The great recession the rich economies entered in 2007 has turned into social devastation in Europe. In France, there is every reason to despair the new rulers holding the reins since June 2012; indeed, the abandonment of workers’ collectives to their fate after half-hearted threats of nationalisation is only the tip of the iceberg. Policies implemented by François Hollande’s government include budgetary austerity on a scale unprecedented since World War II (60 billion euros’ worth of cuts planned over five years), the institutionalising of the European “golden rule” which limits structural deficits to 0.5% of GDP, a “competitiveness” plan which offers firms €20bn in tax credits (€7bn of which are to be funded by a VAT increase) without any counterpart, and the transposition into law of an agreement reached between employers’ organisations and minority trade unions aimed at increasing dramatically external number flexibility on the “labour market”. This profoundly neoliberal orientation is based on choices that need to be analysed.
Average wages around the world
The global financial crisis had significant negative repercussions for labour markets in many parts of the world. The most significant impact has been on employment figures. But the ILO Global Wage Report 2012/13, entitled “Wages and Equitable Growth”, shows that the weakening of the global recovery in the two years after 2010 was also reflected in average wages. Among the group of developed economies, real average wages (i.e. wages adjusted for inflation) fell by -0.5% in 2011, after having fallen a first time in 2008. Preliminary estimates based on quarterly data for 30 countries indicate that average wage growth in that group of countries was around zero in 2012. This contrasts with emerging and developing regions, where the growth of both GDP and real wages generally remained positive. Looking at the world as a whole the report found that real average wages grew by 2.1% in 2010 and slowed to 1.2% in 2011. But remove China from the equation and things look only half as impressive, even in the developing world. Note also that it is too early for even preliminary global estimates for 2012 as only few developing and emerging economies produce quarterly wage data, and as annual wage data is often published more than 6 months after the end of the year.
The instance of nursing labour market restructuring
For the past few decades, the world economy has been shifting through radical restructuring and reorganisation. Within this context, the "anti-globalisation”, “anti-WTO”, “anti-neoliberal,” and other such movements are an important field within which to identify the thinking behind the action. For Antonio Gramsci (1971), questions of theory and practice are raised particularly when the “movement of historical transformation is at its most rapid”. The point of such questioning, as Gramsci says, is to make the “practical forces unleashed” more efficient and expansive and the “theoretical programmes” more realistically justified. Taking inspiration from this, the aim of this column is to provide methodological direction in analysing and responding to changes of the neoliberal era using the instance of the global restructuring of nursing labour markets.