BONUS FOR UNEMPLOYED
Unemployment in the Netherlands has fallen to such low levels
that the administration is considering offering about $1,500 to unemployed
people signing up for a job. Unemployment, until just a few years ago, amongst
the highest in western Europe, has fallen to an official 2.4 percent — the
lowest figure for 20 years. But many unemployed people on low incomes are
considering whether the Plan, if put into practice, is worth the bother.
Unemployed workers often receive additional benefits ranging
from help with the rent to discounts on municipal services. These benefits
would be lost if the recipient took a job where the salary was no more than
unemployment pay plus the supplementary benefits. If the administration
accepts the bonus scheme, workers who sign up for employment will get the
first part of the payment after six months in the job — and they will have
to keep it for another 18 months to receive the full amount.
MORE THAN 16
EMPLOYEES ON LOW PAY
More than 15 percent of the workforce in the European Union
— a kind of NAFTA with 15 member countries — are considered to be working
on low pay. Eurostat, the EU’s official statistics office, reports that some
16.5 million people are on low pay — more than three-quarters of them women.
In 37 percent of the cases, the worker concerned is in a job
where salary levels are low, in 43 percent of cases the low pay results from
part-time work — usually under 30 hours a week — and in the remaining 11
percent, low pay is a mixture of both cases.
Low pay is defined as that received by an employed person
which is below the average wage set by each of the EU’s member countries.
Although the average of people on low pay in the 15 countries
was found to be over 15 percent, considerable variations were seen among the
Portugal and Denmark came out best with, respectively, 6
percent and 7 percent of low paid employees in their workforces — less than
half the EU average. The United Kingdom came out worst with a reported 21
percent of workers on low pay — 25 percent higher than the EU average and
three times more than Portugal and Denmark.
CLOSE THIS YEAR
Ukraine has promised to close down forever the last working
reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station by the end of this year.
Explosion of the station’s fourth reactor in April 1986 spread clouds of
radioactive debris all over Europe, causing the world’s worst nuclear
disaster. Making the pledge in the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton,
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said Chernobyl would be switched off
permanently by 15th December.
The U.S. is to provide Ukraine with about $75 million to help
to make the disaster site safe and repair or renew the concrete and steel
shell which has covered the reactor since the disaster and invest in Ukraine’s
beleaguered energy sector. One of the Chernobyl reactors is still producing
ABANDON NUCLEAR POWER
Germany has become the first major industrial power to
withdraw completely from civil nuclear power. The administration, a coalition
of the Social Democratic Party and the environmentalist Green Party, has
struck a "compromise deal" to shut the country’s 19 nuclear power
stations by 2021. Abandon of nuclear energy was in the coalition’s program
when they were elected in Autumn 1998 but the two partners for months had been
squabbling over the exact text of the legislation.
The administration has also banned the transport of nuclear
waste for re-treatment in British and French reprocessing plants from 2005. In
return, Germany’s Chancellor, the Social Democrat Gerhardt Schroeder, has
guaranteed the industry’s four main energy producers, "unfettered
operation" of the power stations until their closure and has promised not
to impose more rigorous regulations or further taxes as demanded by the Green
Politics rarely make for popularity so it is hardly surprising
that France’s most popular person is not a politician, but a soccer player.
The opinion poll — which usually chooses actors, singers or
high-profile charity workers — selected Zinedine Zidane, the main architect
of France’s soccer victories in the World Cup and European Nations Cup as
their favorite Frenchman. What is more surprising — and heartening — is
that "Zizou", as he is affectionately known, is a third generation
son of Algerian immigrants.
The choice comes at the same time as France shows the highest
growth of jobs in Europe. Although unemployment at 9.6 percent is high by U.S.
standards, it has fallen to 2.3 million — the lowest figure since 1991. The
fall of 500,000 in a year includes more than 200,000 jobs created or saved by
the recent establishment of the 35-hour working week.
UE News - 10/00