A new trend of deregulation seems to be gaining traction around the world in an effort to cut unnecessary red tape, reduce the cost of doing business and stimulate economic growth. While the cutting of red tape is a major benefit for smaller businesses to enter the market and expand more rapidly, there is concern that too much deregulation, or deregulation in the wrong areas, could be harmful.
Forbes contributor Susan E Dudley, likened the regulation burden to pebbles thrown into a stream. “Each individual regulation may do little economic harm, but eventually the pebbles accumulate and like a dam, may blog economic growth and innovation.”
Most recently, the US joined the likes of Canada, the UK and the Netherlands in curbing regulatory standards. On 30th January, Donald Trump signed an executive order that forces federal agencies to sacrifice two existing regulations in order for a new one to be introduced - the same system already in place in the UK. Canada introduced a similar law back in 2012; the “One-for-One Law” mandated a swap of one old regulation for a new one.
The results are promising, with Canada reporting a $24 million saving from administrative burden relief and a saving of 344,000 hours of labor time. Since 2012, they have managed to abolish 20 regulations. The Netherlands, with a target of reducing regulatory burden by 20%, is on track to save €2.5 billion.
The difference among these countries is that Canada and the Netherlands “One-for-One Rule” is aimed specifically at reducing administrative burden and costs on businesses, whilst the UK and US are applying this rule to all costs associated with business. This includes health and safety.
Last month Trump signed a bill to roll back the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” rule. This rule effectively penalised companies with a record of breaking safety, wage and labor laws by barring them from federal contracts. Many are taking this as a sign that health and safety regulations will be front and centre for the chopping board in Trump’s efforts to generate more jobs. It’s a move met with trepidation because as we all know, it is useless to have a job if the job itself is unsafe and the worker is not protected.
While small businesses will stand to benefit from regulatory rollbacks, large corporations also stand to benefit with many people concerned that larger organisations will now be able to take advantage of employees by compromising their safety in order to cut costs.
Australia has started to follow suit on the deregulation trend, but in a much more bureaucratic way. The federal government introduced a guide to regulation earlier this year that stated “the cost burden of new regulation must be fully offset by reductions in existing regulatory burden.”
As to whether Australia and New Zealand adopt a one-for-one policy or not remains to be seen and it will be interesting to see the effects of US deregulation on health and safety. Will it prove be the economic stimulant it is aiming to be or will it strip workers of their right to a safe workplace in the name of cutting costs for big business?