labour laws

Many Indian customs are surprising to outsiders – standing to sing the national anthem before any screening at any cinema, for example, or the halwa ceremony that precedes the unveiling of the national budget. The gelatinous, ghee-based dessert was prepared in New Delhi and distributed this week among government employees who have begun printing the most significant document of India’s economic year and will be isolated from their families and other outsiders until it is unveiled on July 10. A little ‘sweet dish’ is the least the government can offer the 100 officials involved in putting the budget together.

That may, however, be one of the only sugary sweet elements in the government’s first budget since Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, was voted in with a strong mandate – leaving him with no excuse not to fulfil his campaign promises of reviving growth and embarking on fiscal consolidation. Read more

At the Bharat Forge factory in Pune, vast hangars are filled with huge machines heating and shaping metal. But there are very few workers around – perhaps a good thing given the sweltering heat.

A population of over 1.2bn supposedly gives India a ‘demographic dividend’ but at the country’s biggest manufacturer and exporter of automotive components, the talk is of a shift to high tech manufacturing rather than labour intensive processes. Read more

Alexander Lukashenko is living up to his reputation as Europe’s last remaining dictator. The president of Belarus has decided to bring back serfdom on farms in a bid to stop urban migration.

Lukashenko has announced plans to introduce legislation prohibiting farm labourers from quitting their jobs and moving to the cities. “Yesterday, a decree was put on my table concerning – we are speaking bluntly – serfdom,” the Belarus leader told a meeting on Tuesday to discuss improvements to livestock farming, reported. Read more

Commentators have a long list of gripes with Indian policy makers: paralysing land laws; mixed messages on foreign direct investment; and labour laws that make barriers of exit into barriers of entry. Clearly structural reforms are needed to kickstart Asia’s third largest economy.

With elections due next year, the hope is that this is just pause mode, and a change in policy will come with a change in government. So let’s use a little history to see what we can expect in the run up to the election, with the help of a new report from Société Générale. Read more

An Asian worker carries carries a rod at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh on April 7, 2013. Saudi Arabia.Gulf states are intensifying their efforts to create jobs for nationals at the expense of expatriate workers as they face youth unemployment and pressure to prepare for a future less reliant on crude exports, writes Camilla Hall.

Kuwait has said it will reduce foreign workers by 100,000 a year, while hundreds of thousands of companies in Saudi Arabia faced a deadline last month to meet the proscribed quota of Saudi employees or risk having their licences removed. Read more

Thailand’s attempt to register around 1.5m illegal migrant workers by the middle of next month is causing more problems than it might solve.

The deadline for workers to apply for permits has been extended – but with employers reluctant to apply on behalf of workers, and workers forced to jump through several expensive bureaucratic hoops, there are still 1m yet to complete their registration. Hanging over the process is the threat of deportation – and worries for business. Read more

By Zoltán Cséfalvay of Hungary’s economy ministry

There is a consensus among politicians worldwide of the need to create jobs. The only question open to debate is exactly how to create them.

In the EU, job creation policies rarely make it into the headlines. There are twice as many people without work in the EU than in the US – 25m, a joblessness rate of 10.4 per cent, reaching almost 25 per cent in Spain. Yet politicians struggle when it comes to talking about jobs. Read more

Halwani Bros, a Saudi food producer, seems to think it has a recipe for labour market transformation – beyond the dense, sesame halawa dessert, for which it is famous. The 60-year-old, Riyadh-listed company has set a minimum wage of SAR3,000 ($800) per month for Saudi employees, according to a report in Arab News.

The move may only benefit 80 nationals employed at food production plants across the kingdom, as well as 50 more that the company plans to hire – but the decision could have far-reaching ramifications for other Saudis. Read more

By Otilia Simkova of Eurasia Group

The first 100 days in power for Slovakia’s Direction–Social Democracy (SMER-SD) government saw a sharp turn to the left that foreshadows an uncomfortable future for investors during Prime Minister Robert Fico’s second four-year term in power.

So what does the vision Fico sold to voters – a strong state imposing order onto unruly private markets and companies – mean in reality? Read more

Rarely, if ever, will a speech by Susan Shabangu, South Africa’s mineral resources minister, be complete without a reference to safety in the country’s mines.

It is a central theme of the ruling African National Congress, in part because of the dire treatment heaped on black mine workers during the decades of apartheid and discrimination. And last week, as she delivered her department’s budget statement to parliament, Shabangu described the sector’s commitment to health and safety as resembling a “curate’s egg – good in parts, which means lacking overall.” Read more

Poland’s centre-right government and right-wing opposition usually find very little to agree on, which is what makes this week’s race to deregulate the economy noteworthy.

The first shot was fired by Jaroslaw Gowin, the justice minister, who has embarked on a crusade to slash the number of regulated professions in Poland. The 380 protected trades is the highest number of such jobs in the EU. Read more

By Hemal Shah

The citizens of India, en masse, are forcing their government to face up to the need for reform in one of the most pressing areas — the country’s arcane labour laws. The nation-wide strike of trade unions last week highlights their calls for tighter labour laws, a minimum wage and better working conditions.

The workers’ willingness to speak out to in public should be applauded, but the striking workers are missing the bigger picture by demanding job security rather than job market security. Read more

Initial reaction to Brazil’s new law introducing overtime payments for after-hours office emails and telephone calls ranged from approval by workers to anger among businesses.

In a land in which labour laws are already highly complicated and the cost of hiring people is steep, the negative reaction from businesses, especially small ones, is understandable. Read more