las familias que necesitan comprar una vivienda de tipo social con ese método.

En el primer segmento se identifican a las familias que subsisten con menos de un salario mínimo al mes y no tienen casa, ellos representan el 37 por ciento del mercado de la vivienda. El segundo segmento son las familias que perciben de uno a dos salarios mínimos mensuales y también carecen de un lugar para vivir, y son el 45 por ciento. El último segmento de familias para vivienda social son las que perciben de dos a cuatro salarios mínimos al mes, estas son el 15 por ciento.
En la actualidad el salario mínimo tanto para el sector agrícola como para el no agrícola es de Q2 mil 893.21. Para los empleos de exportación y maquila es de Q2 mil 667.25.

Los apartamentos de residencia de tipo social serían de 50 metros cuadrados en promedio y costarán Q250 mil, a través del CIV, y similar precio se ofrecería en los proyectos privados. Las cuotas mensuales serían de Q1 mil 500.

El Gobierno y el sector privado buscan definir la forma de identificar a las familias que necesiten vivienda de bajo costo y podrían solicitarla con participación del Instituto de Fomento de Hipotecas Aseguradas (FHA), para efectuar la selección.

El FHA efectúa evaluaciones de los ingresos de familias de clase media para la adquisición de casas y ese mismo método podrían usar para la residencia social. Además, tiene procesos para incluir en la compra a personas de la economía informal.

La Asociación Centroamericana para la Vivienda (Acenvi) es la que respalda, junto con la compañía Intepro, el proyecto habitacional social Trasciende, y analizan cómo identificar a las familias que pueden optar a una residencia social.

El monto de lo salarios mínimos que percibe mensualmente el núcleo familiar podría ser una opción que también use el sector privado de la construcción para seleccionar a sus clientes.

Acaparamiento

Los inversionistas privados y el Gobierno estudian cómo implementar el mecanismo para elegir a las familias que llenen el perfil, la finalidad de determinarlo es para evitar el acaparamiento de la vivienda social por parte de inversionistas.

En Canadá ocurrió un caso en el que un proyecto de residencia social fue acaparado por inversionistas privados y luego el precio de la vivienda se elevó y perdió el espíritu de su implementación.

Con los proyectos de residencia social que se construirán se busca evitar que personas que tengan alto poder adquisitivo compren ese tipo de vivienda, porque se correría el riesgo de que sea inversión para luego vender y más caro.

http://www.prensalibre.com/ciudades/guatemala/salario-minimo-sera-base-para-optar-a-vivienda

Aumento salarial al Magisterio

El Mineduc y el Minfin tienen la harta obligación de mostrarle al pueblo de Guatemala los resultados que se esperan obtener producto de este aumento.

Un asunto es educar mejor a los niños, otro muy distinto creer que esto se reduce a pagarle más a los maestros públicos, sin exigirles resultados. Como bien lo vino a recordar el economista español Xavier Sala-i-Martín, invitado especial del ENADE, cada día que pasa queda más claro que el futuro de la educación girará más en torno a los medios informáticos, tecnologías de la comunicación, realidad aumentada y realidad virtual. Es tan grande la brecha entre el estado actual y el futuro de la educación pública que resultaría absurdo, aun estando bajo las influencias del más poderoso alucinógeno, creer que la transición entre el modelo actual y esta tecno utopía puede hacerse en ausencia de una efectiva planificación estratégica; un sólido modelo lógico que establezca las relaciones causales entre las intervenciones públicas y los resultados, y; un adecuado plan de monitoreo y evaluación; ningún modelo de educación pública, intensivo o no en tecnología, dará los resultados que la población demanda del mismo.
Como bien lo muestra la Gestión por Resultados –GpR–, modelo adoptado por el sector público desde hace unos cinco años, es imperativo contar con un modelo lógico que muestre cómo los gastos en actividades, salarios, insumos, productos y procesos contribuyen a mejorar la calidad de vida de la población, no de los proveedores del Estado, empleados públicos o políticos de turno. Este cambio de enfoque en resultados representa una profunda diferencia respecto del típico enfoque de presupuesto por programas, que tanto abunda en el periodismo económico del país, en donde lo único que interesa es cuánto se asigna a un rubro y cuánto se gasta del mismo, no los resultados que se alcanzan con dicho gasto, ni el costo promedio de los resultados logrados.

Para muestra un botón, según unos de los resultado institucionales del Mineduc, para el año 2015 se presupuestaron Q1.4 millardos con el propósito contribuir al incremento 1.2 por ciento a 3.7 por ciento en la tasa de variación acumulada de la matrícula oficial de preprimaria para el 2017. A la fecha, tres años después, este indicador ha aumentado solamente un 0.6 por ciento y se han gastado más de Q4 mil 700 millones con este propósito. Con este nivel de efectividad se necesitarían unos Q15 millardos adicionales y más de diez años para lograr el resultado original. Suponiendo que el resultado institucional no cambió, algo que ya ocurrió para el 2018. En ese sentido, antes de conceder el jugoso aumento salarial de más del 25 por ciento al magisterio nacional, producto del pacto colectivo, la cúpula sindical del magisterio nacional, el Mineduc y el Minfin tienen la harta obligación de mostrarle al pueblo de Guatemala los resultados que se esperan obtener producto de este aumento, así como el modelo lógico en donde se muestra cómo el aumento salarial redunda en mejores indicadores de aprendizaje. En ausencia de esto, cualquier argumentación a favor de este aumento es demagogia pura.

https://elperiodico.com.gt/opinion/2017/10/17/aumento-salarial-al-magisterio/

Unemployment and the role of supranational policies

EU supranational policies should be more active at promoting institutional reforms that reduce unemployment

Elevator pitch

Unemployment in Europe is excessively high on average, and is divergent across countries and population groups within countries. On the one hand, over the past decades, national governments have implemented incomplete institutional reforms to amend dysfunctional labor markets. On the other hand, EU supranational policies—those that transcend national boundaries and governments—have offered only limited financial support for active labor market policies, instead of promoting structural reforms aimed at improving the functioning of European labor markets. Better coordination and a wider scope of EU supranational policies is needed to fight unemployment more effectively.

Unemployment rate across selected EU
                            countries

Key findings

Pros

Some EU countries have effective institutional setups in place for handling shocks while avoiding high unemployment, indicating that best practices do exist.

Improvements in the EU coordination framework for employment policies could promote reforms to reduce unemployment.

A significant step forward would be the establishment of an EU unemployment insurance program and introduction of wage subsidies partially financed by EU funds and implemented using individual accounts.

Cons

Key reforms were not undertaken during the recent crisis, leaving many EU countries with semi-reformed labor markets that are still not fully capable of handling negative shocks.

The EU has lost credibility regarding its ability to coordinate policy, stabilize member economies, and promote efficient structural reforms.

EU supranational initiatives are often seen as a means of imposing unwarranted reforms that may not benefit specific member countries.

Author’s main message

During the Great Recession and the European debt crisis, the EU framework for policy coordination failed to provide either sufficient economic stabilization or clear guidelines for structural reforms. As a result, unemployment in Europe remains high, as does its dispersion across countries and population groups. Dysfunctional labor markets still prevail in many countries and, because of reform fatigue and strong insider resistance, progress in structural reforms seems highly unlikely. Improvements in the coordination of economic, social, and employment policies, and, in particular, new EU labor market programs are needed to promote successful structural reforms.

Motivation

Unemployment in Europe is not only unbearably high, but also insupportably different across nations belonging to an economic and monetary union. Failure to cope with this situation may lead to the collapse of the common EU institutional architecture.

Unemployment differentials have never been as marked as they are today. As of 2014, the top four (Portugal, Croatia, Greece, and Spain) and bottom four (Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Netherlands) national unemployment rates in the EU28 differed by a factor of almost four. In the US by contrast, the corresponding figure for the top five (Michigan, California, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Nevada) and bottom five states (South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, and Vermont) was only 2.4. Clearly, talking about “European unemployment” or, even more so, of a “European structural unemployment problem” is highly misleading. Moreover, reducing this divergence among unemployment rates is a prerequisite for the smooth functioning of the economic and monetary union.

EU unemployment divergence has its roots in institutional differences. Moreover, EU policy coordination and conditionality during the crisis did very little to improve employment policies or to make labor markets more resilient to shocks in countries with high unemployment (mostly in southern European countries). Additionally, EU employment policies, notably EU conditionality for countries involved in rescue programs, failed to account for the cyclical nature of economic conditions, and did not put enough emphasis on productivity-enhancing structural reforms. Learning from these mistakes is essential to improving the economic policy coordination framework in Europe. Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, as called for by the “Five Presidents’ Report” [2], will not be possible without a more decisive intervention of supranational polices in structural reforms.

Discussion of pros and cons

Diagnosis

Figure 1 provides the mean unemployment rates and their standard deviations (both aggregate and by age groups) in a sample of EU countries during the 1984–2015 period (the corresponding annual series are plotted in Figure 2). There were two main recessions during this period, one in the early 1990s, and the double-dip recession during the aftermath of the Great Recession and the European debt crisis (in bold).

Unemployment rates, overall and by age
                        groups, across time

Mean and standard deviation of
                        unemployment rates in a sample of EU countries

Looking at these developments, the performance of European labor markets during the Great Recession and the European debt crisis could be characterized by a number of observations set out in the following paragraphs.

First, unemployment in Europe is not only unbearably high, but also increasingly divergent across countries. During the 2009–2013 crisis, both the unemployment rate and its cross-country dispersion (in the sample of 13 countries considered) were higher than in the previous recession, regardless of the population age group considered. The fact that the aggregate unemployment rate was lower in 2009–2013 than in 1992–1993, while the corresponding rates for separate age groups were higher, is obviously due to the composition effect arising from the aging labor force. During the mild recovery of 2014–2015, mean unemployment rates and their cross-country dispersion continued to rise, both at the aggregate level and for each age-specific group.

Second, youth unemployment (for the 15–24 age group) climbed above (often well above) 40% in southern Europe , while remaining mostly unchanged in Austria and Germany. As shown in one study, the rise in unemployment was due both to a youth hiring freeze and to heavy destruction of those jobs held by young people [3]. Since 2009, alongside low educational attainment and lack of skills, younger age has been associated with higher probability of losing a job and lower likelihood of moving from unemployment to employment, especially in countries where the rise in unemployment has been highest.

Third, the rise in unemployment is associated with decreasing GDP. The shocks driving the crisis (for example, the presence and magnitude of housing bubbles in the pre-crisis period and the poor resilience of financial markets), and challenges related to the policy responses to it (for example, fiscal and external financing problems and bail-out issues), explain a great deal of the cross-country dispersion in both GDP growth and unemployment.

However, about half of the cross-country variation in unemployment is not explained by GDP, but instead seems to be associated with labor market institutions and employment policies. For example, the change in unemployment per point of variation in GDP growth turned out to be significantly higher in countries where dual employment protection legislation (EPL) leads to strong segmentation between employees with full-time, regular contracts, and those with atypical contracts (part-time, temporary, or seasonal).

Finally, microeconomic evidence shows that firms followed a variety of strategies to adjust to the shocks, using different combinations of employment, wages, hours worked, and other adjustment mechanisms, and that these strategies were to some extent conditioned by the labor market institutional framework prevailing in each country [4]. Thus, while some countries had the proper institutions in place to deal with shocks, others were in more difficult positions. These countries lacked the appropriate institutions to accommodate the large reallocation of resources needed given the nature of the shocks.

Functional and dysfunctional labor market institutions

The above observations show that some countries allowed several margins of adjustment to their labor market institutions that accommodated the crisis’s negative shocks. In others, labor market institutions amplified the negative consequences of the shocks. The most evident examples are:

  • Subsidizing reductions in working hours. Some countries (most notably Germany) activated a variety of instruments to concentrate the adjustment to the Great Recession on the intensive margin (i.e. a reduction of working hours). First, the scope of subsidized short-time work was increased. Second, German firms made heavy use of working time accounts (essentially a scheme allowing firms to borrow from their employees: rather than being paid for overtime work, employees had the right to work fewer hours at a later date). Third, the introduction of mini-jobs increased the scope of multiple job holdings, which helped prevent outright unemployment for many workers who lost their primary (or secondary) jobs.
  • Decentralized bargaining. There has been a clear trend toward decentralized wage-setting in some EU countries since the early 1990s. This is the case in Germany, which has been a pioneer in the introduction of so-called “exit clauses.” These clauses allow firms to use plant-level “pacts for employment and competitiveness,” which enable wage reductions rather than collective dismissals. In contrast, until at least 2012, collective bargaining institutions in Spain imposed wages established at “higher” (provincial or sectoral) levels that included very limited exit clauses. This prevented firms from being able to trade wage concessions with their workers for more employment security, as was the case in Germany.
  • Dual employment. The coexistence of two different segments in the labor market (employees with open-ended contracts and employees with temporary contracts) generated larger fluctuations in employment than those observed in fully flexible labor markets. Countries with a higher level of contractual dualism display a stronger responsiveness of unemployment to output changes. Since dismissing temporary workers is much less expensive than firing permanent employees, employment adjustments are mostly concentrated on those in temporary employment, which insulates workers holding permanent contracts from the consequences of negative shocks. Thus, large job losses among temporary workers may well coexist alongside wage rises among those employed under permanent contracts.
  • Active labor market policies (ALMPs). The effectiveness of ALMPs at reducing unemployment remains a controversial issue. Some surveys tend to conclude that, when taking into account deadweight, substitution, lock-in, and general equilibrium effects, ALMPs are not cost-effective at reducing unemployment [5]; others suggest that some programs, in particular those aimed at human capital accumulation, can have positive long-term effects on the employability of some targeted groups, especially in a recessionary climate [6]. In any case, the effectiveness of ALMPs seems to be rather dependent on the institutional framework in which they are implemented. Thus, human capital accumulation programs tend to be less effective in countries where dual EPL leads to job instability due to a high degree of worker turnover across short-term jobs. In sum, dysfunctional institutions not only lead to bad labor market performance, but also reduce the effectiveness of ALMPs.

The effects of labor market reforms throughout the business cycle

A huge literature on the effects of institutions on labor market outcomes offers insights into the long-term effects of institutional reforms [7]. The appropriate timing to implement labor market reforms is also an important topic for policy discussions. In principle, it seems that employment can be made more resilient to negative shocks by increasing wage flexibility during recessions, instead of increasing employment flexibility, which amplifies employment volatility, especially when done by promoting contract dualism.

Moreover, since the optimal level of unemployment benefits is lower when unemployment duration increases with benefits, generosity should be higher when the unemployment rate is high and be reduced during economic expansions [7], generosity should increase when the unemployment rate increases, and be reduced during economic expansions, although this raises the fiscal costs at the moment in which budgetary constraints are more binding. There are also conceptual reasons and empirical evidence to advocate that the counter-cyclicality of unemployment rates should be embedded in replacement rates (the ratio of benefits to past wages) rather than in duration entitlements.

Regarding ALMPs, there is some trade-off about their effectiveness and the resources available for financing them during the business cycle. In recessions, there are few job offers around, so even when some ALMPs are effective, the increase in the employment rate brought by these types of measures is small [7]. However, increasing employability during recessions is especially important to avoid hysteresis (that leads to cyclical rises in unemployment becoming permanent), and to stave off the decrease in the rate of people moving into employment due to long-term unemployment spells. On the other hand, public resources to upgrade ALMPs are scarcer in recessions. Hence, whether ALMPs should be conducted more intensively during recessions is, as with their overall effectiveness, a controversial issue. Increasing expenditures on ALMPs during downturns is politically challenging due to budgetary constraints, and, most often, these expenditures end up being pro-cyclical.

A similar trade-off also appears in pension reforms. Reforms that steeply raise the retirement age just when labor demand is declining may backfire. Employers may end up freezing new hires, preventing recessions from serving as labor market cleansing devices, especially in countries where young workers are better educated than incumbents. Instead, early retirement under actuarially neutral adjustment of pension benefits may be desirable, so as not to increase social costs in the long-term.

Summing up, there are three important policy lessons about the timing of structural reforms. First, their effects depend on cyclical conditions. Second, the employment policies needed during recessions involve higher public expenditures. Finally, precisely because employment policies during recessions may involve more public resources, it is important to design a sequential strategy taking into account intertemporal budget constraints—those constraints faced by a decision maker who is making choices for both the present and the future—which are especially relevant in the case of pension reforms. This sequential strategy is also needed because of political feasibility issues, which frequently lead to the implementation of most reforms during downturns (when they may be most harmful), and far fewer reforms in good times (when they would be most palatable).

The shortcomings of labor market reforms in Europe during the crisis

Although describing and assessing all labor market reforms implemented in EU countries since 2007 in detail is beyond the scope of this article, there are some key features that are important to highlight (for a summary list of labor market reforms in EU countries during this period, see [4]).

First, while some countries were able to accommodate negative shocks via their existing institutions and without a significant increase in unemployment (for example, Austria, Germany, and Belgium), others experienced a large increase in unemployment and implemented fundamental labor market reforms. In most cases, these reforms followed recommendations by international institutions to national governments that were either under formal rescue programs or were suffering severe macroeconomic imbalances (for example, Portugal, Greece, and Spain).

Second, labor market reforms essentially focused on (i) promoting wage moderation, (ii) implementing reductions in severance pay and, more broadly, the strictness of employment protection, and (iii) increasing statutory retirement age.

Third, not the recommendations from international institutions were closely followed (for these recommendations see [8][9][10]). The following were all overlooked and mostly absent from the reform agendas: the elimination of contractual dualism; the implementation of schemes inducing more adjustment along the intensive margin, such as short-time work or working time accounts; the introduction of productivity enhancing measures; exploiting complementarities between ALMPs and unemployment benefits by making the latter conditional on activation (as recommended, for instance, by the OECD); and the introduction of actuarial reductions to early retirement, rather than forcing a rapid increase in the retirement age.

Thus, labor market reforms implemented by national governments were not fully rooted in key lessons from international experience. They did not adequately account for the differences in labor market responses to shocks in the euro area [4], nor for the counterproductive effects of labor market reforms under major recessions. As a result, the EU countries most affected by the rise in unemployment did not find any fiscal space to accommodate negative shocks, and were forced to undergo internal devaluation processes that turned out to be excessively costly in terms of employment losses. Although some of the measures implemented in those countries may have been desirable in normal times, incompleteness, lack of coherence, and bad implementation of the reform packages have left these countries in not much better positions compared to where they were prior to the crisis, with dysfunctional institutional labor market configurations.

Toward a new approach of EU supranational policies

The recent negative experience of structural reforms during the European crisis period suggests that the coordination framework and the conditionality principle behind EU supranational policies have not delivered a more efficient institutional framework, especially regarding European labor markets. Increasing cross-country divergence in unemployment is the result of the contrast between countries with an adequate combination of labor market institutions and those with dysfunctional policies. In the former, negative shocks were accommodated without a rise in unemployment, while in the latter, unemployment surged. Although reforms implemented during the crisis period in the latter countries moved their institutional frameworks in the right direction by promoting wage and employment flexibility, they failed to anticipate some negative consequences during downturns and did not address all the institutional drawbacks prevalent in these countries.

This sequence of events has two negative consequences. One is reform fatigue, especially in countries that implemented reforms during the crisis. The other is the lack of credibility of the EU framework for policy coordination, economic stabilization, and promotion of efficient structural reforms. National governments have difficulties introducing best practice institutions, and EU supranational initiatives in this respect are seen as instruments to impose unwarranted reforms or, in the less adverse case, to support the status quo.

Insisting on conditionality and imposing reforms from abroad are likely to present further barriers for efficient structural reforms. If national governments do not take full ownership of their own reforms, the most likely result will continue to be the implementation of incomplete policy packages that do not fully address the roots of dysfunctional labor markets. Similarly, if supranational institutions do not take full ownership of the policies that they recommend, implementation at the national level will most likely be inefficient.

Moreover, since reforms may have strong effects on income distribution, and may thus require compensating losers, there is a need for greater funding of employment programs. Supranational funding, if well-designed, could lessen the institutional shortcomings of some countries, while at the same time playing a stabilizing role across the eurozone. Admittedly, there are limitations to the financial resources that an EU budget can provide. However, the EU budget will have to be upgraded to meet the challenges of “completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union.” Additionally, the available resources already devoted to improving “competitiveness for growth and jobs” and “economic, social and territorial cohesion” (about €113.3 billion in 2016, amounting to around 73% of the total EU budget) could surely be more effectively spent in meeting some of these challenges.

There are ways to change this undesirable state of affairs by using EU supranational policies to promote efficient labor market reforms, while, at the same time, meeting some desirable criteria, namely, (i) not harming the subsidiarity principle—the belief that decisions should be made at the local level, if possible, (ii) keeping conditionality, and (iii) being financially feasible under reasonable budget constraints.

For instance, one study advocates “positive conditionality,” a concept based on the following four principles [1]:

  • EU supranational policies should be complementary to national programs, not substitutes for them. The sole competence for employment policy should remain with the member states.
  • EU supranational policies should implement measures that neither involve large expenditures (given the EU budget constraints) nor deliver permanent transfers across countries.
  • EU supranational policies should empower people as opposed to national governments, by providing fully portable benefits across national jurisdictions in the form of EU-wide entitlements. These benefits could also contribute to reducing some barriers to transitory labor mobility, which could play a stabilizing role in case of asymmetric shocks.
  • Access to the benefits of EU supranational policies should be conditional on national governments accepting best practice institutional changes. National governments should be free to choose either to accept EU benefits, and thereby implement the required institutional reforms, or to retain their status quo institutional framework, but without gaining access to the EU benefits.

A useful instrument to achieve the above goals is the gradual introduction of individual accounts, which could make transfers involved in EU supranational policies to European citizens easily implementable, more visible, flexible, and better targeted to the most disadvantaged population groups.

The following discussion offers an example of how these principles could be put into practice by creating a specific program aimed at providing hiring incentives, unemployment insurance, and support for pension entitlements, all at once.

Inadequate EPL and contract dualism are the major sources of inefficient worker turnover and job instability, and act as a barrier to human capital accumulation and productivity growth. To combat this, the EU could create a “European Employment Contract for Equal Opportunity,” which would be an open-ended contract with severance pay gradually increasing along with worker tenure [11], as included in the new open-ended contract introduced in Italy and effective since March 2015. The contract comes with individual savings accounts that accumulate contributions by employers (as created in the Austrian system via reforms of severance pay implemented in 2003 [12]) and by a new European Fund (which could be constituted through the combination of resources from Structural Funds and the European Social Fund). The European contributions would play the role of hiring subsidies, since employers would benefit from the reduction in labor costs resulting from the EU contributions to individual accounts. Only if national governments implemented this contract, with the attached EPL provisions, could newly hired workers under the new European contract benefit from the contributions of the European Fund. In this way, national governments would have an incentive to implement the needed EPL reform.

Upon dismissal, workers could use the funds accumulated in their individual accounts to either finance training or complement unemployment benefits paid by national insurance programs. As such, this measure embeds the embryo of a complementary “European Unemployment Insurance Program,” which introduces some automatic stabilizers at the EU level while promoting solidarity and social and economic cohesion among member states, an explicitly stated goal of the European Treaties. By doing so, this policy could deliver both a smoother absorption of asymmetric shocks and more economic convergence [13]. As suggested in another study, the presence of an experience rating in the financing of unemployment benefits (under which employers with higher firings contribute more to the funding of unemployment benefits) provided by national governments under this contract would also be convenient, and could be a required condition for EU funding [11].

Workers not dismissed could use the funds accumulated in their individual accounts to complement pension entitlements. Introducing some pre-funding of pension entitlements under defined contribution schemes could help promote actuarial neutrality and the portability of pension rights across jurisdictions. Greater information transparency about future pension rights and intertemporal budget constraints, both at the aggregate and the individual levels, is needed to improve flexibility in retirement age, which would soften the cost of adjustment to macroeconomic shocks while also rejuvenating the workforce. Moreover, generalizing actuarially neutral adjustments to pension entitlements enables the full and sustainable portability of pension rights across jurisdictions, and forces intra-EU bilateral agreements among social security administrations to be more transparent.

Limitations and gaps

Calls for more active involvement of EU supranational policies in the institutional reform of EU member countries and for larger funding of EU employment programs typically face both economic and political objections. The economic objection generally has three layers. The first deals with the nature of externalities and spillovers across countries that would justify strong intervention by supranational institutions in national labor markets. The second is the lack of consensus about the diagnosis and treatment of the causes of dysfunctional labor markets. Finally, there is the issue of the limited EU budget available to fund employment policies with positive conditionality. The main political objection is that these policies could potentially generate cross-country transfers and pressures to increase the EU budget. As argued above, these objections could be overcome by moving toward a new approach to designing and implementing EU supranational policies.

Summary and policy advice

Dysfunctional labor markets remain prevalent in multiple EU countries despite the reforms implemented during the recent crisis. These reforms were incomplete and, in some cases, counterproductive, as they were introduced without sufficient consideration of their consequences during downturns. Unemployment is becoming increasingly divergent across EU member countries and national governments seem incapable of delivering a complete package of efficient structural reforms. Reform fatigue, insiders’ resistance to alter the status quo, and the lack of scope of EU supranational policies make it very likely that the current unfortunate state of affairs will persist. Under this scenario, with this combination of policy failures at the national and supranational levels, it is difficult to foresee a bright future for a united Europe.

EU supranational policies should be reconsidered in a bid to change this situation. New EU programs with positive conditionality, rather than recommendations and guidelines either suggested or imposed under rescue programs, should be the norm rather than the exception. They could give national governments the necessary incentives to implement institutional changes based on best practices. Moreover, by empowering European citizens rather than national governments, these programs would make EU policies more credible, and, at the same time, more transparent and socially acceptable.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks an anonymous referee and the IZA World of Labor editors for many helpful suggestions on earlier drafts. Previous work of the author, especially joint work with Tito Boeri, contains a larger number of background references for the material presented here [1].

Competing interests

The IZA World of Labor project is committed to the IZA Guiding Principles of Research Integrity. The author declares to have observed these principles.

© Juan F. Jimeno

https://wol.iza.org/articles/unemployment-and-the-role-of-supranational-policies/long