Employers’ common message: More labour market flexibility needed


The Secretary-General of the International Employers´ Organisation IOE Linda Kromjong stresses the necessity of structural changes to ensure a more flexible, inclusive and business enabling labour market. Structural changes will pave the way for a better future for both employers and employees.

Linda Kromjong paid a visit to EK at the end of October. This was her first visit in Finland, one of 144 member countries of the federation.

– Our task is to represent employers´ interests worldwide, amongst others towards the International Labour Organisation ILO. At the yearly International Labor Conference in Geneva the IOE acts as the official Secretariat in the Employers’ Group and IOE prepares and supports employers´ positions on the topics at a given time.

For instance next summer, a general discussion on decent work in global supply chains will take place at the Labour Conference. The IOE is currently gathering employers´ experiences and views on this topic around the world.

It is not always easy to reach a shared view among the IOE members, but it helps that IOE has gained negotiation skills for almost 100 years, says Linda Kromjong laughing.

Immigration can have lot of potential

In her current job, the Secretary-General Kromjong has an exclusive global spot to observe labour market and working life. When looking at the challenges in labour market today, she reminds that there are big differences even within Europe, not to mention the whole world.

Digitialisation, demographic challenges and youth unemployment are just a few topics to impact societies and the labour market. In Norway, for example, the unemployment rate is slightly over 3 per cent, while in Greece shattering 26,5 per cent.

The need to reform labour market, to use multiple ways to organize work and to add flexibility unite private sector employers across the world. Companies are facing constantly harder competition in the market and thus, global success requires, for instance, a possibility to get employees work longer when the customer demand is high.

Secretary General Linda Kromjong visited EK and Finland in October 2015.

– For long time Finland used to be a model country where labour market functioned fluently and the unemployment rate was under EU average, Linda Kromjong points out.

Now unemployment has increased in Finland, too, and vacant jobs and the skills of the job seekers do not meet in the best possible way.

Asylum seekers and refugees that are currently invading Europe in large numbers are bringing one more pressure to labour market.

The Secretary-General believes that besides the huge challenge relating to the asylum seekers, immigration can turn into a win-win situation, provided that the authorities cooperate with the companies and the third sector for their integration.

– The immigrants will bring along knowhow and skills that can be useful in the European work life, too.

Flexibility benefits all

Structural changes in the labour market, often criticized in the media, are vital according to Linda Kromjong. Of course every country has to define and make their own reforms. Without any brave attempts further, there is, however, a big risk losing jobs.

– Structural changes will create a more encouraging environment and a brighter future for both employers and employees.

The International Emlpoyers´ Organisation supports its members´ efforts to push for the reforms.

– It is crucial to deliver reforms that add flexibility skillfully. In the IOE´s opinion, flexibility is not interfering with ILO principles or standards, on the contrary. Societies will benefit from flexible regulations and it will improve business’ chances to create new jobs.

In the opinion of the Secretary-General, there still is a lot of rigidity in labour market in different European countries. Companies are not currently employing as much as they could.

– As an organization the IOE also pays attention to find solutions to skills mismatch in labour market, namely that the workers skills will meet better than nowadays the requirements for job vacancies. IOE thinks it is important that the employers’ needs are taken into account when planning the contents of vocational training.

– Our third main goal is to reduce indirect labour costs. To hire a worker should be more affordable than it is today, and the employee should have more money left in hand from the salary.

Human rights issues are topical even in small companies

If a company wants to be global, the Secretary-General advises it to become acquainted with the labour laws in the operating country.

For companies it is also worth knowing the international standards and discussions concerning human rights and workers fundamental rights. IOE participates actively in this discussion highlighting the employers´view.

– These topics do not concern only global multinational corporations but also smaller enterprises for instance through supply chains.

– In December IOE is organizing together with ILO a seminar in Bangkok that focuses on supply chains. The aim is that both buyers and sellers can discuss more closely human rights as part of corporate social responsibility. We encourage companies for social responsibility, but it is another question how far the companies’ responsibility should run, Linda Kromjong says.