Tag Archives: underemployment

Next wave of smarter, faster robots coming for many of our jobs

By Robert Riguaux

Will a robot replace you at work? The odds, increasingly, say yes.

The good news is that one recent analysis of the job with a 99 percent chance to be replaced by a machine is … telemarketer. There is admittedly some personal delight in learning that.

I also now understand why parents always cherish the idea that their kid wanted to be a doctor. Not for the prestige or money but for job security. The same analysis gives only a 0.4 percent chance a robot will replace that occupation.

If you keep up on the chatter about the future of work, it’s tough to avoid the buzz about a new wave of automated machines and robots empowered with advanced artificial intelligence. (We’re way past the Roomba automated vacuum cleaner from iRobot, folks.) Next-generation robots will begin to take over not just blue-collar, repetitive-motion jobs, but also white-collar occupations like bankers and, yes, even fashion models.

You may have heard this line of conversation, as I have, in recent weeks. It goes like this:

If we eventually shift to driverless (automated) cars (goodbye, taxi drivers), then in theory we’ll have far fewer collisions (see ya, auto repair shops), ambulance calls (farewell, emergency med techs), less need for auto coverage (so long, insurance agents), attorneys (adios, personal injury lawyers) and certainly their overwhelming barrage of radio and TV ads (adieu, advertising agencies). These jobs won’t disappear entirely, but the growth of work opportunities in these occupations will undoubtedly shrivel.

Versions of this ripple effect from a robotic revolution are going on all around us. We just don’t always recognize it for what it is.

At direct mail marketer Valpak’s building along I-275 in St. Petersburg, one of the most automated materials handling systems in the world stuffs blue envelopes with coupons.

In downtown Tampa at USF Health’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (better known as CAMLS), visiting surgeons can learn robotic surgical techniques.

And some financial advisory firms are easing into the burgeoning automated investment management business — better known as robo-advising. It’s about providing clients with automated investing services that let algorithms do the work of financial advisers, assuring quality control in investment advice without the need to hire more expensive people.

Last year, Aloft Hotels announced an unusual hire at its California location: a robotic butler, or a Botlr, that can deliver room service to its guests.

This is just the beginning.

Two Oxford researchers recently analyzed the skills required for more than 700 different occupations to determine how many would be susceptible to automation in the near future. The news, says an article inthe Atlantic magazine last month, “was not good.” The two concluded that machines are likely to take over 47 percent of today’s jobs within a few decades.

That’s the same analysis that says telemarketers, umpires, lending officers, fashion models, restaurant cooks and manicurists are among many professions that have a 94 percent or higher risk of being replaced by a machine.

Conversely, teachers of younger kids, doctors, occupational therapists and clinical counselors all run a very low risk — less than 1 percent — of a robot taking their jobs, according to this analysis. How did they determine who was more or less at risk? Some aspects of a job are easier to automate than others. It all depends on the tasks.

If your job requires you to be creative, to squeeze into small spaces, to personally help someone or to demonstrate negotiation skills, it’s unlikely a machine will replace you.

The trick, of course, is that robots, automated systems and the rise of algorithms — step-by-step procedures for solving a problem or accomplishing some task by a computer — are getting more capable at a faster clip than human beings are improving their skills. Just look at smartphones and the number of apps we are all so happy to rely on.

Job hunters today, especially younger adults trying to find work at busy companies, must already get by algorithms used to initially screen the thousands of resumes sent online. Certain words or phrases indicating specific job skills, for example, may open the digital door enough to eventually reach a human and possibly an interview. Use the wrong word or phrase and you may be out of luck.

Part of the recent buzz over the coming robot invasion into the workplaces is because of a new book written by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Martin Ford. Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future tells how the use of robots is about to dramatically increase, in part because technology has at last created a standard operating platform — like Android for smartphones or Windows for computers — that can now be built upon efficiently.

“We are at the leading edge of a wave of innovation that will ultimately produce robots geared toward nearly every conceivable commercial, industrial and consumer task,” Ford writes. Robots may even help reduce jobs being outsourced overseas because adding more robots to factories will reduce costs and make U.S.-based facilities more competitive. Ford calls this potential trend “factory re-shoring.”

Continue reading Next wave of smarter, faster robots coming for many of our jobs

Canada’s economy shrinks for fourth month, raising spectre of recession

By Gordon Isfeld

OTTAWA — Canada’s economy began the second quarter of 2015 the same way it finished the previous three-month period, continuing to contract as the collapse of oil prices squeezed output in the energy sector and the hoped-for turnaround in manufacturing again failed to materialize.

That will be discouraging news for the Bank of Canada, which has been looking for signs of a rebound in this country and in the United States after a harsh winter start to the year — greatly aggravated by the plunge in crude and an uncertain global economy.

Statistics Canada said gross domestic product — the widest measure of goods and service produced the country — declined 0.1 per cent in April. That was the fourth straight monthly contraction in the economy. The last time output declined over that many months was between November 2008 and May 2009, at the tail end of the recession.

Most economists had forecast 0.1 per cent growth in April.

Canadian GDP shrinks four months in a row

Read more » Financial Post
See more » http://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/canadas-economy-shrinks-again-raising-spectre-of-recession

The world economy – Watch out

The Economist issues an ultimate warning of another Recession

It is only a matter of time before the next recession strikes. The rich world is not ready

THE struggle has been long and arduous. But gazing across the battered economies of the rich world it is time to declare that the fight against financial chaos and deflation is won. In 2015, the IMF says, for the first time since 2007 every advanced economy will expand. Rich-world growth should exceed 2% for the first time since 2010 and America’s central bank is likely to raise its rock-bottom interest rates.

However, the global economy still faces all manner of hazards, from the Greek debt saga to China’s shaky markets. Few economies have ever gone as long as a decade without tipping into recession—America’s started growing in 2009. Sod’s law decrees that, sooner or later, policymakers will face another downturn. The danger is that, having used up their arsenal, governments and central banks will not have the ammunition to fight the next recession. Paradoxically, reducing that risk requires a willingness to keep policy looser for longer today.

Continue reading The world economy – Watch out

Britain ‘is experiencing same decline as Rome in 100BC’

Dr Jim Penman believes Britons no longer have the genetic temperament that sparked the Industrial Revolution

By , Science Editor

Britain is experiencing the same decline as Rome in 100BC, with the collapse of civilisation inevitable, a scientist has warned.

Dr Jim Penman, of the RMIT University in Melbourne, believes Britons no longer have the genetic temperament to advance because of decades of peace and a high standard of living.

He claims that the huge success of the Victorian era will not be repeated because people in the UK have lost the biological drive for innovation.

Instead, Britain is existing in a period similar to the decades before the fall of the Roman Republic where social tensions were rife, the gap between the rich and poor was increasing and extremism was growing.

And when added to a growing distaste for military action, which has seen huge cuts the armed forces, by the end of the century the UK will no longer have the power, or will, to protect itself against a serious invading force, he predicts.

“There are certainly parallels between 100BC in the Roman Republic where things are starting to get pretty dodgy,” he said.

“It was a time when democracy was moving towards despotism, and in Britain we now see that politics is becoming much more about individuals rather than political parties. It’s about personalities. The two party system has started to break down.

“We live in a golden age where there have been no major wars in Europe for three quarters of a century. But the economy is stagnating and we’re having fewer children.

Read more » The Telegraph
See more » http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11562374/Britain-is-experiencing-same-decline-as-Rome-in-100BC.html

Tax cuts for top earners fail because the theory is broken

by Ha-Joon Chang

Tax breaks for the wealthy were meant to trickle through society to benefit all. It didn’t work and inequality just got worse, says an economist

ADVOCATES of trickle-down economics argue that, when the rich get extra income, they invest it and create more jobs – and a higher income – for others. Those people, in turn, spend their extra money. Eventually the effect trickles down the whole system, making everyone better off, in absolute terms.

So, what seems like a moral outrage – giving more to people who already have more – is in theory a socially benign action.

The trouble is it hasn’t worked. In the past three decades, states with pro-rich policies have seen economic growth slow, except in countries like China and Vietnam that needed to jump-start socialist economies.

In the UK, upward income redistribution since 1980 has seen the share of the top 1 per cent rise from 5 per cent of national income to over 10 per cent. Yet the annual growth rate of income per person has fallen from 2.5 per cent between 1960 and 1980 to 1.8 per cent between 1980 and 2013.

One reason is that the rich have not kept their end of the bargain – they didn’t invest more; and inequality, linked to poorer health and societal damage, worsened. Investment as a share of GDP used to be 18 to 22 per cent in the 1960s and 1970s but since then has been 14 to 18 per cent, except for a few years at the end of the 1980s.

Moreover, concentration of income at the top has boosted the political influence of the super-rich, allowing them to push for policies that benefit themselves but create harm in the long run. For example, the UK financial sector successfully lobbied for “light-touch regulation”, which enabled it to earn a lot but led to the 2008 financial crisis.

It is well established that a less equal society has lower social mobility. When talented people from less privileged backgrounds cannot move up the social ladder, the economy’s long-term dynamism suffers. An increasing number of studies show that, above a certain level, higher inequality harms growth. Some are by the International Monetary Fund and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which didn’t use to be concerned about inequality.

Despite these failings, some politicians still back measures that benefit the wealthy, often citing trickle-down economics. In the UK, the Conservatives cut taxes for the top earners while in government. They want to slash inheritance tax for wealthier estates and cut the numbers paying higher-rate tax. The UK Independence Party has a similar stance on higher-rate tax and wants zero inheritance tax.

The 35-year experiment with trickle down economics has failed for most people. Unfortunately, there is too much money and power at stake for its true beneficiaries to accept this reality and end this approach.

This article appeared in print under the headline “Defying gravity”

Ha-Joon Chang is an economist at the University of Cambridge. His latest book is Economics: The user’s guide (Pelican)

Courtesy: Newscientist
Read more » http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22630182.500-tax-cuts-for-top-earners-fail-because-the-theory-is-broken.html?utm_source=NSNS&utm_medium=SOC&utm_campaign=hoot&cmpid=SOC%257CNSNS%257C2015-GLOBAL-hoot#.VTwzliFVhHw

Australia – Regional unemployment hits 12-year high

By 

The unemployment rate in regional Australia has risen to 7.3 per cent, a 12-year high, as job demand shifts increasingly to major cities with the winding down of the mining construction boom.

Regional Australia has not experienced unemployment rates this high since March 2003, with regional NSW recording the largest increase in jobless rates in the past three months, particularly in the Hunter Valley and Newcastle – big coal-producing regions.

Regional Australia Institute (RAI) says analysis of this week’s Bureau of Statistics quarterly employment data shows the unemployment rate in regional Australia, in non-seasonally adjusted terms, remains structurally higher than in capital cities.

Read more » The Age
See more » http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/regional-unemployment-hits-12year-high-20150424-1msjaq.html

Australians’ living standards face the greatest threat in a generation: report

By 

Australians’ living standards face the greatest threat in a generation, with no signs of strong wage growth, longer unpaid commuting times and a rise in workforce casualisation putting more pressure on middle- and lower-income households than they have faced in 20 years.

A new report from Per Capita, an independent think tank, also shows the split of national income between labour and capital is continuing to worsen in Australia, with wages’ share of national income dropping from 65.5 per cent at the turn of the century to 59.7 per cent in 2012.

It says this has occurred at the same time as the bulk of productivity improvements have come from labour rather than capital in recent years.

The report, “Paradise Lost? The race to maintain Australian living standards”, says Australians’ living standards are under threat due to slowing productivity, rising unemployment and slowing wages growth.

It warns Australians face an “inevitable correction” in their income and wages levels – with real wages set to fall markedly to reflect the country’s changed economic circumstances and lack of reform over the last decade – if nothing is done about it.

David Hetherington, Per Capita’s director, warned Australian governments they must re-start the reform process now to arrest the worrying trends, saying the benefit of the economic reforms of the 1980s and ’90s had run their course.

“Australia must either reform once again or face a dramatic downwards adjustment in wage levels and living standards,” Mr Hetherington said.

“To continue to lift labour productivity, we must lift our investment in hard infrastructure like transport and broadband, as well as soft infrastructure like skills and education.

Courtesy: The Age
Read more » http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australians-living-standards-face-the-greatest-threat-in-a-generation-report-20150423-1mrppz.html

I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children

By 

I work 70 hours a week doing two jobs but cannot make ends meet. Presidential hopefuls must make profitable federal contractors pay living wages

Every day, I serve food to some of the most powerful people on earth, including many of the senators who are running for president: I’m a cook for the federal contractor that runs the US Senate cafeteria. But today, they’ll have to get their meals from someone else’s hands, because I’m on strike.

I am walking off my job because I want the presidential hopefuls to know that I live in poverty. Many senators canvas the country giving speeches about creating “opportunity” for workers and helping our kids achieve the “American dream” – most don’t seem to notice or care that workers in their own building are struggling to survive.

I’m a single father and I only make $12 an hour; I had to take a second job at a grocery store to make ends meet. But even though I work seven days a week – putting in 70 hours between my two jobs – I can’t manage to pay the rent, buy school supplies for my kids or even put food on the table. I hate to admit it, but I have to use food stamps so that my kids don’t go to bed hungry.

I’ve done everything that politicians say you need to do to get ahead and stay ahead: I work hard and play by the rules; I even graduated from college and worked as a substitute teacher for five years. But I got laid-off and I now I’m stuck trying to make ends meet with dead-end service jobs.

Continue reading I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children

If We Don’t Overturn Citizens United, the Congress Will Become Paid Employees of the Billionaire Class

By 

I recently introduced an amendment at the Senate Budget Committee. It was pretty simple. It asked my Senate colleagues to begin the process of overturning the disastrous Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, and to bring transparency and disclosure to the political process. The link to that debate on the amendment is here.

Here’s what I asked my Senate colleagues to consider:

Are we comfortable with an American political system which is being dominated by a handful of billionaires?

Are we a nation that prides ourselves on one-person, one-vote, or do we tell ordinary Americans you’ve got one vote but the Koch brothers can spend hundreds of millions of dollars?

Do we want a political system in which a handful of billionaires can buy members of the United States Congress?

Who are those members of Congress elected with the help of billionaires going to be representing? Do you think they’re going to be representing the middle class and working families?

The answers seem clear to me. Unless the campaign financing system is reformed, the U.S. Congress will become paid employees of the people who pay for their campaigns — the billionaire class. Needless to say, not everyone on the Committee agreed.

It was an interesting and informative debate. Not one Republican supported the amendment and it lost by a 12-10 vote. I intend to offer it again this week on the floor of the Senate.

Read more » The Huffington Post
S
ee more » http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/sanders-to-senate-if-we-dont-overturn-citizens-united-the-congress-will-become-paid-employees-of-the-billionaire-class_b_6918468.html

The rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

Britain’s divided decade: the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer

By NIGEL MORRIS

The gap between richest and poorest has dramatically widened in the past decade as wealthy households paid off their debts and piled up savings following the financial crisis, a report warns today.

By contrast, the worst-off families are far less financially secure than before the recession triggered by the near- collapse of several major banks. They have an average of less than a week’s pay set aside and are more often in the red.

Younger workers have fallen behind older people while homeowners – particularly those who have paid off their mortgages – have become increasingly affluent compared with their neighbours who are paying rent.

Evidence of Britain’s rapidly growing wealth gap was revealed by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), which analysed the changing incomes and savings of thousands of people. Its findings will be seized on by Labour as evidence that any recovery from the downturn is uneven and not shared across all income groups. However, the trends uncovered by the SMF began before the Coalition came to power, underlining the huge impact of the credit crunch on levels of affluence.

It found that the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2012-13 as they put more money aside as a buffer against future shocks. They have average savings and investments of around £10,000 compared with £6,000 seven years earlier.

The proportion of people in this group with debts (apart from mortgages) dropped from 43 per cent to less than one-third. However, the SMF found the poorest 20 per cent are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts increasing.

Read more » The Independent
See more » http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-divided-decade-the-rich-are-64-richer-than-before-the-recessionwhile-the-poor-are-57-poorer-10097038.html

Corporations are destroying human society, global culture and the environment. – Howard Zinn

Read more » Twitter »» Howard Zinn

My party wants a socialist society in Pakistan: Ghinwa

PPP-SB chief says Junior Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto will join politics at the right time

By Faizan Ali Warraich

LAHORE: Pakistan People’s Party-Shaheed Bhutto (PPP-SB) faction Chairperson Ghinwa Bhutto has announced that her party is struggling for socialist revolution, and Junior Bhutto and Fatma Bhutto will join politics at the right time.

She has said that only socialism can serve the nation, as parliamentary democracy has failed to solve problems of a common man in Pakistan. Talking to Daily Times exclusively during her visit and stay here at the home of Dr Mubashar Hasan (former minister and her party’s chief in Punjab), she confirmed that her party wanted socialist society in Pakistan, which provides equal opportunities to all. ‘People get upset from the parliamentary form of politics as voice of a common man was not being heard, even they have no representative in the existing parliament and parliamentarians, and are being treated only as slaves’, she said.

Continue reading My party wants a socialist society in Pakistan: Ghinwa

Technology And the Threat of a Jobless Future

The Typical Millennial Is $2,000 Poorer Than His Parents at This Age

More young people are living in poverty and fewer have jobs compared their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, in 1980

By 

The past is another country. In 1980, the typical young worker in Detroit or Flint, Michigan, earned more than his counterpart in San Francisco or San Jose. The states with the highest median income were Michigan, Wyoming, and Alaska. Nearly 80 percent of the Boomer generation, which at the time was between 18 and 35, was white, compared to 57 percent today.

Three decades later, in 2013, the picture of young people—yes, Millennials—is a violently shaken kaleidoscope, and not all the pieces are falling into a better place. Michigan’s median income for under-35 workers has fallen by 26 percent, more than any state. In fact, beyond the east coast, earnings for young workers fell in every state but Hawaii and South Dakota.

Read more » The Atlantic
Learn more » http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/young-adults-poorer-less-employed-and-more-diverse-than-their-parents/385029/

Richest 1% to own more than rest of world, Oxfam says

The wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world’s population, according to a study by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The charity’s research shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the richest 1% increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% last year.

On current trends, Oxfam says it expects the wealthiest 1% to own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.

The research coincides with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The annual gathering attracts top political and business leaders from around the world.

Read more » BBC
Learn more » http://www.bbc.com/news/business-30875633

Italy’s finance ministry gets egged by #socialstrike protesters

 

By Magan Specia

Protesters hurled eggs at the country’s finance ministry and scaled the sides of the Colosseum on Thursday as nationwide labor demonstrations heated up.

Students and union members were the driving force behind the demonstrations, rallying on Twitter under the hashtag #socialstrike.

Several were injured in in Padua where protesters clashed with police. The violence erupted when members of the march headed toward the local offices of Premier Matteo Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Read more » Mashable
Learn more » http://mashable.com/2014/11/14/national-labor-protest-italy/

Fueled by Recession, U.S. Wealth Gap Is Widest in Decades, Study Finds

CapitalistsBy

The wealthy are getting wealthier. As for everyone else, no such luck.

A report released on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that the wealth gap between the country’s top 20 percent of earners and the rest of America had stretched to its widest point in at least three decades.

Last year, the median net worth of upper-income families reached $639,400, nearly seven times as much of those in the middle, and nearly 70 times the level of those at the bottom of the income ladder.

There has been growing attention to the issue of income inequality, particularly the plight of those earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or close to it.

But while income and wealth are related (the more you make, the more you can save and invest), the wealth gap zeros in on a different aspect of financial well-being: how much money and other assets you have accumulated over time, including the value of your home and car plus any investments in stocks, bonds and the like.

While those at the top have managed to recoup much of the wealth lost during the economic downturn, middle-income families have not made any gains.

“The Great Recession destroyed a significant amount of middle-income and lower-income families’ wealth, and the economic ‘recovery’ has yet to be felt for them,” the report concluded.

Read more » The New York Times
Learn more » http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/business/economy/us-wealth-gap-widest-in-at-least-30-years-pew-study-says.html?smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

Canadian dollar sinks

 

Weaker loonie won’t save Canada’s low-skilled manufacturing sector, top economist says

By Greg Quinn, Bloomberg News

Canadian makers of goods such as dishwashers shouldn’t look to a depreciation of the nation’s currency to save their businesses, said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

Parts of Canada’s manufacturing industry will be wiped out by lower-cost Asian rivals, according to Weinberg, who said the country doesn’t have any competitive advantage when it comes to the business of bolting together cars and appliances from imported kits.

Read more » Financial Post
See more » http://business.financialpost.com/2014/10/02/weaker-loonie-wont-save-canadas-low-skilled-manufacturing-sector-top-economist-says/

Corporate Dictatorship

The Imperative of Revolt

TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.

“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

Read more » Common Dreams
Learn more » http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/10/20/imperative-revolt

 

Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

An economic system that rewards psychopathic personality traits has changed our ethics and our personalities

By theguardian.com

We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatisation have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re reading this sceptically, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favours certain personality traits and penalises others.

There are certain ideal characteristics needed to make a career today. The first is articulateness, the aim being to win over as many people as possible. Contact can be superficial, but since this applies to most human interaction nowadays, this won’t really be noticed.

It’s important to be able to talk up your own capacities as much as you can – you know a lot of people, you’ve got plenty of experience under your belt and you recently completed a major project. Later, people will find out that this was mostly hot air, but the fact that they were initially fooled is down to another personality trait: you can lie convincingly and feel little guilt. That’s why you never take responsibility for your own behaviour.

On top of all this, you are flexible and impulsive, always on the lookout for new stimuli and challenges. In practice, this leads to risky behaviour, but never mind, it won’t be you who has to pick up the pieces. The source of inspiration for this list? The psychopathy checklist by Robert Hare, the best-known specialist on psychopathy today.

Continue reading Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us

Canada’s labour pain: 1.3 million jobless

Canada’s labour pain: 1.3 million jobless, but not enough skills

By TAVIA GRANTECONOMICS REPORTER, The Globe and Mail

Some companies may be having a tough time finding suitable new hires – but Canada’s problem, at least right now, is not a labour shortage.

For all the hue and cry about shortages, it’s tough to find hard data to support the claims. The number of job vacancies, at last count, are at the same level as a year ago and so is the ratio of unemployed people to job openings. The Bank of Canada’s business outlook survey shows shortages are far less acute than before the recession. And while the jobless rate has fallen in recent months, 1.33 million Canadians are out of work, a higher number than before the downturn (it was 1.11 million in October, 2008).

Read more » THE GLOBE AND MAIL
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/canadas-labour-pain-13-million-jobless-but-not-enough-skills/article10595715/

Strikes in Greece as austerity deal proves elusive

By DEREK GATOPOULOS

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A 24-hour strike by civil servants disrupted public services in Greece on Wednesday as the government struggled to hammer out a deal on further austerity measures with international creditors.

Thousands of protesters attended rallies in Athens and other cities, while civil servants penciled in another 48-hour strike on March 19-20.

In central Athens, cleaning staff fired by the finance ministry marched holding up buckets and mops, and a group of school teachers chained themselves to railings in front of parliament.

“I feel like I’ve been dumped in the trash,” said Nikos Kikakis, a suspended 59-year-old high school headmaster who is due to be laid off this month and joined the protest at the parliament. “I have worked for 26 years in public service, and have no hope of finding a job now.”

Read more » Yahoo News
http://news.yahoo.com/strikes-greece-austerity-deal-proves-elusive-090617286–finance.html

Bill Maher’s excellent commentary on income inequality

by BruinKid

Last night, Bill Maher delivered an excellent final New Rule on how some of the 1% are whining about feeling persecuted.

Did you know that during World War II, FDR actually proposed a cap on income that in today’s dollars would mean that no person could ever take home more than about $300,000?  OK, that is a little low.  (audience laughter)  But wouldn’t it be great if there were Democrats out there like that now, who would say to billionaires, “Oh, you’re crying?  We’ll give you something to cry about.  You don’t want a minimum wage?  How about we not only have a minimum wage, we have a maximum wage?”  (audience applause)

That is not a new idea.  James Madison, who wrote our Constitution, said, “Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches.”  Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, they all agreed that too much money in the hands of too few would destroy democracy.

Read more » DAILY KOS
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/01/1281312/-Bill-Maher-s-excellent-commentary-on-income-inequality

The Dominant Economic Model of the 21st Century: Pain and Suffering for — Almost — All

March 3, 2014  |  This article originally appeared on TruthDig.com, and is reprinted here with their permission.OXFORD, England—The morning after my  Feb. 20 debate at the Oxford Union, I walked from my hotel along Oxford’s narrow cobblestone streets, past its storied colleges with resplendent lawns and Gothic stone spires, to meet  Avner Offer, an economic historian and Chichele Professor Emeritus of Economic History.Offer, the author of “ The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950,” for 25 years has explored the cavernous gap between our economic and social reality and our ruling economic ideology. Neoclassical economics, he says, is a “just-world theory,” one that posits that not only do good people get what they deserve but those who suffer deserve to suffer. He says this model is “a warrant for inflicting pain.” If we continue down a path of mounting scarcities, along with economic stagnation or decline, this neoclassical model is ominous. It could be used to justify repression in an effort to sustain a vision that does not correspond to the real world.Offer, who has studied the rationing systems set up in countries that took part in World War I, suggests we examine how past societies coped successfully with scarcity. In an age of scarcity it would be imperative to set up new, more egalitarian models of distribution, he says. Clinging to the old neoclassical model could, he argues, erode and perhaps destroy social cohesion and require the state to engage in greater forms of coercion.

“The basic conventions of public discourse are those of the  Enlightenment, in which the use of reason [enabled] us to achieve human objectives,” Offer said as we sat amid piles of books in his cluttered office. “Reason should be tempered by reality, by the facts. So underlining this is a notion of science that confronts reality and is revised by reference to reality. This is the model for how we talk. It is the model for the things we assume. But the reality that has emerged around us has not come out of this process. So our basic conventions only serve to justify existing relationships, structures and hierarchies. Plausible arguments are made for principles that are incompatible with each other.”

Offer cited a concept from social psychology called the  just-world theory. “A just-world theory posits that the world is just. People get what they deserve. If you believe that the world is fair you explain or rationalize away injustice, usually by blaming the victim.

Major ways of thinking about the world constitute just-world theories,” he said. “The Catholic Church is a just-world theory. If the Inquisition burned heretics, they only got what they deserved. Bolshevism was a just-world theory. If  Kulaks were starved and exiled, they got what they deserved. Fascism was a just-world theory. If Jews died in the concentration camps, they got what they deserved. The point is not that the good people get the good things, but the bad people get the bad things. Neoclassical economics, our principal source of policy norms, is a just-world theory.”

Offer quoted the economist  Milton Friedman: “The ethical principle that would directly justify the distribution of income in a free market society is, ‘To each according to what he and the instruments he owns produces.’ ”

“So,” Offer went on, “everyone gets what he or she deserves, either for his or her effort or for his or her property. No one asks how he or she got this property. And if they don’t have it, they probably don’t deserve it. The point about just-world theory is not that it dispenses justice, but that it provides a warrant for inflicting pain.”

Read more » Alternet
http://www.alternet.org/economy/dominant-economic-model-21st-century-pain-and-suffering-almost-all

Hard Work Is Not Working!

Poverty Report Reveals Most Poor People Have Jobs

By : The Huffington Post UK/PA

A shocking report has revealed that most people classed as living in poverty have jobs. For the first time, there are more working families living in poverty in the UK than non-working ones.

The news comes from a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which said average incomes have plummeted below the poverty line for millions of households.

Julia Unwin, the foundation’s chief executive, said: “Hard work is not working.” Some 6.7 million working families live below the poverty line – an increase of 500,000 on last year – compared with a combined 6.3 million of retired families and the out-of-work.

Households have been hit by a sustained and “unprecedented” fall in living standards, a report for the organisation found. Average incomes have fallen by 8% since their peak in 2008. As a result, around 2 million people have an income that while above today’s poverty line, would have been below the poverty line in 2008.

Of those in work, the number paid below the living wage rose from 4.6 million to five million in 2012. Half of working families in poverty have an adult paid below the living wage.

Unwin said the research showed that millions of people were moving in and out of work, but rarely out of poverty itself.

She said: “Hard work is not working. We have a labour market that lacks pay and protection, with jobs offering precious little security and paltry wages that are insufficient to make ends meet.”

The JRF did find a number of positive changes, including an improvement in the labour market with falling unemployment and underemployment and, over the longer term, improvements in health and education outcomes.

Unemployment of young adults has peaked at 21%, and total unemployment has begun to fall. But it found that job insecurity is increasingly common ….

Read more » Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/08/poverty-report_n_4407666.html?1386509109&utm_hp_ref=uk