The Committee on Labour Market Statistics  is a cooperative body set up by the Icelandic government, local authorities and the social partners (represented by the labour and employers’ confederations) for the purpose of compiling statistics to be used in collective bargaining.

 

 

The Committee began its work in December 2019. It is composed of representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ), the Icelandic Confederation of University Graduates (BHM), the Icelandic Teachers’ Union (KÍ), the Association of Local Authorities in Iceland, SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise, and Statistics Iceland. Through the work of the Committee, the labour market confederations, the government and the local authorities aim to cooperate on the production and use of statistics on wages and the economy[2]  to be used as an aid in the preparation and follow-up of collective agreements. The purpose of the Committee is to help the parties to the agreement to reach a common understanding of the nature, characteristics and evolution of statistics relevant to collective bargaining.

The Committee aims to produce reliable information and establish a common understanding among the parties regarding wages and the prevailing economic situation in order to facilitate preparatory and follow-up work for ongoing collective bargaining. The Office of the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer provides the Committee with work and meeting facilities. The Committee examines data and information by reference to which collective bargaining is carried out at each time and which serve as a basis for wage setting in the labour market. The Committee strives to improve the understanding of the nature, characteristics and evolution of those statistics considered most relevant in the context of collective bargaining. However, it has no direct involvement in the collective bargaining process and the role and status under law of the parties which set it up are unaffected.

Plans call for the Committee on Labour Market Statistics to issue two reports annually, in spring and autumn. The reports will contain information which, in the agreed opinion of the Committee, provides a clear view of the current situation and developments regarding wages and the national economy. Although the Committee is free to decide on the approach to be used, it is required to include in its reports information on the evolution of wages, incomes and prices and a description of the state and outlook of the economy and the labour market, as well as of the country’s competitiveness, and to provide an international comparison. Of the two reports issued each year, the first should contain an assessment of the status and basis of ongoing wage negotiations, and the second an assessment of the results of any such negotiations or a discussion of other matters relevant to the Committee’s purpose.

This report provides an overview of the current state of the economy and describes the impact of the economic slowdown on the labour market. It gives an outline of the most recent collective agreements and shows the evolution of wages during the current bargaining round, based on data provided by Statistics Iceland.

 

The report contains the first ever comprehensive survey of the collective bargaining process in Iceland. An attempt was made to gather information about every collective agreement already completed or yet to be completed in this bargaining round, including on the number of union members with a right to vote on the agreements, and on the results of each vote. The Committee recommends the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer take action to improve the gathering and analysis of exhaustive data of this kind.

The Committee on Labour Market Statistics also followed the work of the working group appointed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to establish a process for the comprehensive collection of wage data from employers. The aim is for the information collected to cover all workers and every economic activity, in order to allow for the creation of detailed data sets with a high degree of usefulness for those involved in collective bargaining or labour market research. The Committee for Labour Market Statistics considers this work important and urges the government to provide adequate support for the project.

This initial report by the Committee was prepared under unusual circumstances. The economy has suffered an acute slowdown as a result of the corona crisis. Many businesses have either closed or been forced to scale back their activities significantly. Unemployment has soared, and most—though not all—industries are experiencing a severe economic downturn. The average changes observed in the wage statistics therefore mask an exceptional situation where individual persons are affected to a highly varying degree. Thus, while the purchasing power of hourly pay rates remains high in a historical context, the purchasing power of those who have lost their jobs has fallen by several tens of per cent.

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