In 1992, the central government in China launched a drive to "smash the three irons" - the iron rice bowl, the iron wage and the iron armchair which symbolize jobs for life, fixed wages and guaranteed positions for industrial bureaucrats. The consequences, in a workforce conditioned by 40 years of traditional socialist ideology and with only primitive state welfare protection were alarming for many. The slogan was quietly withdrawn, but the policy of structural adjustment of employment continues.
[Industrialized countries] As a results of a more aggressive global economic situation combined with recession, the social contract between employer and employee is much weakened. There was a time in industrialized societies when a job, blue collar or white, public or private, normally meant a stable occupation or career. A loyal employee could expect to remain too. Even in highly cyclical industries, most workers who were occasionally laid off would be recalled when orders picked up. With steady careers came fringe benefits, notably health car and pensions. Today few have reliable job security, not IBM engineers, not civil servants, not bankers, not tenured college professors, not unionized factory workers. The white-collar share of unemployment in this recession in the USA is about 40%, nearly doubt that of the downturns of 1973 and 1982. Unlike in a typical recession, a majority of worker being laid off will not be rehired for their old jobs. Beyond unemployment rates, one of the most telling indicators of rising insecurity is declining pension and health insurance benefits.