PBS NewsHour / YouTube What quality of life can minimum...
PBS NewsHour / YouTube

Unemployment is low in the United States, but before you start cheering, you should know about a whole bunch of other statistics about work and workers’ rights in this country. A new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows just how far behind our peer nations the U.S. lags on conditions for workers—starting with having the second-highest income inequality and the third-worst share of households earning less than half the median income among OECD nations.

If you lose a job in the U.S., it’s harder to find a new job than in most other countries for which there’s data, and workers who lose a job typically end up at a lower income when they do find a new one. That’s a big problem in particular because American workers are more likely to be fired or laid off than workers in many other countries. And unemployment aid in the U.S. is low and doesn’t last long.

There’s another big factor keeping workers down in the U.S.: The U.S. keeps unions down, and that’s bad for all of us.

Only 12 percent of U.S. workers were covered by collective bargaining in 2016 — among all the nations the OECD tracks, only Turkey, Lithuania and South Korea have been lower at any point this millennium. Based on an OECD review of almost four decades of data, countries that have decentralized collective-bargaining systems, like the United States, tend to have slower job growth and, in most cases, higher unemployment than other advanced nations.

These collective bargaining and government support systems might have something to do with another report finding as well: Workers’ share of national income dropped about eight percentage points between 1995 and 2013, faster than anywhere but Poland and South Korea over that time.

And right now our federal government is controlled by the party that wants to make all of this worse.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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