"Governments can play a useful role or a harmful one, depending upon their attitude to companies, says David Arkless of Manpower, an employment-services firm. If they focus on working with firms to smooth the movement of labour to where the future work will be, for example by providing skills training and financial incentives to workers in transition, then the economic downturn could be less painful than now seems likely. (A quick recovery in lending to small businesses, the main drivers of job creation in most countries, would also help.) But if governments try to prevent firms from making the changes to their workforces that they want, the result is likely to be prolonged gloom.
Although Mr Obama’s support for strengthening the ability of unions to enter workplaces is arguably a worrying sign, the American economy is far more accommodating of flexibility in employment than many European countries. Mr Arkless, for one, says that without a dramatic change of attitudes to job-cutting in Europe, “there is no doubt that American firms will come out of this downturn better than anywhere else in the world, due to their flexible employment model.” This will provide no comfort to anyone facing the prospect of unemployment, but it is a message that politicians would do well to take to heart. "
- Swinging the Axe - Human Capital and the Crisis
The Economist - January 31st, 2009