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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

JOB PROTECTIONISM ON THE RISE


As the global economic crisis spreads, countries are becoming increasingly aware of their rising unemployment rates. Countries are combating this in different ways, but there is a disconcerting rise in job protectionism throughout much of the world.


As the global economic crisis spreads, countries are becoming increasingly aware of their rising unemployment rates. Countries are combating this in different ways, but there is a disconcerting rise in job protectionism throughout much of the world.

From lifetime unemployment in such countries as Japan and Germany to job unions in such countries as Australia and America, job protectionism is nothing new. However, with the many countries in or approaching a recession, job protectionism is taking a slightly different turn.

In the past, job protectionism has been a political tool to appease nationals who have either lost their jobs to outsourcing or have been skipped over for a position by a foreigner. However, with many economies shrinking, many nationals are not losing their job to a foreigner but instead the entire position is being eliminated.

In the preceding case, foreigners cannot be blamed and a cry denouncing outsourcing cannot be made. Instead, many governments have taken a new approach to job protectionism. In an almost literal interpretation, jobs for citizens are to be protected above all expatriates.

In one extreme, some governments have started to announce plans that when downsizing is necessary, companies should fire all non-nationals before any citizens are to be fired.

For example, Indian tech workers are in jeopardy of losing their jobs in America. Influential Republican Senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has begun to ask companies, specifically Microsoft, to fire foreign workers first. Microsoft has announced plans to fire 5,000 employees over the next 18 months and Grassley wants foreign workers, hired on visas, to be the first to go. If the plan is enacted, Indian workers will be unfairly targeted.

While Microsoft claims that it plans to treat all employees equal, regardless of national status, Grassley wrote in a letter that, “Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times.”

Another example is in Malaysia, where the government has banned the hiring of new foreign workers. The government claims that action was taken in order to protect its citizens from unemployment during the economic downturn. It also told employers that if companies wanted to downsize, they must first fire foreign staff.

Malaysia is the leading importer of Asian labor. With more than two million foreign workers, the new ban will affect key manufacturing and service sectors, where approximately half of the workers are foreign. However, there is an exemption for highly skilled workers.

Malaysian Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, reiterated this point when he told the New Straits Times, “The first to be retrenched should be foreigners and not locals.”

While many governments have not been as extreme as the examples of Malaysia and the U.S. foreign workers are still going to feel the pinch in such countries as Japan and Singapore.

Many foreign born workers who have immigrated to Japan in the past decade to take advantage of their booming economy and aging local workforce, are at a serious disadvantage to natural born citizens. Often the first to be fired, many foreigners find it even harder to find work again.

Discriminated because of their place of birth and lack of language skills, the number of foreigners at government run job centers has doubled in the last 6 months, while those of Japanese workers has remained constant. Furthermore, many foreigners originally came to Japan to work for the three large motor producers, Toyota, Honda and Yamaha, companies that are all cutting back on production. Foreigners that do find jobs are often hired by temp agencies so they can be easily fired. Many foreigners work in company housing, so they also lose their homes when they are fired.

Another country that has had a recent influx of foreigners to meet skilled-worker demand, Singapore, will also see a disproportionate number of foreigners fired because of the global crisis. As an export dependent country, Singapore plans to see up to 300,000 jobs lost by 2010 because of slowing demand. Of those 300,000 jobs, 200,000 are expected to be those of expatriates.

In a world of growing globalization, it seems we may be taking a step backwards. Integration of different economies has grown significantly in the past 20 years. But a global movement of protectionism threatens to isolate countries from one another, a factor that may have dire consequence to open trade and the world economy in the future.



Source: www.AsiaEcon.org
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Source: www.asiaecon.org |


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