Thursday, 10 September 2009

Doing Business 2010: World Bank discourages social protection

Even though the World Bank has endorsed improved social safety nets to protect the millions of workers who have lost their jobs due to the global economic crisis, the latest edition of the Bank’s highest circulation publication discourages countries from adopting social protection schemes by designating governments that do so as anti-business. Doing Business 2010 also recommends that countries should reduce severance pay for dismissed workers and reduce or eliminate requirements for prior notice about job cuts.

In April 2009, the Bank announced that the Doing Business labour market flexibility indicator, which encourages the reduction of workers’ protection, “does not constitute World Bank policy and should not be used as a basis for policy advice or in any country program documents”, and that the indicator would be removed from the Bank’s conditionality framework (known as CPIA: Country Policy and Institutional Assessment). The Bank also stated, “Doing Business 2010 will include a commentary explaining these steps”, but the new edition of the publication issued today ignores this commitment posted on the Bank’s web site in April.

“If the president of the World Bank truly believes that countries should improve social protection in order to mitigate the impact of the global recession, as he has said on numerous occasions, then it is high time for the Bank’s highest circulation publication to stop promoting the elimination of social and workers’ protection,” said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. The ITUC called attention to the fact that Doing Business 2010 puts Cambodia in the category of countries that are “making it more difficult to do business” because it introduced a social security contribution. Conversely, Georgia is praised and given a better ranking by Doing Business because it abolished its social tax. Doing Business 2010 criticizes the democratic government of Honduras, whose president was expelled after a coup d’état in June, because it increased severance pay and advance notice requirements in response to the economic crisis (Honduras has no unemployment insurance). Similarly, Doing Business downgrades Portugal for increasing the dismissal notice period by two weeks.

On the other hand, the authoritarian regime of Belarus, which lost its preferential trade status with the European Union for violating fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), obtains high marks from Doing Business 2010 for making it easier to eliminate jobs. Rwanda wins this year’s Doing Business “top reformer” prize because “employers are no longer required to consult beforehand [about job cuts] with the employees’ representatives or notify the labor inspector”. The Bank’s publication also praises Macedonia for getting rid of measures to retrain redundant workers, and Mauritius for eliminating mandatory severance pay.

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