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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day; U.S. Has Weakest Employment Protections Among OECD and BRICS

This is the first in a series of posts on the sorry state of American labor. International comparisons make this very clear. U.S. workers are more vulnerable than workers in any Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (rich industrialized democracies) members or even the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China, with Estonia, Indonesia, and South Africa included as comparisons for good measure) to being fired unfairly, to not getting severance pay, to getting the least notice on mass layoffs or being fired, to being stuck on a mouse wheel of temporary positions, altogether a total of 21 measures that the OECD used to determine how well workers' rights at work are protected.

Not only is the United States in last place, it isn't even close. In the oldest version of the OECD's employment protection measure, for which data goes back to 1985, the U.S. score in 2008 was 0.21, unchanged since 1990. The next lowest were Canada and the United Kingdom at 0.75, while the other G-7 countries clock in with Japan (1.43), Germany (2.12), France (3.05), and Italy (1.89). Note that this measure uses only 14 elements; the full 21-element version begins only with 2008. The OECD considers the newer measure better, and the United States, while still last, does not lag quite so badly: U.S. (0.85), Canada (1.02), U.K. (1.09), Japan (1.73), Germany (2.63), France (3.00), and Italy (2.58). The unweighted OECD average on the new measure is 2.24 in 2008, while Brazil is 2.27, Russia 1.80, India 2.63, and China 2.80.

Employment Protection in 2008 in OECD and selected non-OECD countries*
Scale from 0 (least stringent) to 6 (most restrictive)

Click here to downlad the data

Source: OECD

The bottom line is that American workers enjoy the least protection out of all major economies in the world. Protections against individual firing, collective dismissals, and ability to get off temporary employment are as weak as they can be. Happy Labor Day!

Data notes: The basic methodology (with a link to the full methodology) is here. 

The raw data for these measures is at OECD StatExtracts, then click on “Labour” in the left-hand menu to expand the category, then “Employment Protection,” and finally “Strictness of employment protection – overall.”


  1. You should take into effect unemployment insurance into the equation. Some countries push the companies to take a more active role while some countries push the government to do so. I would be curious to see the breakdown.

  2. That's a good point. It would be very interesting to compare unemployment insurance among the OECD countries, and of course there is lots of variation from state to state within the U.S.

  3. Obviously, under the working conditions in the USA as detailed in the article's graph, unemployment insurance is more required in the USA than anywhere else.

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