This week’s international news in brief

Good-looking employees earn more than plain people

Workers in the US with below-average looks earn 9% less per hour than their better-looking colleagues, according to research. Economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle used survey data in which respondents were classified as below-average, average, or above-average, and found a “plainness penalty” of 9% and a “beauty premium” of 5% after factoring in variables such as education and experience. For the median working male, the respective annual penalty and premium were £1,135 and £611, while figures for females were £873 and £480. Occupations requiring more interpersonal contact have higher percentages of above-average-looking employees, and while disparities could be due to employers believing that customers want to interact with more-attractive people, the study revealed that the penalty and premium exist across all occupations.

Millions trapped in forced labour around the world

At least 12.3 million people are trapped in forced labour around the world, with the overwhelming majority in Asia, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Its report says 9.5 million forced labourers are in Asia; 1.3 million in Latin America and the Caribbean; 660,000 in sub-Saharan Africa; 260,000 in the Middle East and North Africa; 360,000 in industrialised countries; and 210,000 in ‘transition’ countries, such as those in eastern Europe. Agriculture, construction, brickmaking and informal ‘sweatshop’ manufacturing operations account for most cases. The report stressed the problem was more likely where there are “inadequate controls over recruitment agencies and subcontracting systems, or weak labour inspection”.

Employee rights change in bankrupt Canadian firms

Workers in the Canadian province of Quebec will have part of their owed salary underwritten by the government if their employers go bankrupt. The Quebec Ministry of Labour is developing a programme to assist and protect workers with up to £1,310 owed, filling time delays left by the current system which sees little or no funds for employees after secured creditors are paid. Quebec government statistics show that it takes up to three years before employees obtain even a fraction of the monies owed, usually about 13%. Under the proposed programme, employees will be able to file claims immediately to a bankruptcy trustee and receive owed wages within six weeks. The government would guarantee the funds and secure repayment as a creditor if necessary.

Russian firm looks for local candidates in isolated mine

An extreme polar climate and remote location has forced Russian metal and mining company Norilsk Nickel to focus on internal and local recruitment to build its next generation of leaders. The company faces a daunting challenge in developing future leaders in its polar division in Norilsk where it employs 60,000 staff. The average temperature is minus 15 degrees and the company’s headquarters in Moscow are 2,000 km away. “You can imagine how difficult it is to attract people to this particular region,” said Olga Golodets, deputy general director on social policy and personnel management at the company. The company has introduced a ‘social youth movement’ to identify future leaders among technical specialists. The scheme is open to all employees under 30 and 7,000 staff are involved, representing 17% of the workforce. The company has also developed links with young people in the local community by arranging cultural activities in local schools and work experience for school children.

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