Employment policies and data

OECD Employment Outlook 1997 - Low-wage jobs: stepping stones to a better future or traps?


This fifteenth edition of the Employment Outlook appears at a time when there are 36 million unemployed persons in OECD countries. Some countries are doing much better than others on the unemployment front. Structural unemployment has declined in Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom over the 1990s. It has been broadly stable in countries such as Japan, Norway and the United States, but has increased in Finland, France, Germany and Spain among others.

This year's chapters provide analysis and policy advice on: the magnitude and persistence of low-paying jobs in OECD countries; the relationship between national systems of collective bargaining and various measures of economic performance; the effects of international trade on OECD labour markets; and whether and for whom job insecurity is on the rise in recent years.

Chapter 1: Short-term prospects
(PDF, 140Kb, English)
A pick-up in activity over 1997 and 1998 is projected for many OECD countries, but unemployment may only decline by around one million from its current level of around 36 million. Both price and wage inflation should remain subdued.

Chapter 2:  Earnings mobility
(PDF, 183Kb, English)
Mobility up the earnings ladder reduces inequality in the long-run, but some policy concerns associated with low-paid work remain. Except for youths, escaping low pay to better pay is often temporary or is just cycling between low pay and out of work altogether. Many workers experience either absolute declines or large increases in real earnings, suggesting that year-on-year earnings volatility could affect family living standards.

Chapter 3: Collective bargaining
(PDF, 151Kb, English)
One potential explanation for OECD countries' differing economic performances is the nature of their collective bargaining systems. While higher unionisation and more centralised/co-ordinated bargaining tend to be associated with less earnings inequality across countries, it is more difficult to find simple cross-country relationships between bargaining structures and some other measures of labour market performance.

Chapter 4:  Trade and labour markets
(PDF, 194Kb, English)
Over the past two decades, OECD trade with dynamic Asian and Latin American countries has expanded greatly, seemingly coinciding with high unemployment and/or growing wage inequality. However, this multi-country empirical analysis finds that the impact of such trade on employment and earnings developments in OECD countries, especially for less skilled workers, is quite small.

Chapter 5:  Job insecurity
(PDF, 164Kb, English)
Workers' perceptions of job insecurity have risen sharply in most OECD countries. Yet, on average, jobs last just as long now as in the 1980s. This apparent paradox may reflect fears among workers not only about th risk of job loss, but also of its possible consequences in terms of unemployme and lost earnings.

A wealth of new data are presented in each of the chapters.
Statistical Annex  (PDF, 138Kb, English) provides time-series data on key labour market indicators.

See also: Editorial: Low-wage jobs: stepping stones to a better future or traps?  
(PDF, 23Kb, English)

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