Facebook Job Ads Raise Concerns About Age Discrimination

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This article was written through collaboration between The New York Times and ProPublica, the independent, nonprofit investigative journalism organization.

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Verizon is among dozens of the nation’s leading employers — including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself — that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found.

The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers.

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it unlawful to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

Facebook defended the practice. “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work,” said Rob Goldman, a Facebook vice president.

The revelations come at a time when the unregulated power of the tech companies is under increased scrutiny, and Congress is weighing whether to limit the immunity that it granted to tech companies in 1996 for third-party content on their platforms.

Facebook has argued in court filings that the law, the Communications Decency Act, makes it immune from liability for discriminatory ads.

Although Facebook is a relatively new entrant into the recruiting arena, it is rapidly gaining popularity with employers. Earlier this year, the social network launched a section of its site devoted to job ads. Facebook allows advertisers to select their audience, and then Facebook finds the chosen users with the extensive data it collects about its members.

The use of age targets emerged in a review of data originally compiled by ProPublica readers for a project about political ad placement on Facebook. Many of the ads include a disclosure by Facebook about why the user is seeing the ad, which can be anything from their age to their affinity for folk music.

The precision of Facebook’s ad delivery has helped it dominate an industry once in the hands of print and broadcast outlets. The system, called microtargeting, allows advertisers to reach essentially whomever they prefer, including the people their analysis suggests are the most plausible hires or consumers, lowering the costs and vastly increasing efficiency.

Targeted Facebook ads were an important tool in Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election. The social media giant has acknowledged that 126 million people saw Russia-linked content, some of which was aimed at particular demographic groups and regions. Facebook has also come under criticism for the disclosure that it accepted ads aimed at “Jew-haters” as well as housing ads that discriminated by race, gender, disability and other factors.

Other tech companies also offer employers opportunities to discriminate by age. ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40 — and the ads were instantly approved. Google said it does not prevent advertisers from displaying ads based on the user’s age. After being contacted by ProPublica, LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads.

The practice has begun to attract legal challenges. On Wednesday, a class-action complaint alleging age discrimination was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and its members — as well as all Facebook users 40 or older who may have been denied the chance to learn about job openings. The plaintiffs’ lawyers said the complaint was based on ads for dozens of companies that they had discovered on Facebook.

The database of Facebook ads collected by ProPublica shows how often and precisely employers recruit by age. In a search for “part-time package handlers,” United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. State Farm pitched its hiring promotion to those 19 to 35.

Some companies, including Target, State Farm and UPS, defended their targeting as a part of a broader recruitment strategy that reached candidates of all ages. The group of companies making this case included Facebook itself, which ran career ads on its own platform, many aimed at people 25 to 60. “We completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory,” said Mr. Goldman of Facebook.

After being contacted by ProPublica and The Times, other employers, including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, said they had changed or were changing their recruiting strategies.

“We recently audited our recruiting ads on Facebook and discovered some had targeting that was inconsistent with our approach of searching for any candidate over the age of 18,” said Nina Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, which targeted some ads for workers at its distribution centers between the ages of 18 and 50. “We have corrected those ads.”

Verizon did not respond to requests for comment.

Several companies argued that targeted recruiting on Facebook was comparable to advertising opportunities in publications like the AARP magazine or Teen Vogue, which are aimed at particular age groups. But this obscures an important distinction. Anyone can buy Teen Vogue and see an ad. Online, however, people outside the targeted age groups can be excluded in ways they will never learn about.

“What happens with Facebook is you don’t know what you don’t know,” said David Lopez, a former general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who is one of the lawyers at the firm Outten & Golden bringing the age-discrimination case on behalf of the communication workers union.

‘They Know I’m Dead’

Age discrimination on digital platforms is something that many workers suspect is happening to them, but that is often difficult to prove.

Mark Edelstein, a fitfully employed social-media marketing strategist who is 58 and legally blind, doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t know, but he has his suspicions.

Mr. Edelstein, who lives in St. Louis, says he never had serious trouble finding a job until he turned 50. “Once you reach your 50s, you may as well be dead,” he said. “I’ve gone into interviews, with my head of gray hair and my receding hairline, and they know I’m dead.”

Mr. Edelstein spends most of his days scouring sites like LinkedIn and Indeed and pitching hiring managers with personalized appeals. When he scrolled through his Facebook ads on a Wednesday in December, he saw a variety of ads reflecting his interest in social media marketing: ads for the marketing software HubSpot (“15 free infographic templates!”) and TripIt, which he used to book a trip to visit his mother in Florida.

What he didn’t see was a single ad for a job in his profession, including one identified by ProPublica that was being shown to younger users: a posting for a social media director job at HubSpot. The company asked that the ad be shown to people aged 27 to 40 who live or were recently living in the United States.

“Hypothetically, had I seen a job for a social media director at HubSpot, even if it involved relocation, I ABSOLUTELY would have applied for it,” Mr. Edelstein said by email when told about the ad.

A HubSpot spokeswoman, Ellie Botelho, said that the job was posted on many sites, including LinkedIn, The Ladders and Built in Boston, and was open to anyone meeting the qualifications regardless of age or any other demographic characteristic.

She added that “the use of the targeted age-range selection on the Facebook ad was frankly a mistake on our part given our lack of experience using that platform for job postings and not a feature we will use again.”

For his part, Mr. Edelstein says he understands why marketers wouldn’t want to target ads at him: “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. Why would they want a 58-year-old white guy who’s disabled?”

Looking for ‘Younger Blood’

Although LinkedIn is the leading online recruitment platform, according to an annual survey by SourceCon, an industry website, Facebook is rapidly increasing in popularity for employers.

One reason is that Facebook’s sheer size — two billion monthly active users, versus LinkedIn’s 530 million total members — gives recruiters access to types of workers they can’t find elsewhere.

Consider nurses, whom hospitals are desperate to hire. “They’re less likely to use LinkedIn,” said Josh Rock, a recruiter at a large hospital system in Minnesota who has expertise in digital media. “Nurses are predominantly female, there’s a larger volume of Facebook users. That’s what they use.”

There are also millions of hourly workers who have never visited LinkedIn, and may not even have a résumé, but who check Facebook obsessively.

Deb Andrychuk, chief executive of the Arland Group, which helps employers place recruitment ads, said clients sometimes asked her firm to target ads by age, saying they needed “to start bringing younger blood” into their organizations. “It’s not necessarily that we wouldn’t take someone older,” these clients say, according to Ms. Andrychuk, “but if you could bring in a younger set of applicants, it would definitely work out better.”

Ms. Andrychuk said that “we coach clients to be open and not discriminate” and that after being contacted by The Times, her team updated all their ads to ensure they didn’t exclude any age groups.

Employment ads and notifications that Mark Edelstein was shown when he browsed Facebook.

But some companies contend that there are permissible reasons to filter audiences by age, as with an ad for entry-level analyst positions at Goldman Sachs that was distributed to people 18 to 64. A Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, said showing it to people above that age range would have wasted money: roughly 25 percent of those who typically click on the firm’s untargeted ads are 65 or older, but people that age almost never apply for the analyst job.

“We welcome and actively recruit applicants of all ages,” Mr. Williams said. “For some of our social-media ads, we look to get the content to the people most likely to be interested, but do not exclude anyone from our recruiting activity.”

Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, said the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unlike the federal anti-discrimination statute that covers race and gender, allows an employer to take into account “reasonable factors” that may be highly correlated with the protected characteristic, such as cost, as long as they don’t rely on the characteristic explicitly.

The Question of Liability

In various ways, Facebook and LinkedIn have acknowledged at least a modest obligation to police their ad platforms against abuse.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it would require advertisers to “self-certify” that their housing, employment and credit ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws, but that it would not block marketers from purchasing age-restricted ads.

Still, Facebook didn’t promise to monitor those certifications for accuracy. And Facebook said the self-certification system, announced in February, was still being rolled out to all advertisers.

LinkedIn, in response to inquiries by ProPublica, added a self-certification step that prevents employers from using age ranges once they confirm that they are placing an employment ad.

With these efforts evolving, legal experts say it is unclear how much liability the tech platforms could have. Some civil rights laws, like the Fair Housing Act, explicitly require publishers to assume liability for discriminatory ads.

But the Age Discrimination in Employment Act assigns liability only to employers or employment agencies, like recruiters and advertising firms.

The lawsuit filed against Facebook on behalf of the communications workers argues that the company essentially plays the role of an employment agency — collecting and providing data that helps employers locate candidates, effectively coordinating with the employer to develop the advertising strategies, informing employers about the performance of the ads, and so forth.

Regardless of whether courts accept that argument, the tech companies could also face liability under certain state or local anti-discrimination statutes. For example, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it unlawful to “aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce the doing” of discriminatory acts proscribed by the statute.

“They may have an obligation there not to aid and abet an ad that enables discrimination,” said Cliff Palefsky, an employment lawyer based in San Francisco.

The question may hinge on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability for third-party content.

Tech companies have successfully invoked this law to avoid liability for offensive or criminal content — including sex trafficking, revenge porn and calls for violence against Jews. Facebook is currently arguing in federal court that Section 230 immunizes it against liability for ad placement that blocks members of certain racial and ethnic groups from seeing the ads.

“Advertisers, not Facebook, are responsible for both the content of their ads and what targeting criteria to use, if any,” Facebook argued in its motion to dismiss allegations that its ads violated a host of civil rights laws. The case does not allege age discrimination.

Eric Goldman, professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, who has written extensively about Section 230, says it is hard to predict how courts would treat Facebook’s age-targeting of employment ads.

Mr. Goldman said the law covered the content of ads, and that courts have made clear that Facebook would not be liable for an advertisement in which an employer wrote, say, “no one over 55 need apply.” But it is not clear how the courts would treat Facebook’s offering of age-targeted customization.

According to a federal appellate court decision in a fair-housing case, a platform can be considered to have helped “develop unlawful content” that users play a role in generating, which would negate the immunity.

“Depending on how the targeting is happening, you can make potentially different sorts of arguments about whether or not Google or Facebook or LinkedIn is contributing to the development” of the ad, said Deirdre K. Mulligan, a faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

Julia Angwin and Ariana Tobin are reporters at ProPublica. Jeff Larson and Madeleine Varner of ProPublica contributed research.

Want to help ProPublica monitor ads on Facebook? Download its tool for Firefox or Chrome web browsers.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Targeted Job Ads on Facebook Prompt Concerns About Age Bias. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Europe’s Thirst for affordable Labor Fuels a Boom in Disposable Workers

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PARDUBICE, Czech Republic — As dusk settled within the rambling Czech countryside, several haggard workers emerged from the dank three-story concrete dormitory and jammed into buses. The night shift involved to start at two nearby factories of Foxconn and Panasonic.

The majority of the workers have been employed from Romania, Bulgaria along with other Central Countries in europe with a large employment agency. When their contracts are up, they’ll be told to go home, with another number of migrant workers introduced in as needed — replaceable cogs inside a tireless machine.

Across Europe, nearly 55,000 agencies recruit thousands and thousands of temporary workers every year for affordable hard physical work and repair jobs. The companies allow employers to make use of a far more flexible work pressure — and steer clear of a few of the region’s more burdensome labor costs.

Individuals agencies recruiting hard physical work scour the Continent for individuals prepared to pick vegetables in great britan, pour concrete in France or work set up lines in Eastern Europe. When they receive monthly pay, they frequently work lengthy days, so their wages can average to less than 3.50 euros, or about $4.10, an hour or so — under the minimum wage in a few of the countries. Some agencies control entire labor supply chains, transporting recruits across borders, lodging them, busing them back and forth from project sites, after which moving them elsewhere when they’re no more needed.

The practices are legal under rules that permit European citizens to operate any place in the 28-nation bloc. But because employers delegate more workers and deepen their reliance upon shorter-term contracts to chop costs, European regulators are growing their scrutiny. In regards to a third of Europeans have reached some type of atypical employment, varying from Uber motorists to pilots, and you will find concerns that fundamental labor protections, including social security benefits and sick leave, are now being eroded.

The employees are hired via contracts in languages they don’t speak, after which housed in dormitories such as this one.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions Laborers hired through agencies are compensated monthly but work lengthy hrs that may mean they earn less than 3.50 euros, or about $4.10, an hour or so typically.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions

For businesses, the difficulties of hiring low-cost personnel are growing: A fiscal recovery is shrinking the swimming pool of cheap labor that originally attracted Foxconn yet others to Europe. Employment agencies like Xawax, which finds workers for that Foxconn and Panasonic factories, are an essential conduit.

For migrant workers, the selection is tough. Individuals from poorer Countries in europe are wanting to find better having to pay jobs. However the agencies sometimes be employed in a grey area: requiring workers to sign contracts in other languages, and saddling all of them with conditions and pay that couple of in-country nationals would accept.

Nearly twelve workers in the Pardubice plants, all whom spoke on the health of anonymity for anxiety about losing their jobs, stated they’d possessed little knowning that the contracts they’d signed would expose these to frequent overtime shifts, including nights and weekends, while departing them constantly available. The Czech government is performing an inquiry into Foxconn’s employment practices.

A Foxconn factory in Pardubice, Czech Republic. Laborers hired to operate in factories within the city stated they’d to operate overtime to get the wages these were guaranteed.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions

One Romanian couple were unemployed until they saw a Xawax ad on Facebook this summer time.

The pair, ages 23 and 24, stated a recruiter had guaranteed free lodging, regular shifts and wages on componen with Czech factory workers — a minimum of €585 per month — much better than the things they might get in Romania. They boarded a bus full of other recruits bound for Pardubice. There, they signed a six-month employment hire Xawax which was designed in Czech, a language they couldn’t comprehend, with no translator present.

At 5:30 the following morning, these were transported towards the Panasonic factory to participate greater than a hundred laborers inside a cavernous hall assembling electronic components. The pair stated Xawax had soon said excitedly they would need to frequently work overtime or receive bonuses just to have their guaranteed wage. The terms were incorporated within the contract they couldn’t understand. Following the lady got sick at the office and fainted one evening, requiring her to become rushed to some hospital, she received little the aid of the company in organizing follow-up treatment, she stated.

Katerina Kotrla, the director of the nongovernmental organization that can help migrants in Pardubice, stated such workers were rather easier exploited coupled with little option. Ms. Kotrla has handled numerous cases by which agencies, including Xawax, remained inside the law but provided insufficient healthcare assistance, cut pay when injuries avoided individuals from working or didn’t pay overtime.

“The agencies have lots of control of these folks,” she stated.

Jan Hendrych, the main executive of Wincott People Group, certainly one of Eastern Europe’s largest employment agencies, which acquired Xawax this season, stated his company adopted the labor laws and regulations of countries where it hired workers and it was not aware of these practices. But when an interior inquiry demonstrated Xawax had involved in them, he stated, “that type of behavior is clearly dishonest at the minimum, and should be stopped.” He added that Wincott had labored using the Czech government on measures to wash up irregular agency practices, which may help attract workers.

Inside a statement, Foxconn Technology Group stated it and also the agencies that employed on its account had ensured workers received wages and benefits over the Czech Republic’s fundamental needs. Foxconn added that it is operations were regularly audited, which complied with relevant local laws and regulations and rules.

Panasonic stated it trusted agencies like Xawax to recruit workers among a good labor market which both sides complied with Czech labor law. Inside a statement, the organization added that migrant workers, who hold agency contracts, didn’t work past the legal workweek and were compensated over the Czech minimum wage.

A Xawax office in Pardubice. It is probably the agencies that recruit migrants to operate at factories operated by Foxconn along with other companies.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions Katerina Kotrla, the director of the nongovernmental organization that can help migrants in Pardubice, met with workers in a dorm.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions

Pardubice grew to become a minimal-cost manufacturing hub after nov Communism.

It were able to attract Foxconn in 2000 following the Czech government gave the organization a ten-year investment tax break. Foxconn rapidly energized the location, purchasing a mothballed electronics factory and hiring a large number of workers. Restaurants, clothes shops along with other companies soon sprang as much as focus on the growing population.

Agencies like Xawax really are a effective tool for Foxconn along with other manufacturers to juice productivity and manage costs.

The Taiwanese company has put together electronics for HP, Dell and ‘cisco’, using recruitment agencies to grow or shrink its labor pressure around production cycles. At its peak, about 50 % of the nearly 10,000-person work pressure were temporary workers today, the organization stated, you will find 4,000 workers, which 20 % to 30 % are temps.

The companies give Foxconn along with other companies an additional advantage: The employees aren’t technically utilized by Foxconn. The setup transfers legal along with other responsibilities, including the chance of potential labor violations, towards the agency.

Within the concrete dorms, that are managed by Xawax along with other agencies, workers from Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere filed in from your mid-day shift and cooked a modest meal inside a threadbare communal kitchen. These were tired, but neither heat nor the new water was working. One grumbled he had lost pay after he hurt his arm around the set up line. Still, the employees stated, they needed the cash.

Momentum continues to be building for greater protections. The Ecu Commission, the ecu Union’s executive arm, is proposing a brand new labor authority to battle questionable employment schemes. President Emmanuel Macron of France really wants to tighten labor rules in the area.

The likes of HP and ‘cisco’, which contract Foxconn within the Czech Republic to put together electronics goods, also have produced strict codes of conduct for that ethical control over foreign migrant workers by their suppliers.

Dell stated it needed that suppliers ensure migrant workers receive contracts that enumerate employment terms inside a language they do know, and labored with suppliers to fix violations. A current assessment of Foxconn’s production within the Czech Republic didn’t identify any the process of migrant workers, Dell added.

Within the Czech Republic, the government bodies happen to be searching into Foxconn’s labor practices, though Jiri Vanasek, the deputy labor minister, acknowledged it’s not easy to demonstrate wrongdoing. The federal government can also be scrutinizing the country’s many employment agencies. It lately enforced a registration fee to discourage attempts by agencies to alter their names frequently to prevent putting workers entirely-time jobs once temporary contracts have expired, and also to clamp lower on fly-by-night operators.

Critics say, however, that despite efforts to improve protections, European regulators have to close loopholes in labor laws and regulations that promote unstable employment, low wages along with a cycle of precariousness.

“If there is a race towards the bottom,” stated Rutvica Andrijasevic, a senior lecturer in the College of Bristol that has researched Foxconn’s effect on European labor standards, “it’s being driven by our very own governments.”

Migrant laborers in Pardubice anxiously waited for any bus run by a work agency that will bring them to jobs around the night shift.CreditMilan Bures for that New You are able to Occasions

Follow Liz Alderman on Twitter: @LizAldermanNYT.

Hana de Goeij contributed reporting.

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Global Economy’s Stubborn Reality: Plenty of Work, Not Enough Pay

LILLESTROM, Norway — In the three-plus decades since Ola Karlsson began painting houses and offices for a living, he has seen oil wealth transform the Norwegian economy. He has participated in a construction boom that has refashioned Oslo, the capital. He has watched the rent climb at his apartment in the center of the city.

What he has not seen in many years is a pay raise, not even as Norway’s unemployment rate has remained below 5 percent, signaling that working hands are in short supply.

“The salary has been at the same level,” Mr. Karlsson, 49, said as he took a break from painting an office complex in this Oslo suburb. “I haven’t seen my pay go up in five years.”

His lament resonates far beyond Nordic shores. In many major countries, including the United States, Britain and Japan, labor markets are exceedingly tight, with jobless rates a fraction of what they were during the crisis of recent years. Yet workers are still waiting for a benefit that traditionally accompanies lower unemployment: fatter paychecks.

Why wages are not rising faster amounts to a central economic puzzle.

Some economists argue that the world is still grappling with the hangover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Once growth gains momentum, employers will be forced to pay more to fill jobs.

But other economists assert that the weak growth in wages is an indicator of a new economic order in which working people are at the mercy of their employers. Unions have lost clout. Companies are relying on temporary and part-time workers while deploying robots and other forms of automation in ways that allow them to produce more without paying extra to human beings. Globalization has intensified competitive pressures, connecting factories in Asia and Latin America to customers in Europe and North America.

“Generally, people have very little leverage to get a good deal from their bosses, individually and collectively,” says Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. “People who have a decent job are happy just to hold on to what they have.”

The reasons for the stagnation gripping wages vary from country to country, but the trend is broad.

Graphic | Why Aren’t Wages Rising Faster Now That Unemployment Is Lower? When labor markets tighten, wages are expected to rise. But in recent years, as unemployment has fallen below 5 percent in the United States, wages have not been increasing as fast as in the past. Economists debate the reasons; workers grapple with the consequences.

In the United States, the jobless rate fell to 4.2 percent in September, less than half the 10 percent seen during the worst of the Great Recession. Still, for the average American worker, wages had risen by only 2.9 percent over the previous year. That was an improvement compared with recent months, but a decade ago, when the unemployment rate was higher, wages were growing at a rate of better than 4 percent a year.

In Britain, the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent in August, its lowest level since 1975. Yet wages had grown only 2.1 percent in the past year. That was below the rate of inflation, meaning workers’ costs were rising faster than their pay.

In Japan, weak wage growth is both a symptom of an economy dogged by worries, and a force that could keep the future lean, depriving workers of spending power.

In Norway, as in Germany, modest pay raises are a result of coordination between labor unions and employers to keep costs low to bolster industry. That has put pressure on Italy, Spain and other European nations to keep wages low so as not to lose orders.

But the trend also reflects an influx of dubious companies staffed by immigrants who receive wages well below prevailing rates, undermining union power.

That this is happening even in Norway — whose famed Nordic model places a premium on social harmony — underscores the global forces that are at work. Jobs that require specialized, advanced skills are growing. So are low-paying, low-skill jobs. Positions in between are under perpetual threat.

“The crisis accelerated the adjustment, the restructuring away from goods producing jobs and more into the service sector,” says Stefano Scarpetta, director for employment, labor and social affairs at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. “Many of those who lost jobs and went back to work landed in jobs that pay less.”

Union Power Eroded

In November 2016, a week after Donald J. Trump was elected president on a pledge to bring jobs back to America, the people of Elyria, Ohio — a city of 54,000 people about 30 miles west of Cleveland — learned that another local factory was about to close.

The plant, operated by 3M, made raw materials for sponges. Conditions there were influenced by an increasingly rare feature of American life: a union that represented the workers.

The union claimed the closing was a result of production being moved to Mexico. Management said it was merely cutting output as it grappled with a glut coming from Europe. Either way, 150 people would lose their jobs, Larry Noel among them.

Mr. Noel, 46, had begun working at the plant seven years earlier as a general laborer, earning $18 an hour. He had worked his way up to batch maker, mixing the chemicals that congealed into sponge material, a job that paid $25.47 an hour.

Now, he would have to start over. The unemployment rate in the Cleveland area was then down to 5.6 percent. Yet most of the jobs that would suit Mr. Noel paid less than $13 dollars an hour.

“These companies know,” he said. “They know you need a job, and you’ve got to take it.”

In the end, he found a job that paid only slightly less than his previous position. His new factory was a nonunion shop.

“A lot of us wish it were union,” he said, “because we’d have better wages.”

Last year, only 10.7 percent of American workers were represented by a union, down from 20.1 percent in 1983, according to Labor Department data. Many economists see the decline as a key to why employers can pay lower wages.

In 1972, so-called production and nonsupervisory workers — some 80 percent of the American work force — brought home average wages equivalent to $738.86 a week in today’s dollars, after adjusting for inflation, according to an Economic Policy Institute analysis of federal data. Last year, the average worker brought home $723.67 a week.

In short, 44 years had passed with the typical American worker absorbing a roughly 2 percent pay cut.

The streets of Elyria attested to the consequences of this long decline in earning power.

“There’s some bail bondsmen, some insurance companies and me,” said Don Panik, who opened his gold and silver trading shop in 1982 after he was laid off as an autoworker at a local General Motors plant.

Down the block, a man with a towel slung over bare shoulders panhandled in front of a strip club, underneath a hand-lettered sign that said “Dancers Wanted.” A tattoo parlor was open for business, near a boarded-up law office.

One storefront was full of activity — Adecco, the staffing company. A sign beckoned job applicants: “General Laborers. No Experience Necessary. $10/hour.”

Lyndsey Martin had reached the point where the proposition had appeal.

Until three years ago, Ms. Martin worked at Janesville Acoustics, a factory midway between Cleveland and Toledo. The plant made insulation and carpets for cars. She put products into boxes, earning $14 an hour.

That, combined with what her husband, Casey, earned at the plant, was enough to allow them to rent a house in the town of Wakeman, where their front porch looked out on a leafy street.

Then, in summer 2013, word spread that the plant was shutting down, putting 300 people out of work.

Ms. Martin took 18 months off to care for her children. In early 2015, she began to look for work, scouring the web for factory jobs. Most required associate’s degrees. The vast majority were temporary.

She took a job at a gas station, ringing up purchases of fuel, soda and fried chicken for $9 an hour, less than two-thirds of what she had previously earned.

“It almost feels degrading,” she said.

Her hours fluctuated. Some weeks she worked 35; most weeks, 24.

A competitor to Ms. Martin’s former employer has set up a factory directly opposite the plant where she used to work. The company hired 150 people, but not her. She said she had heard the jobs paid three to four dollars less per hour than she used to make.

Ms. Martin recently took a new job at a beer and wine warehouse. It also paid $9 an hour, but with the potential for a $1 raise in 90 days. In a life of downgraded expectations, that registered as progress.

Fear Factor

Conventional economics would suggest that this is an excellent time for Kuniko Sonoyama to command a substantial pay increase.

For the past 10 years, she has worked in Tokyo, inspecting televisions, cameras and other gear for major electronics companies.

After decades of decline and stagnation, the Japanese economy has expanded for six straight quarters. Corporate profits are at record highs. And Japan’s population is declining, a result of immigration restrictions and low birthrates. Unemployment is just 2.8 percent, the lowest level in 22 years.

Yet, Ms. Sonoyama, like growing numbers of Japanese workers, is employed through a temporary staffing agency. She has received only one raise — two years ago, when she took on a difficult assignment.

“I’m always wondering if it’s O.K. that I never make more money,” Ms. Sonoyama, 36, said. “I’m anxious about the future.”

That concern runs the risk of becoming self-fulfilling, for Japan as a whole. Average wages in the country rose by only 0.7 percent last year, after adjusting for the costs of living.

The government has pressed companies to pay higher wages, cognizant that too much economic anxiety translates into a deficit of consumer spending, limiting paychecks for all.

But companies have mostly sat on their increased profits rather than share them with employees. Many are reluctant to take on extra costs out of a fear that the good times will not last.

It is a fear born of experience. Ever since Japan’s monumental real estate investment bubble burst in the early 1990s, the country has grappled with a pernicious residue of that era: so-called deflation, or falling prices.

Declining prices have limited businesses’ incentive to expand and hire. What hiring companies do increasingly involves employment agencies that on average pay two-thirds of equivalent full-time work.

Today, almost half of Japanese workers under 25 are in part-time or temporary positions, up from 20 percent in 1990. And women, who typically earn 30 percent less than men, have filled a disproportionate number of jobs.

Years of corporate cost-cutting has weakened Japan’s unions, which tend to prioritize job security over pay.

The recent uptick in wages, although modest, has raised hopes of increased spending that would embolden businesses to raise pay and to upgrade temporary workers to full-time employees.

Until that happens, workers will probably remain hunkered down, reluctant to spend.

“I have enough to live on now,” Ms. Sonoyama said, “but I worry about old age.”

Global Threats

No one is supposed to worry in Norway.

The Nordic model has been meticulously engineered to provide universal living standards that are bountiful by global norms.

Workers enjoy five weeks of paid vacation a year. Everyone receives health care under a government-furnished program. Universities are free. When babies arrive, parents divvy up a year of shared maternity and paternity leave.

All of this is affirmed by a deep social consensus and underwritten by stupendous oil wealth.

Yet even in Norway, global forces are exposing growing numbers of workers to new forms of competition that limit pay. Immigrants from Eastern Europe are taking jobs. Temporary positions are increasing.

In theory, Norwegian workers are insulated from such forces. Under Norway’s elaborate system of wage negotiation, unions, which represent more than half of the country’s work force, negotiate with employers’ associations to hash out a general tariff to cover pay across industries. As companies become more productive and profitable, workers capture a proportionate share of the spoils.

Employers are supposed to pay temporary workers at the same scale as their permanent employees. In reality, fledgling companies have captured slices of the construction industry, employing Eastern Europeans at sharply lower wages. Some firms pay temporary workers standard wages but then have them work overtime without extra compensation. Unions complain that enforcement patchy.

“Both the Norwegian employer and the Polish worker would rather have low paid jobs,” said Jan-Erik Stostad, general secretary of Samak, an association of national unions and social democratic political parties. “They have a common interest in trying to circumvent the regulations.”

Union leaders, aware that companies must cut expenses or risk losing work, have reluctantly signed off on employers hiring growing numbers of temporary workers who can be dismissed with little cost or fuss.

“Shop stewards are hard pressed in the competition, and they say, ‘If we don’t use them then the other companies will win the contracts,” said Peter Vellesen, head of Oslo Bygningsarbeiderforening, a union that represents bricklayers, construction workers and painters. “If the company loses the competition, he will lose his work.”

Last year, companies from Spain and Italy won many of the contracts to build tunnels south of Oslo, bringing in lower-wage workers from those countries.

Mr. Vellesen’s union has been organizing immigrants, and Eastern Europeans now comprise one-third of its roughly 1,700 members. But the trends can be seen in paychecks.

From 2003 to 2012, Norwegian construction workers saw smaller wage increases than the national average in every year except two, according to an analysis of government data by Roger Bjornstad, chief economist at the Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions.

When Mr. Karlsson, the painter, came to Norway from his native Sweden in the mid-1990s, virtually everyone in the trade was a full-time worker. Recently, while painting the offices of a government ministry, he encountered Albanian workers. He was making about 180 kroner per hour, or about $23, under his union scale. The Albanians told him they were being paid barely a third of that.

“The boss could call them, and 20 guys would be standing outside ready to work,” Mr. Karlsson said. “They work extra hours without overtime. They work weekends. They have no vacations. It’s hard for a company that’s running a legitimate business to compete.”

He emphasized that he favored open borders. “I have no problem with Eastern Europeans coming,” he said. “But they should have the same rights as the rest of us, so all of us can compete on equal terms.”

Even in specialized, higher-paying industries, Norwegian wage increases have slowed, as unions and employers cooperate toward improving the fortunes of their companies.

That is a pronounced contrast from past decades, when Norway tallied up the profits from oil exports while handing out wage raises that reached 6 percent a year.

As the global financial crisis unfolded in 2008, sending a potent shock through Europe, Norway’s high wages left businesses in the country facing a competitive disadvantage. That was especially true as mass unemployment tore across Italy, Portugal and Spain, depressing wages across the continent. And especially as German labor unions assented to low pay to maintain the country’s export dominance.

Starting in mid-2014, a precipitous descent in global oil prices ravaged Norway’s energy industry and the country’s broader manufacturing trades. That year, Norwegian wages increased by only 1 percent after accounting for inflation, and by only a half percent the next year. In 2016, wages declined in real terms by more than 1 percent.

Peder Hansen did not relish the idea of a smaller pay raise, but neither was he terribly bothered.

Mr. Hansen works at a nickel refinery in Kristiansand, a city tucked into the nooks and crannies along Norway’s southern coast. His plant is part of Glencore, the mammoth Anglo-Swiss mining firm. He sits at a computer terminal, controlling machinery.

Much of what the refinery produces is destined for factories in Japan that use the nickel to make cars and electronics. Lately, nickel prices have been weak, limiting revenue. This year, Mr. Hansen’s union accepted an increase of about 2.5 percent — a tad above inflation.

“If they were to increase our wages too much, the company would lose customers,” Mr. Hansen says. “It’s as simple as that.”

He exudes faith that his company’s fortunes will be shared with him, because he has lived it. At 24, he earns 630,000 kroner a year, with overtime, or more than $80,000. He owns a two-story house in Kristiansand, and he has two cars, an Audi and an electric Volkswagen. The lives of company executives seem not far removed from his own.

“The C.E.O. of the plant is a humble person,” he said. “You can say ‘Hi.’”

But for some workers, the plunge in oil prices has tested faith in the Norwegian bargain.

In Arendal, a coastal town of wooden houses clustered around a harbor, Bandak, a local employer, succumbed to the crisis. The company made equipment connecting oil pipelines. As orders grew scarce in late 2014, a series of layoffs commenced. Workers ultimately agreed to a 5 percent pay cut to spare their jobs.

“We wanted to keep all of our employees, so we stuck together,” said Hanne Mogster, the former human resources director. “There was a lot of trust.”

But the company soon descended into bankruptcy. And that was that for the 75 remaining workers.

Per Harald Torjussen, who worked on Bandak’s assembly line, managed to find a job at a nearby factory at slightly better pay.

Still, his confidence has been shaken.

“It feels a lot less secure,” Mr. Torjussen says. “We may be approaching what it’s like in the U.S. and the U.K.”

France’s Macron Looks to Confront Eastern Europe Over Low-Cost Workers

Visit nearly any big construction site in France, and most likely many employees hail from low-wage East Countries in europe. In Great Britan, farms employ labor from Belgium, Romania or Bulgaria once the harvest comes. Up to 50 % from the motorists of trucks coming interior and exterior The country come from nations towards the east.

The key underpinning all that — the liberty of citizens from Eu countries to operate any place in the 28-nation bloc — is really a pillar from the union itself. Theoretically, it enables workers to maneuver over the region to locate employment and benefits companies by supplying a broader talent pool.

But companies also have lengthy profited from rules that permit them to “post” workers in one country to a different. Now, a backlash keeps growing across northern Europe among growing evidence that employers are benefiting from the guidelines to employ low-wage people from other countries instead of local citizens.

In France They president, Emmanuel Macron, who guaranteed to safeguard his compatriots from “unfair competition” in the east, is moving strongly to concentrate attention on these published workers because he begins a 3-day tour of Central and Eastern Europe on Wednesday.

The push may come as greater-salary countries like France, Austria and also the Netherlands face political pressure to curb “social dumping,” a prevalent practice by which companies hire subcontractors in lower-wage Eu member-states and publish these questions more pricey one. The practice increases income, but frequently exploits the employees by continuing to keep their wages and social protections low.

Anxiety within the rising quantity of foreign workers, especially from Eastern Europe, who’re published to jobs in agriculture, construction along with other labor-intensive sectors would be a pivotal element in Britain’s election this past year to depart the Eu.

That time isn’t lost on politicians, including Mr. Macron, whose public-approval rating has dropped precipitously in the first several weeks at work. Within an interview with several European newspapers in June, in france they leader advised Eastern Europe to not treat the bloc like a “supermarket,” and cautioned that governments would face effects when they flouted regional values.

“Do you believe I’m able to show in france they that companies are closing in France to maneuver to Belgium while construction firms in France are recruiting Polish workers since they’re cheaper?” he stated throughout the interview. “This system doesn’t work right.”

However the charge has infuriated the leaders of Belgium, Hungary and also the Czech Republic, widening a rift with West Countries in europe that started throughout the Continent’s refugee crisis, when each side clashed over intends to distribute asylum seekers over the region.

East European leaders accuse Mr. Macron of protectionism. They question why France and it is neighbors haven’t cracked lower on employers mistreating the machine.

They reason that their countries, which became a member of the bloc in 2004 throughout the European Union’s largest single expansion, ought to be permitted to compete on lower wages to stoke growth and get caught up. When Belgium and nine other Central and East Countries in europe became a member of, many older people initially restricted use of their labor markets.

On Wednesday, Mr. Macron searched for to smooth the frictions, saying he desired to push for brand new rules to combat fraud and also to limit to 1 year the amount of time an worker might be published to a different Eu country. His three-day itinerary includes stops in Austria, Romania and Bulgaria, and conferences using the prime ministers of Slovakia and also the Czech Republic during Austria.

“I deeply believe,” Mr. Macron stated, “the duration of the ecu renovation originates.Inches

“The posting of workers directive, because it functions, is really a unfaithfulness from the European spirit,” he added, throughout a joint news conference with Chancellor Christian Kern in Salzburg, Austria.

While published workers constitute under 1 % of Europe’s labor pressure, eastern bloc leaders have vowed to battle any efforts to limit the legal rights of the citizens to operate over the region.

The Ecu Parliament finds numerous questionable practices utilized by companies to recruit cheaper labor. Included in this are establishing fake mailing addresses in low-cost member-states and bouncing workers between several countries to prevent the elevated costs that permanent employment will bring. Others pressure workers to declare themselves as self-employed therefore the firms can avoid having to pay social security contributions.

The practice can certainly spiral into exploitation when published workers don’t have the social protections provided to local hires. The host country also loses tax revenue and social security deposits towards the East Countries in europe in which the workers’ pay slips are based.

The problem has lengthy been politically billed in Europe, however it flared once again throughout the French presidential election when Mr. Macron and the far-right opponent Marine Le Pen reported the disposable movement of cheap labor as an origin of joblessness and unfair competition.

A higher-profile labor abuse situation in March also elevated scrutiny.

Among the greatest French construction companies, Bouygues Travaux Publics, was fined around 30,000 euros, or $35,000, after extended government investigations thought it was had contracted with exploitative, low-cost employment agencies to employ countless Polish and Romanian workers.

The employees, who have been enlisted to assist develop a nuclear power plant operated by Électricité de France, referred to as EDF, in Flamanville, an urban area around the country’s northwest coast, received virtually no healthcare coverage from 2009 to 2011, once the facility had been built. The use agencies were also billed with bilking in france they condition of social security contributions totaling nearly €12 million.

This past year, the ecu Commission suggested reforming the machine to want that published workers be compensated on componen with local ones, which any posting occur “within an environment of fair competition and respect for that legal rights of workers.” But Central and East Countries in europe stopped the proposals, and requested The city for any further review.

Some member-states take matters to their own hands.

Austria lately tightened measures to discourage domestic companies from contracting low-cost European laborers. This month, the federal government fined an Austrian engineering group, Andritz, €22 million for implementing a Croatia-based contractor to employ about 200 Croatian workers for any €7 million construction project, citing a breach of national fair labor laws and regulations.

An Austrian industry body has appealed, saying the federal government attack violated Eu rules, hindered entrepreneurship and jeopardized jobs in Austria.

In The country, the nation’s Union of Spanish Transport Associations has cautioned that social dumping is easily the most serious issue facing the sphere. The audience believed that 1 / 2 of all truck motorists entering and overseas hailed from Eastern Europe, where wages were around eight occasions less than in The country.

Most of the truckers have employment with Spanish firms that generate a mind office in Belgium or any other eastern country. The businesses then spend the money for lower taxes and social security charges from the cheaper country, staying away from the greater Spanish charges.

It’s the kind of practice that Mr. Macron really wants to limit.

“A Europe that protects,” in france they president stated, “is a Europe which has the capacity to solve the problem of published workers.”