International news in brief

US companies advise on retirement investment

Almost half of all US companies offer retirement investment advice to their employees, and most who do not would provide the benefit if laws could exempt employers from fiduciary liability. According to an Employee Benefit Research Institute survey of compensation and benefit specialists, 49 per cent of respondents said their organisations offer investment advice to retirement plan participants. Most firms view financial planning as a valuable tool for attracting and retaining employees, but liability concerns prevent more employers from offering such benefits. Services are delivered in different ways. Medium- and large-sized companies offer access to investment advice most frequently through the internet (72 and 60 per cent respectively), while 63 per cent of small businesses offer the telephone access to financial planners. Seventy-four per cent of small firm employees are offered some type of investment advice.

Britons need to balance business and family needs

An International Labour Organization (ILO) report has claimed more Britons work excessive hours than other Europeans, with 15.5 per cent of UK citizens working more than 50 hours a week, while in other EU countries the proportion ranges from 1.4 per cent in The Netherlands to 6.2 per cent in Greece and Ireland. However, ILO’s Working Time and Workers’ Preferences in Industrialised Countries: Finding the Balance said in Japan, 28.1 per cent of the workforce work more than 50 hours a week, while in New Zealand it is 21.3 per cent, and 20 per cent in the US and Australia. The ILO is concerned that some employees work too hard, while others want to work longer, but cannot. It noted that in the EU, 46 per cent of those working under 20 hours want more work and 81 per cent of those working more than 50 hours weekly would cut their working time if possible. It called on governments to balance business’ and workers’ needs through health and safety, family, equality, productivity and worker management participation initiatives.

EU and Chinese business get training exchange plan

The European Commission has approved a 17m (11.9m) training and exchange programme, which will provide European Union (EU) and Chinese businesses with the skills they need to effectively trade with each other. This new EU-China managers exchange and training programme will provide management training in Europe for Chinese managers from the public sector, media, non-governmental organisations, and small and medium-sized businesses, while European managers will receive language training and work experience in China. Any training will be followed up with internships for participating managers for organisations in China and the EU.

Striking public sector staff arrested in South Korea

Police detained 150 public sector workers in South Korea following a series of uprecedented strikes against proposed legislation on labour reform. Across the country, strikers were taken into custody for questioning hours after the indefinite industrial action began. According to the Korean Government Employees’ Union, 44,309 of its 140,000 members stayed away from their jobs. However, the government claims the number striking was as low as 2,500. It warned that striking workers face dismissal or arrest and has mobilised 16,000 police to guard government buildings. Unions want the government to scrap its Labour Bill, which would allow the formation of a public sector union, but ban public employees from striking or taking part in political activities.

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