Is Employment A Human Right?
Richard A. Epstein writes at Hoover.org:
Risa Kaufman, the Director of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, ... claims that "the United States' failure to enact meaningful protections enabling workers to accommodate the demands of work and family is not only out of step with countries around the world, but it is also counter to international human rights standards."
This "failure" is also a huge relief. Bad as our own national employment situation is, it would be far worse if the United States acted in line with those misguided countries throughout the world that now endure unemployment rates that touch or exceed, as in the case of Spain, 25 percent precisely because they seek to secure this phalanx of workplace protections as a matter of public law.
To be sure, innovative employers may adopt some types of worker protections to keep able women employees in the workforce, whether in the form of child-care benefits, flex time or split positions. But it is one thing for a particular employer to adopt these policies, and quite another for a heavy-handed political entity to impose them on employers who think that these purported benefits are not in line with their best business interests.
In these cases, employers' unwillingness to offer these protections is well-nigh conclusive evidence that the cost of the disputed benefits package exceeds the gains for his or her employee. If the situation were otherwise, the benefit would be included, as is routinely the case with the thousands of perks that particular employers offer to all or some of their employees. What explanation other than market demand could explain why so many employers offer benefits packages that go far beyond international minimums or local law?
The situation reverses when such benefits packages are required as a matter of law. At this point, firms divide themselves into two categories. Those that would have provided the benefit anyway will continue to do so. But they will do so less efficiently than before, as they will lose the power of self-correction and must incur the oft-heavy compliance costs to satisfy the prying eyes of government regulators. Wages will fall as compliance costs rise and the two sides are left with the unhappy task of dividing a shrunken pie in order to implement what Kaufman calls these "widely accepted human rights norms."