MAY 1 is observed in many nations not just as a day welcoming the renewal and creativity of spring, but an international day honoring laborers and workers as well. For in its highest sense, one's employment is also a creative act, an expression of one's deepest talents and qualities.
As some nations recognize laborers this day, Western political and business leaders, as well as workers, have much to be grateful for in terms of an expanding global economy. Without ignoring that latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world are still beset by economic challenges, spring has finally as much come to the Western world's economy as to the world's calender.
The immediate task for political leaders is threefold:
* Ensure that the current global recovery proves durable and long-lasting. That means, in part, bringing down the high budget deficits in the United States that are helping to push interest rates up and lure precious investment monies out of Europe.
* Take the necessary steps to develop an economic climate that creates new jobs -- jobs not only for today's workers but for an expanding population as well.
* Make certain that the actual workplace is humane and safe, and that a worker can look forward to a prosperous retirement. But the share of national resources going into such pension-welfare systems must not be so large a share of the gross national product -- as has increasingly occurred in many European nations in recent years -- as to divert investment funds from the job-creation sector itself.
Harbingers of new growth in the global economy can be found everywhere. In Asia, given high personal savings rates, low wage scales, and government policies that foster job-creation, growth is running at around 3 percent or more for the region as a whole. The US economy continues to roll along at a steady clip -- although the rate is slowing. In Europe, modest growth is now under way in most nations.
And yet, unemployment rates remain high; 10 million people are without jobs in Europe. In West Germany, the jobless rate is 9 percent; in Britain, 12 percent; in France, over 9 percent.
The United States has created between 11 and 12 million new jobs during the past decade. In Europe, some 500,000 or 600,000 new jobs were created during that same period -- practically no real net increase. In the US, almost all the new jobs occurred in medium-size and smaller companies -- many of them in such new ''entrepreneurial'' industries as microelectronics, biotechnology, and telecommunications. They reflect an increasingly deregulated US economic climate that encourages capital formation and the start-up of new businesses -- the same type of climate that to an even greater extent is propelling Asia's roller-coaster expansion.
Can Europe -- with its more highly structured, regulated societies -- join the new entrepreneurial bandwagon? Some analysts believe a breakthough is possible. Europe missed much of the new electronics revolution. Now, governments , business leaders, and many workers realize that if Europe is to stay competitive with the US and Japan, it will have to loosen up its tightly regulated economies.
Cooperative agreements and joint ventures with US and Asian companies will represent a way by which European businesses can modernize; at the same time, technological breakthroughs could even allow Wuropean industry to leapfrog entire periods of time. Thus, it would seem premature indeed to preclude Europe from enjoying its own new economic renaissance.