Unemployment Rising over Much of Globe Slow Economic Growth Worldwide Indicates Little Creation of New Jobs, Layoffs for Many

By Amy Kaslow, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, June 11, 1992 | Go to article overview

Unemployment Rising over Much of Globe Slow Economic Growth Worldwide Indicates Little Creation of New Jobs, Layoffs for Many


Amy Kaslow, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


OUT-OF-WORK Americans have plenty of company in the global labor market. Almost one-third of the world's workers are jobless or earn wages too low to cover their costs of living.

While labor economists draw the obvious link between economic growth and job creation, the employment picture looks bleak as world economic growth is projected at a sluggish 1.5 percent this year, according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

"The unemployment figure is a barometer of exclusion," says Wouter Van Ginneken, chief editor of the World Labor Report of the UN's International Labor Office (ILO). Jobless Americans lack the resources that their counterparts in other leading industrial countries have - such as adequate unemployment benefits and health care - to carry them through prolonged periods without work, he says. The under- and unemployed in the United States "are increasingly marginalized from society," while in Europe the social-welfare net is in place to catch the jobless, Mr. Van Ginneken says.

In May, the unemployment rate in the US reached its highest level since 1984. But at 7.5 percent, it still falls well below most European countries, which together average an annual rate of 8 to 9 percent.

The stronger safety nets in France and Britain, for example, both of which have unemployment rates of 10 percent, have enabled those societies to cope better with the lack of work.

While the US economy grew by 2.5 percent during the first quarter of the year, providing some with hope that job generation will soon follow, "the best is behind us," says Gail Fosler, chief economist of the New York-based Conference Board. She estimates that the country's 1992 economic growth rate will be only 1.8 percent.

Unlike the steady or expanding European and Asian markets, the American labor market is contracting "because it's manufacturing base is getting smaller and smaller," Van Ginneken says.

And, as their positions are permanently eliminated, many service-sector employees, including a growing number of skilled mid-level managers, will be forced to find other work. Unskilled American workers will face a much tougher job market, with the closing of US plants and the influx of cheaper unskilled labor.

US labor groups strongly oppose the North American Free Trade Agreement, which would open the US market to Mexican goods and labor and make the job market even more competitive for US wage earners. "By importing labor and keeping labor costs low, the US takes the low road of economic growth," Van Ginneken says. …

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