Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mandating Worker Benefits -- The European Experience

A recent article in the NY Times entitled "Feeling Pressure All The Time on Europe's Treadmill of Temporary Work," February 9, 2017, spells out in detail what happens when generous worker benefits are encoded in law.

Higher minimum wages, expanded family leave benefits, guaranteed health care, mandated flexible hours and work locations, and various job security mandates all sound great to voters.  That is, until reality sets in.

As the article notes: "...more than half of all new jobs created in the European Union since 2010 have been through temporary contracts."  The article goes on: "Under European labor laws, permanent workers are usually more difficult to lay off and require more costly benefit packages, making temporary contracts appealing for all manner of industries, from low-wage warehouse workers to professional white collar jobs.  For those stuck in this employment netherworld, life is a cycle of constant job searches.  Young people talk of delaying marriage and families indefinitely."

This is just simple economics.  If you mandate costs on employers for permanent employees, employers will provide fewer jobs for permanent employees. No big surprise here.

Hence massive job insecurity and hopelessness for the vast majority of young folks looking for work in the European Union.  Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer would like to bring this insecurity and hopelessness to America's shores.

If you want employers to hire workers and raise their pay, then government needs to butt out so that it is financially attractive to employers to provide good paying jobs for workers.  Drafting punitive laws on employers simply makes businesses reluctant to make permanent hires.  That's the lesson to be learned from the well-documented European Union experience.

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