We’ve entered a new world of work where technology and globalization have transformed power brokers into broken powers. The once confident euro zone has endured six consecutive quarters of shrinking GDP, and across the developed world, the dwindling number of white-collar jobs is hollowing out the middle class. Meanwhile, the developing world is building confidence and economic muscle. Growth in Africa and Asia is averaging 6 percent a year. China alone has added tens of millions to the global workforce, though the children of these laborers are often left behind to fend for themselves. Still, the tragic and unnecessary deaths of over 1,1000 garment workers in the Savar building collapse outside of Dhaka, Bangladesh was a grim reminder that a growing economy doesn’t mean safer conditions. Too many workers in both the developed and developing worlds find themselves chained to a capricious system that leaves them unable to control their own destinies. So for the cover theme of our Summer issue, World Policy Journal is examining the nexus of labor, society, and government with lessons on how to liberate workers from insecure and unsafe work while creating stable and fulfilling jobs.
The Big Question: What is the Best Way to Create Jobs?
With jobs disappearing across the developed world and arriving too slowly to keep pace with the aspirations and growing populations of the developing world, the nature of work is being challenged as never before. We asked our panel of experts to identify the most effective way of producing safe and rewarding jobs.
The European Union is in the midst of an alarming employment crisis. Its solution to weaken collective bargaining and hack away at regulations has only aggravated the problem, argues Raymond Torres, director of the International Labor Organization’s International Institute for Labor Studies. Instead, Europe must institute youth employment guarantees, unlock credit for small businesses, and remain committed to its social welfare system.
A new metric created exclusively for World Policy Journal by Retensa, an employee retention consultant, has documented the costs of science and technology worker turnover across Europe, revealing surprising opportunities for the future of tech, especially in Eastern Europe.
As the fight for white-collar labor goes global, a cut-price competition for brainpower is leaving many Western university graduates without the jobs or stability they’d been promised, British economists Phillip Brown and Hugh Lauder write. With this transformation of the labor market, only by creatively coordinating small- and medium-sized businesses in both the manufacturing and service sectors will today’s wealthy countries be able to save their dwindling middle classes.
Demographics can place burdens on workers. Using population pyramids, World Policy Journal demonstrates that a bulge in the number of youths or the elderly, men or women can challenge a country’s workforce.
As working-age adults head to China’s big cities to labor in factories, they increasingly leave their children behind. Today, some 61 million of these “left-behind children” are growing up in the care of grandparents or on the street. China’s hukou, or household registration, system links free education to a child’s birthplace. To improve the lives of children and help China escape the middle-income trap, Helen Gao argues that the hukou system needs to be reformed so children can attend free schools in the same cities where their parents live.
Shortly after the tragic Savar building collapse outside Dhaka killed over 1,100 workers, World Policy Journal spoke with Bangladeshi labor leader Nazma Akter, who argues that foreign companies should not abandon Bangladesh but that Western consumers must alter their expectations for ultra-cheap fast fashion.
As melting glaciers open up access to shipping routes and new energy reserves, countries with polar real estate are modernizing armies to defend their interests. Photographer Robert Nickelsberg and writer Judith Matloff spent two weeks inside the Arctic Circle with military forces from Norway, Britain, and the Netherlands, documenting military training in the planet’s harshest climate.
Deep in the Himalayas, a dimly perceived climactic catastrophe is building in the form of fragile glacial lakes on the verge of exploding. Jacques Leslie journeys to the heights of Bhutan to explore Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, or GLOFs, arguing that mountainous states need to defuse these potential inland tsunamis and install warning systems for imperiled villagers or face devastating and dramatic consequences.
In Tatarstan, Ronan Keenan investigates extremist Islam creeping into the center of Russia from the North Caucasus. To halt the growth of this radical Salafi movement, he contends Moscow must allow more dissent or risk pushing moderate Muslim Tatars toward the al-Qaida linked Caucasus Emirate.
Investigative journalist Jonathan Ewing uncovers a welter of fraud as he probes corrupt gold mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo and their surprising funding source—an under-regulated Swedish stock exchange. Neither proposed EU nor new U.S. laws, he says, will prevent alternative stock exchanges from being used to funnel money to unscrupulous companies around the world.
John Frederick Walker challenges the conventional wisdom on the ivory trade, insisting that attempts to ban the sale of all new ivory have failed. Instead, Walker says, a well-regulated system that differentiates between “found ivory” and “blood ivory” would better protect Africa’s endangered elephants.
In Colombia, Sibylla Brodzinsky bears witness to the victims of guerrilla terrorism, revealing the prevailing skepticism of Colombians toward ongoing peace talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
World Policy Journal editor David A. Andelman gets snared in bureaucracy. In the second of his series examining the relations between governments and those they rule, he suggests that to make institutions nimble and effective, bureaucrats must remain minimally invasive and periodically reviewed by independent panels. Otherwise, America’s IRS-Tea Party imbroglio risks being repeated around the world.