Clinton looks abroad for job ideas

PRESIDENT Clinton borrowed other nations' ideas for refashioning the unemployment system, but Labor Secretary Robert Reich says Mr. Clinton's proposed Reemployment Act is tailored for the United States.

The president this month asked Congress to spend $13 billion over five years to create career centers offering counseling, job placement, and enrollment in training programs to those out of work. Congressional hearings haven't been scheduled.

Labor Department officials searched for ideas in programs operated by US trading partners, borrowing portions they considered adaptable to the US and its workers.

US residents change jobs more often than Canadians, Europeans, or Japanese, making it difficult to copy those countries' programs. While the Japanese expect to spend their entire adult lives at one employer, Americans on average hold seven jobs.

Still, there are similarities. Few ideas for the Reemployment Act were borrowed from Japan, where businesses rarely lay off workers. But the administration did study the Japanese system's training program for pupils who do not attend college.

The Reemployment Act would encourage employers considering layoffs to reduce worker hours across the board. Employees could then get unemployment benefits to make up lost income.

Canada has such a program. During economic slowdowns, firms can reduce work weeks by up to three days. Employees draw partial unemployment benefits until the economy improves.

Clinton wants people who start new businesses after losing jobs to get unemployment benefits for up to 18 months while their ventures get off the ground. The Canadians are doing that successfully. The president's plan would require the new entrepreneurs to get training and counseling.

Britain has ``one-stop shopping'' Clinton and Mr. Reich have discussed, providing information about job vacancies and counseling to displaced workers applying for unemployment benefits.

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