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Readers' views: Labour advice
Jim Baker, Coordinator, Council of Global Unions

You paint a positive picture of Turkey’s economy in terms of growth of GDP and employment (OECD Observer No 290-91, Q1-Q2 2012). Nevertheless, the interview states that for the future of the Turkish economy, “labour market reform is key, especially to encourage the shifting of resources from the informal to the formal sector: a more flexible labour contract is needed and minimum wage setting should be decentralised”

One has the impression that various forms of labour market flexibility seem to be considered by the OECD as sound advice, regardless of what specific country problems may exist. When times are good, when times are bad, when inflation is low, when inflation is high, when profits are low, when profits are high, when unemployment is low and when it is high. It is as if a doctor were capable of making a diagnosis, but only able to write one prescription.

There are many problems in Turkey, but excessive protection of workers’ rights is not and has never been among them. And, creating precarious work in the “formal sector” in order to entice a shifting of resources from the “informal sector” is neither sound advice in terms of economic and social development nor in terms of strengthening democracy.

The informal economy stems primarily from failures of governance, not from protecting workers. Other European countries with better labour laws and enforcement do not have a larger informal economy; but a far smaller one.

Turkey needs major reforms in labour laws to bring them up to ILO standards. It is extremely difficult for workers to form trade unions and the thresholds for collective bargaining discourage rather than encourage its practice. Moreover, reforms should encourage Turkish employers to show respect for the human rights of their workers.

It hardly seems reasonable to attack the few remaining protections in law.

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©OECD Observer No 293 Q4 November 2012