June 1996 Volume 3 Number 6
EU: 1997, the Year Against Racism
The EU Parliament has designated 1997 as European Year against Racism, and called for the "isolation" of "racist parties" such as France's National Front and the Austrian Freedom Party.
A report presented to the European Parliament by Dutch Christian Democrat Arie Oostlander blamed "racist parties" for increasing xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism in Europe. MEPs supported the report's call for a general ban on discrimination. The EP also agree that member states should make naturalization and dual nationality and voting easier for immigrants, but it stopped short of agreeing that member states should introduce measures outlawing and punishing organizations engaging in racist and xenophobic activities. The report was adopted on May 9.
On May 8, Belgian officials detained Austria's Joerg Haider, one of the targets of the EU's battle against xenophobia, for four hours because officials believed he was trying to enter the country illegally. Belgian immigration officials held him in a room packed with illegal African immigrants until a copy of his passport was faxed to the authorities.
Generous health and related benefits are being debated or cut in Europe to increase the flexibility of the labor market and, hopefully, lead to more jobs.
Some expect business to boom for employment services companies as Europe deregulates labor markets--these companies provide temporary and permanent employees to firms and become the "employers of record." In the UK in 1993, temporary help was 2.7 percent of total employment, 1.7 percent in the Netherlands, and 1.1 percent in France--versus 1.4 percent in the US.
In May, the second and third largest employment services companies--Ecco of France and Adia of Switzerland--agreed to merge, so that the combined company, as well as Manpower, will each account for about 10 percent of the $77 billion employment services market world-wide each year.
In April, France announced cuts in its health care programs, expected to be approved by Parliament in Summer, 1996, and Germany announced plans to reduce its budget deficit by $33 billion by reducing work and welfare assistance.
Under a 1971 law, Italy guarantees pregnant women full pay during the last two months of pregnancy and the first three months following the birth-- five months at full pay, with 80 percent of the tab paid by the government. In 1995, the Italian government paid $900 million in maternity benefits. In response, some Italian employers avoid hiring young women, or hire them in part-time, contractual jobs.
There are few public or private child care facilities for children aged 0-3, but 90 percent of the children aged three to six are in "scuola materna," the state-supported kindergartens.
Italy has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe--at current rates, the average woman will have 1.2 births in her lifetime, versus two in the US.
Celestine Bohlen, "Europe's Maternity Leave System," New York Times, May 12, 1996. "MEPs Condemn Leaders of Racist Parties," Reuters, May 9, 1996.