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Friday news roundup March 1, 2019

Friday news roundup March 1, 2019

Estonia goes to the polls for March 3 general election. On Sunday, the people of Estonia will vote to select the country’s 101-seat Riigikogu legislature. The outgoing prime minister and his Center Party will battle against the center-right opposition Reform Party, with both hoping to keep a nationalist, far-right party (the Estonian Conservative People’s Party) at bay. The main issues under discussion are economic and domestic, such as taxation, health care, and how to counteract the brain drain, caused by outmigration, which has left Estonia with a shortage of skilled workers. The government maintains a tight annual quota on workers from outside the EU, which is a particular concern for the country’s flourishing startup scene. All parties agree that Estonia is an active EU member and a close US ally, and that NATO is the foundation of the country’s security policy.

A World Bank study found only six countries worldwide have equal legal rights for women and men. The report examined 35 indicators of legal equality in 187 countries, covering everything from property ownership and inheritance laws to job protections and pension policies, along with rules governing marriage, movement and travel, pay, and personal safety. Only six economies–Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden–scored 100 on the index, meaning that women have equal rights with men in the 35 measured areas. A decade ago that number was zero, so progress is being made, however small. Such legislative disparities constrain the ability of women worldwide to work, start businesses, and make economic decisions that are best for them and their families, which means that many economies are not functioning optimally and countries are ultimately depriving themselves of wealth.

A million public sector workers in the UK are paid less than the real living wage. The Living Wage Foundation reports that as many as 1.2 million people are receiving unsustainably low wages of less than £9 an hour, or £10.55 in London, trapping them in in-work poverty. The government’s legally enforceable “national living wage” is £7.83 an hour across the country, set to rise to £8.21 from April 2019. The majority of public sector workers earning below the real living wage are in local authority jobs, including teaching assistants, cleaners, care workers, and catering staff. Almost half a million are on outsourced contracts, while 725,000 work directly for a public sector body. The analysis comes after years of public sector pay freezes imposed by the Conservative government as part of its austerity policy.

Academie Francaise, the official guardian of the French language, approved the “feminization” of job titles. The notoriously conservative, male-dominated organization which regulates the French language approved a report on Thursday advocating for the change which had been compiled by three of its four active female members. Most job titles are automatically masculine, apart from a few notable exceptions such as nurse and child-minder. Writer and academy member Frederic Vitoux, who heads the Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language, said “For some professions it is simple … We have never had to ask ourselves should we be able to say ‘actress.’ But for other professions there are objective difficulties, because they cause confusion or don’t work with the root of the word.” The Academie has chosen not to dictate the rules by which titles should be feminized as that would be an “insurmountable task,” but “considers that all developments in the language aimed at recognising the place women have in society today can be envisaged.”

Find World of Labor articles on economic inequality and the gender divide.