Sun, 11 June 2017
Steven Tobin is a Senior Economist and the Team Leader at the Research Department of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and currently heads up the Policy Assessment Unit. His team is currently focused on undertaking policy assessments across a range of labor market and social issues. Before joining the ILO, Steven held several management positions at both the Federal and Provincial level of the Canadian government.
The only tripartite U.N. agency, since 1919 the ILO brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member States , to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men.
One trend that Tobin is looking at now is unemployment. There has been a downturn in Latin America which is pushing the global unemployment lower. The US and Canada have been doing well in this area but the lower numbers in emerging countries are negatively affecting overall rates.
This downward trend impacts us all as the world is becoming more connected – if there is less demand for a product in places, such as Latin America, it will ultimately affect workers and consumers in the US.
The US economy is one of the strongest labor markets in the world. However, there is still a perception among some people that something is wrong. They feel they are working hard but can’t get ahead. This leads to feelings of injustice and may have played a role in last year’s elections. It also may be fueling the ‘America First’ emphasis.
There are jobs available in the US – and other countries – but are there enough? Many are short term, casual jobs and may lead to a mismatch of expectations. They do not provide the same benefits that ‘standard’ jobs do, such as sick time, paid vacation and retirement benefits. The ‘gig’/freelance economy is a trend that the ILO recognizes and sees growing. Their concerns are whether people are choosing these types of jobs for their benefits or rather because there are no standard employment opportunities that meet their skill sets or needs.
This gig economy leads to challenges for entire societies. Who should ‘take care’ of these employees when they cannot work? In Canada they have created voluntary accounts in which self-employed people can contribute to a 401 K and so on.
Finland and Canada are piloting the use of universal basic income on a small scale. Basically, it is when everyone is guaranteed an income whether they work or not. The question remains as to what extent this would replace programs such as unemployment insurance. This notion of providing a minimum of a safety net is growing in the policy sphere.
What You Will Learn In This Episode: