Progress in combating unemployment is uneven across countries, and the OECD-area unemployment rate will only decline very slowly through 1999 to about 7 per cent, or more than 35 million job-seekers. Therefore, reducing unemployment and expanding job opportunities remain a high priority.
New approaches for an employment-centred social policy must be developed to tackle high unemployment and meet equity goals. Beyond the short-term prospects, this issue of the Employment Outlook provides insight into the measures which can help to increase jobs and reduce unemployment in the long run.
Chapter 1: Recent developments
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highlight the problems faced by the jobless in households, as almost 20 per cent of working-age households have no adults in employment. This proportion has increased almost everywhere over the last decade.
Chapter 2: Minimum wages
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help reduce inequalities in wages and incomes but, if set too high, can also cause employment losses among teenagers. They are neither "the" solution to overall family poverty nor the general scourge on jobs that opposite sides proclaim. As part of a coherent package of policies, they can be beneficial in moving towards an employment-centred social policy.
Chapter 3: Youth labour market
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problems are in the forefront of employment policies, as people's initial foray into the world of work is, for many, a harbinger of their future. While many factors influence the transition from school to work, countries with strong apprenticeship systems tend to do best in successfully integrating youth into employment.
Chapter 4: Ageing workforces
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raise major economic challenges that can be turned into opportunities. "Active ageing" will become a reality if labour markets, entreprises and workers have the means and incentives to adapt and make the most of older workers' skills while guaranteeing them adequate standards of living.
Chapter 5: Working time trends
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reflect developments such as the recent reversing of the downward trend in hours of full-time workers in some countries, a widespread increase in part-time work, but much less increase in other forms of "flexible working". Analysis concludes that legislated reduction in working hours alone cannot be counted on to reduce unemployment.
Long-term policies building on these grounds should be developed, combining labour market, educational and social policy reforms. An appropriately set minimum wage in tandem with in-work benefits should help implement an employment-centred social policy, but work is urgently needed on how to design such a package. Over the long run, investing in human capital deserves special attention because enhancing workers' productive potential, especially for the least advantaged, is central to increasing their material well-being and to strengthening the social fabric.
Editorial: Towards an employment-centred social policy (PDF, 19Kb, English)
Statistical Annex (PDF, 113Kb, English)
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