Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, Feb.29 & March 1-10, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
3/10/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/09 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #2-3 which are from the 3/10 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
3/09/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/08 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- [Here's a great article on some of the nuts&bolts planning that's going into cushioning the workweek reduction in South Korea these days -]
Government to subsidize job creation, by Byun Duk-kun, Korea Times.
The government will pay cash subsidies to small- and medium-sized businesses that create jobs by reducing working hours before the five-day workweek system is introduced. The Labor Ministry on Tuesday said it will pay subsidies to those businesses hiring less than 1,000 workers that voluntarily adopt the shortened workweek at least six month before the mandatory implementation.
Each business will be compensated 1.5 million won per quarter for every new employee it hires after reducing their average working hours to below 40 hours a week.
The job creation subsidies will be made available by taking advantage of the unemployment insurance scheme, according to the ministry.
The decision comes as the government is trying to create more jobs while also trying to encourage an early implementation of the five-day workweek system, which is scheduled to be gradually adopted in all workplaces by no later than 2011. Government offices, state-invested firms, public corporations and private businesses hiring more than 1,000 laborers are required to adopt the five-day workweek system in July this year. Businesses hiring less than 1,000 workers and more than 300 are required to adopt the system before July next year, while those with less than 300 employees and more than 100 are required
to do so by July 2006. Workplaces hiring less than 100 and more than 50 employees are required to adopt the five-day workweek by July 2007, while those employing more than 20 and less than 50 workers need to take up the system by July 2008.
Businesses hiring less than 20 employees are required to adopt the system by a date to be set no later than 2011.
This means that if a business with more than 20 and less than 50 employees adopts the five-day workweek system this month and hires three new employees, it will be compensated 4.5 million won every three months for the new employees for a total of 72 million won until July 2008 when the business is required by law to adopt the shortened workweek formula.
``We expect this will bring about an early implementation of the 40-hour workweek system, while also providing more jobs by encouraging businesses to hire more employees by distributing their workloads between more workers,’’ a ministry official said.
In addition to the monetary compensation for early implementation of the five-day workweek system and new employees, the government also decided to compensate those businesses employing workers past their retirement age.
For every worker a business employees over the retirement age of 57, the employer will be compensated 300,000 won a month for the next six months for a total of 1.8 million won, while manufacturing firms hiring retirement-age employees will be subsidized 300,000 won a month for up to one year, the ministry said.
- The trouble with Germany, editorial, NYT, A26.
[Pompous and selectively-sighted Americans do love pontificating to people who know better than they how to generate "the greatest good for the greatest number." And here they go again -]
Europe is doing much worse that the U.S. economically, right? Not if you subtract Germany. Without Germany's figures, Europe's economic performance would arguably look as "good" [our quotes] as America's. That gives some sense of how bad things are in the German economy, the continent's biggest, and how critical it is for the Germans to get serious about "reform" [our quotes] - not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of the EU, which is bracing for the entry of a host of far poorer members.
[Actually part of Germany's problem is that it has already started the path of the kind of "reform" the NYT editor has in mind = flexing up work conditions for the convenience of employers and failing to cap and reduce the workweek in order to spread the employment not yet taken over by technology and to maintain and grow the consumer base thereby. Germany does not have the kind of nationwide 35-hour workweek that France has. It only has 35 hours in the unionized sectors in the west and still 38 in most of the unionized sectors of the east. France is better off than Germany only because it's worksharing better, in spite of Chirac's backsliding on overtime capping and enforcement.]
Germany is in the grip of a profound malaise.
[Ah, wouldn't that be in France? In Germany, it would be a profound Weltschmerz. One senses that a lot of underlying motivation for this editorial is American envy of Germany's higher and more widespread quality of life. And much lower ' disability' and incarceration and homelessness rates. "Misery loves company" and it would be a lot less embarrassing if Germany, and for that matter, Japan, Canada, Scandinavia... would quit centrifuging the national income, destroy their consumer bases, and c'mon up to our leading percentage of GDP spent on healthcare and down to our levels of health insurance coverage, downsizing, job insecurity, joblessness, welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration and general distress that are spreading rapidly through the once-great US of A.]
The economy contracted by 0.1% last year
[well within a margin of error]
and is headed for growth of only 1.5% this year.
[What's the matter with that? What's the matter with a steady-state economy? In fact, it's rather futuristic. It doesn't at all mean that the economy's bad. In fact, it's more natural and ecological.]
Unemployment stands at 10.3%.
[OK, that's bad, but it can be solved by capping the workweek economywide at 40 with overtime-to-training&hiring conversion, and then slowly cutting the workweek toward 30 hours a week, the level that passed the U.S. Senate in April, 1933. Both the U.S. between 1938 and 1941 and France between 1997 and 2001 dropped one percent in unemployment for each hour they cut from the workweek.]
Huge public deficits are running afoul of the pact that Germany itself forced on euro-zone members.
[What's that old saw about slamming in others the faults we most fear in ourselves?]
Consumers and investors lack confidence.
[Funny how how wealthy, job-secure commentators always blow this one. It should read:
Consumers lack money and/or job security and/or actual jobs, and investors lack a stable, let alone growing, consumer base.]
The reasons for the problems are no mystery:
[If they're really "no mystery," why haven't we mentioned the four major ones on this list? -]
[The prevailing wisdom forbids they mention the 'elephants in the room' -
- a lavish welfare system, which the state can no longer afford,
- and high labor costs, which send businesses elsewhere.
The Germans know all that full well,
- technological innovation, which constantly introduced not to give employees more money and time to shop, but to downsize the workforce and with it, the markets for the products & services of said technological innovation
- an overlong workweek in a highly automated and robotized agricultural, manufacturing and services context - the overlong workweek allows technology-shrunken employment to bunch up on fewer employees, thus throwing more employees onto unemployment and welfare, reducing income taxes, boosting tax outlays, and creating a downward pressure on wages from all the surplussed employees willing to do your job for less
- an unprecedented commitment on the part of the elite to letting companies access consumer markets regardless of how little they support them with employment - this radical, extremist, unsustainable and in fact, self-destructive commitment is variously called "free trade" or "globalization" or "outsourcing" or "offshoring"
- taxing efficient centrifugation of the national income via high sales and value-added taxes instead of taxing inefficient concentration of the national income via high income, estate, and corporate taxes - they already are high, you say? - they need to be higher - high enough to compensate for the repeal of all VATs and sales taxes - disincentivizing, you say? - they need to disincentivize inefficient concentration of the national income, because when you're moving toward 1% of the population having 99% of the national income (and 99.9% of the wealth), you're becoming a Third World nation]
[No they don't. They don't know why it's called "reform" when the majority of Germans have to lower their living standards so a few thousand CEOs can approximate American and British CEO multiples of their incomes.]
just as they know that they need to make deep and painful changes if they are to turn things around and resume that economic miracle of which they used to be so proud.
[The only people who need to make deep changes are the few thousand German CEOs, who have sooo much that the changes will hardly be "painful," though in typical "princess and the pea" style, they will doubtless squeal like piglets over each pfennig "forced" out of their insulated and isolated hides. But if they don't like it, they can leave - and Germany can get along better with one less, prosperity-undermining hoarder.]
The trouble is that they are not willing to accept the consequences.
[No, the trouble is that those who have the most are always figuring out how everyone ELSE has to "make deep and painful changes" while they just have to make room for more acquisition. The trouble is the Chesterton Pan-Utopian Flaw = the assumption, on the part of the happytalkers among the affluent elite, to focus on the greatest problem of mankind; namely, the assumption that no one will want more than his or her share, or behind that, that everyone will automatically know what his or her share is, even within a general range. At our stage of social evolution, the share-range we need to define is the range of natural working hours per person per week that is appropriate to our level of advanced, productive technology. We need to define this on a dynamic, not static, basis. The Timesizing full-employment program does this, in a democratic and market-oriented way. And the trouble is the betrayal of the labor movement by its now-wealthy union and political leaders: like "Democratic" leaders in the US, Tony Blair of the "Labor" Party in the UK, and Gerhard Schroeder of the "Social" Democrats in Deutschland -]
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has had to pay a heavy political price even for the meek and woefully inadequate welfare, labor and tax "reforms" [our quotes] he has attempted.
[As well he should, having like Blair and Clinton betrayed his base.]
A quarterly charge of 10 euros for healthcare was enough to create a major furor.
[Why shouldn't it, during a period when the rich have gotten wastefully richer?! Why should those who have most get more and those who have least get less - especially when that undermines the sustainability of what those who have most already have, since it undermines the consumer base. They don't call it the consumer base for nothing. All the other markets rest on it - the job markets, the industrial markets and the financial markets. The wealthy seem to think it's all about them and the financial markets. They are in the process of getting a sobering correction of this myth all over the world, since they don't seem to have learned a thing from the last time they got this lesson in 1929.]
"Social" Democrats [our quotes] got a drubbing in local elections in Hamburg on Sunday, and Mr. Schroeder's own standing in the party is so low that he had to give up the party leadership.
[Gott sei gedankt! Thank God! because he, like Blair and Clinton, and to a lesser extent Jospin in France, betrayed his base.]
The chancellor plans to make a major speech to the nation on March 25. It's a good opportunity for him to try to persuade his countrymen of the immediate and urgent need for a thorough overhaul of the entire economic apparatus, including the antiquated system of centralized wage-bargaining,
[It doesn't need a complete overhaul. It just needs a shorter-workweek-mediated deconcentration of employment and income, together with overtime-to-training&hiring conversion to provide the necessary skills. Doing away with money-centrifuging mechanisms, such as very powerful and modern centralized wage-bargaining, would only further clobber domestic consumer demand and sink the economy further faster.]
the byzantine tax system and the bloated budget.
[We don't know the details of Germany's tax system and budget, but most developed economies devote 70-80% of their government to direct and indirect job creation and compensating for the woeful inadequacy of that strenuous goosechase. If they slowly adjusted the standard workweek down to where it should be for our levels of advanced technology, it would be so much easier for everyone to earn a good living that 70-80% of government could be incrementally and safely dismantled, meaning a smaller budget and tax burden. When you apply the balancing regulation strongly and efficiently at one point that happens to be the center, you don't need to run around applying it weakly and ineffectually at many points elsewhere. And the center of the economy in the age of robotics is worktime per person per week, which has been frozen in every single developed economy except France for over 60 years, and which needs to be thawed and designed to adjust automatically to the rising level of worksaving technology as mediated by the unemployment rate comprehensively defined.]
A bold wave of "reform" would remind Germans that they have not lost the capacity for the hard work, innovation and sacrifice that created the postwar miracle.
[What primitive pre-industrial nonsense! The postwar miracle was created by the acute labor shortage in Germany, which raised wages and centrifuged the national income like gangbusters, moving the deutschmarks out of the vaults of the wealthy and into the hands of consumers, who immediately went out and bought bread and wine and other desirables. The slowly, steadily, firmly rising consumer demand floated all boats, even integrating, firming and securifying the position of the wealthy. The only thing "bold" about making the middle class sacrifice instead of making the rich hoard a little less is its breathtaking stupidity and unsustainability. And for the NY Times to be still yapping about "hard work" in the year 2004 while the robots, the true masters of working hard, not smart, are marching in everywhere, is nothing short of mindless. The fact that we're currently so far down the death spiral of "let's see you unionize these robots" vs. "let's see you sell them cars" and the Times doesn't "get it" is brain-boggling. The Times editor apparently sees no contradiction whatsoever between innovation and hard work. What the heck do they think is the whole purpose of innovation if not to make life easier for everyone, to give everyone more time and money to enjoy themselves and make life even easier and better for everyone. The only alternative is that the Times assumes that innovation merely purposes to enrich the rich with even more unnecessary riches, regardless of the deepening miseries of most of humanity. Dumb dumb dumb. And of course, the Times continuing yammer about sacrifice - for everyone but those whom it would damage least = the top income brackets. Pathetic. Where are their design skills? Where is their better vision of the future for everyone? Any two-bit Third World dictatorship can make things more luxurious for the few regardless of misery outside the gated communities. Times editor, where's the beef? The NY Times, "the world's newspaper of record," has proved itself to be bankrupt of ideas. Well, we have ideas and we have the beef and it is Timesizing. See our letter in the item below for our latest attempt to penetrate the NY Times' thick skull of obsolete "work hard, nevermind smart" thinking.]
- A waiter's job: At least it's staying here, letter to editor by Stephen Burns of Madison WI, NYT, A26.
...We can bemoan the fact that our economy is producing more waiter and cashier jobs than high-wage manufacturing and IT jobs, but wouldn't it be more productive to take steps to ensure that all jobs, even the "wrong" jobs, provide a decent standard of living?
[Yes, it would, but unfortunately Stephen's first recommendation would have a perverse effect (his second one, creating a national healthcare system, is fine)...]
Raising the minimum wage to a real "living wage"....would go a long way to improve the lives of millions of working people....
[Here's our letter to the editor in response -]
To the Editor:
In "A Waiter's Job: At Least It's Staying Here" (Letters, March 10), Stephen Burns advocates "raising the minimum wage to a real 'living wage'." Aside from the difficulty of defining a "real 'living wage' " for different parts of the country and for different lifestyles, minimum wage laws create a gap at the bottom of the wage ladder against new entrants to the job market and the unskilled.
The alternative is to reverse the surplus/shortage imbalance between jobs and jobseekers so that jobseekers are in short supply, not jobs. Then market forces would flexibly raise wages without widening the gap in the wage ladder.
This alternative can be implemented by resuming the process of reducing our standard workweek by two hours a year that we discontinued in 1940 at the 40-hour level despite our subsequent 64 years of work-saving technology. When bottom wage levels generally begin to exceed the minimum wage, we can repeal our market-distorting minimum wage legislation and safely dismantle much of our government job-creation, unemployment-insurance and welfare programs.
In 1938-41, we achieved a one percent drop in joblessness for each of the four hours we cut from the workweek. France achieved the same in 1997-2001. South Korea is going to try it this July.
Economists have been time-blind for too long. Worktime per person is not only a significant variable and a control variable, but it is THE control variable at our levels of advanced work-saving technology.
Philip Hyde III
Timesizing.com, a conservative thinktank in Cambridge, Mass.
PO Box 380117, Harvard Sq, Cambridge MA 02238
3/06-08/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/05-07 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #3 which is from the 3/06-08 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Return of the 40-hour week, Deutsche Welle [Germany].
[And soon thereafter, return of deep economic depression to Deutschland as CEOs gut their optimized domestic consumer base and clobber effective consumer demand, and all the markets that rest thereon.]
Following the lead of carmaker DaimlerChrysler, several large German companies are investigating allowing highly skilled employers to work longer than the standard 35-hour week. According to a poll by German business daily Handelsblatt, engineering giant Siemens, automaker Porsche and other well-known names of German industry are considering lengthening the work week for employees in research and development departments to 40 hours.
DaimlerChrysler was the first to announce it will take advantage of last month's new collective wage agreement reached between employers and the powerful IG Metall engineering and metal workers union that allows for the extension of working hours for some employees if the company's workers' council agrees to it.
Before the latest agreement, the standard working week was set at 35 hours and no more than 18% of employees could work an additional five hours a week. The current agreement allows that percentage to go up to 50%, provided that more than half of the total number of employees at a location are "especially qualified" and earn on average €4,500 ($5,566) per month. The extended hours must be accompanied by compensatory wage increases.
In the town of Sindelfingen, near Stuttgart, DaimlerChrysler has its largest German facility, where some 10,000 of the 40,000 employees there work in development and production planning. DaimlerChrysler management has said it will apply for all of these highly skilled employers to add an extra five hours to their weekly time cards. The local worker's council has said it will agree to the request.
During the wage agreement talks last month, employers and the IG Metall union said the new rules would help secure existing jobs and create new ones.
Unions are showing more flexibility in labor agreements in the face of high unemployment. The jobless rate in Germany rose dramatically in February to a seasonally adjusted rate of 10.3%. Economists have welcomed the new agreement, saying it will improve the competitiveness of German companies.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Siemens is currently holding talks with its workers' council, hoping to follow Daimler's lead. The introduction of the 40-hour week will be decided at each plant location, as appropriate, according to a company spokesperson. No decisions have
yet been reached.
Porsche has said it wants to extend the working week for 3,000 of its employees in its development center and plans on starting talks with its employees' councils in the near future. Company head Wendelin Wiedeking is expected to introduce a fourth series to the Porsche family, and a longer week would help with increased development needs.
[Porsche won't need to development anything if it has No Markets, and the more it loads the vanishing employment and concentrating pay on fewer people, the closer it will bring itself to No Markets.]
Other companies related to the auto industry, have expressed interest in the expanded hours. Tire maker Continental and electronics company Bosch, both subcontractors to the auto industry, are considering asking some workers to put in more hours.
Some Bosch employees at research and development locations already work a longer week, thanks to a special agreement the company hammered out with IG Metall in 2002. A company spokesman said it will now look at extending workers' hours at other sites.
- Work harder for less - Part-timers seek some respect; unions step up, by Akemi Nakamura, Japan Times.
Longtime part-time employee Yasue Kitamura found her job becoming more worthwhile after being assigned responsibility for the Calvin Klein bedroom items corner at Takashimaya Co.'s Nihonbashi flagship department store five years ago. But while she enjoys instructing junior part-time sales staff and giving advice on product selection, the 54-year-old is dissatisfied with the gaps in the working conditions between part-timers and full-timers. "I've got to cope with increased workload and heavier responsibility, but (the situations) have not been reflected in my salary," she said.
Kitamura works 6½ hours a day. She has worked for the store in Tokyo since 1981. Her hourly wage is 1,025 yen per hour, or around 150,000 yen a month. Although her wage cannot be directly compared with the monthly salary of a full-time employee due to differences in their working hours and positions, full-time employees make more than double this amount each month. For example, the average monthly salary of a 42.3-year-old full-time employee is around 411,000 yen, according to the Takashimaya Labor Union.
Other working conditions are also inferior to those of regular workers. Annual bonuses for part-time staff are fixed at an amount equal to two months' salary. They do not receive a retirement allowance and they have poor welfare programs.
To improve their conditions, an increasing number of part-time workers, mostly women like Kitamura, have joined unions in recent years. And as this year's annual spring wage negotiations move into full swing, these part-timers are hoping their demands will be reflected in the talks. "For those part-timers who want to make a bigger commitment to their jobs, joining a labor union is a way to get better benefits from companies," said Akira Wakisaka, an economics professor at Gakushuin University.
As of the end of last June, the number of unionized part-time workers grew by 38,000 from a year earlier to 331,000, accounting for 3% of such employees, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
The Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), a major union federation, has made unionizing and improving part-timers' working conditions one of the major goals of its spring wage talks. As more part-timers engage in core job, upgrading their conditions has become increasingly important.
Since the 1990s, many companies have replaced full-time workers with part-timers to reduce operating costs. The number of part-timers reached 9.69 million in 2003, up 50% from 1997, while the number of full-timers dropped 5 percent to 33.21 million, according to the labor ministry.
Unions are also trying to woo part-timers. Unions that have suffered a decline in their ranks see the growing number of part-timers as a chance to boost membership and regain their influence.
As of the end of June, unionized workers made up 19.6% of the nation's workforce, the lowest level in the postwar period.
The Takashimaya Labor Union is a successful example. It organized part-timers in 1995 by setting up a system that automatically makes those who have worked at the company for at least a year union members. The union now has about 5,000 part-timers, accounting for 37% of the 13,500-member union. The rate was 26% in 1995.
Akio Hayashida, deputy chairman of the union, plans to go to bat for part-timers in this spring's negotiations, which start March 20. He said the union will demand that management improve part-timers' wages and other conditions, including establishment of a system to allow them to temporarily leave their jobs for child-rearing and elderly nursing care.
Part-timers have already seen some success through their union activities. "We now get the same discount rates that full-timers have when we purchase goods at Takashimaya stores, and we can use contracted recreation facilities at lower costs," Kitamura said. "I've also become more interested in corporate management" through union meetings.
But part-timers still haven't received what they really want. "Our wages haven't been raised" very much, Kitamura said. "I want to become a full-time worker, but there is no system to make it possible" at Takashimaya.
Hayashida said it is difficult to achieve a result that will satisfy all part-timers. Some want challenging jobs and higher wages, while others want to keep their work hours short and limit their wage levels to get preferential tax and social insurance treatment.
Spouses of salaried workers do not have to pay income tax if they earn less than 1.03 million yen annually. Those who earn less than 1.3 million yen per year do not have to pay social insurance premiums.
Gakushuin University's Wakisaka said labor unions and employers should introduce a system to treat part-timers more fairly.
"Such a system would motivate the part-timers to work hard, which would make companies more competitive," he said. To increase productivity, "full-time workers can also share information useful for their business with part-timers."
Some companies in the retail industry, which relies heavily on part-timers, have already started working to improve their situation to bring it more in line with full-time employees. Last month, Aeon Co., a major retailer that operates the Jusco and Maxvalu supermarket chains nationwide, introduced a new promotion and salary system that applies to both groups. Roughly 80% of the firm's workers are part-timers. Under the system, part-timers can be promoted to managers in charge of operations of small and midsize stores. However, they are required to work the same hours as regular employees, said an official of the Aeon Labor Union, which has about 14,000 members. Such part-timers working full-time hours are paid a salary close to that of regular full-time staff, he said. "We plan to unionize 3,000 to 5,000 part-timers at higher positions by August to increase our influence," he added.
- Firms told not to ease on temps, Korea Herald.
SOUTH KOREA - The Korea Employers Federation advised companies yesterday to reject equal treatment of part-time or contract workers.
In guidelines released for collective bargaining, the federation also recommended a reduction of paid leave when a 40-hour workweek goes into effect at member companies.
The recommendations, which run counter to labor unions' demands, suggest major confrontations may occur between employers and unions in upcoming collective bargaining at many companies this year. Labor unions want companies to seek employee consent before hiring part-time or contract workers. They also want full-time and non-regular workers to be treated equally and they demand non-regular workers be changed to full-time status after a certain time period. All of these demands should
be refused, said the federation. "The hiring and managing of employees are not subject to collective bargaining," the federation said.
The country's two leading umbrella labor organizations, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, have demanded that local companies improve working conditions for part-time or contract employees.
According to government statistics, 51.7% of Korea's 14.18 million wage earners were non-regular workers, including temporary and part-time employees. Companies have relied more on irregular workers in recent years to give themselves more flexibility in hiring and firing.
When local companies adopt a five-day workweek, the federation said, companies should abolish paid monthly leaves and cut the number of annual leaves. It also advised companies to put a ceiling on overtime work and reduce overtime premiums, while adopting a flexible working hour system.
The employers organization also recommended companies to react to illegal strikes by labor unions by seeking damages.
3/05/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/04 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- 3/06 When less means more, by Emma-Kate Symons, The Australian.
Seachange, the television drama about a woman who quits the big city for the more leisurely pace of life in a small coastal town, fired the Australian imagination. Its title became a byword for that small, envied group who were eschewing lucrative commercial careers and conventional middle-class mores for meaningful work and relationships, and a relaxed, if leaner, lifestyle.
But the fiction wasn't all fantasy. When the Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton first tracked what he called the "downshifting" phenomenon in a 2003 study, Getting a Life, based on a national survey of 981 people by Newspoll, the results were startling.
23% said they had downshifted in the past 10 years - and that excluded women on maternity leave, those who set up their own businesses and individuals who left work to study.
Could nearly one-quarter of the adult population in a nation of aspirational voters really be dropping out of the rat-race? With crippling mortgages and the rising cost of health, education and childcare, how could so many people afford a sea change? And in a society that rewards long working hours and celebrates consumerism, why would people voluntarily reduce their income and spending?
The downshifting figures were reflective of similar surveys in Britain and US, says the Australia Institute's Christie Breakspear. But the use of the term downshifting in the 2003 study was misleading.
Downshifting implied a counter-cultural, drop-out mentality more in tune with the swinging '60s than the early 21st century. And despite the Seachange stereotype, about 80% stayed exactly where they were - they just changed their lives. Those who did move were young and often single.
"The survey raised as many questions as it answered," Hamilton says. Yes, we knew downshifters most commonly chose to cut back on their working hours. Stopping paid work altogether, switching careers and changing to a lower-paying job were also popular options.
But why and how were people downshifting? Did their family and friends react positively? And how did they cope with belt-tightening and perceived loss of status?
Now, in new qualitative research obtained by Inquirer, the Australia Institute has provided a fascinating insight into what is shaping up as a significant social phenomenon, with growing political ramifications. Through focus groups and 20 case studies, the institute has found most downshifters are not tuning in, turning off and dropping out. They are "living in society in a new way" by taking on new jobs, pursuing their creative passions, and spending more time with family and friends or on travel and personal projects.
And they are enjoying it - despite reduced income, the perception among some that they are selfish or bailing out, and changed relationships with former friends and peers. "I think that because of the changes I have gone through I live more consciously and I believe that this will help with my transition into living with less money," says Daniel Besley...a former banker who has returned to study after working with a non-government organisation. "I have thought a lot about marketing and consumerism, and I am now more conscious of the effect that these have on me. This, in turn, has affected my politics."
Adam Foster, a former accountant and self-employed businessman, still works long hours in his senior role with a children's protection body. He doesn't have more time to spend with his daughter, Jaz, 3, although he says he probably has gained time because he doesn't see live music two or three nights a week and therefore needs less "down time from carrying hangovers".
"But the shift is qualitative. I'm a better person to be around in the time that I'm with my family because I'm happier in my personal and work life," he says.
The most common reason cited for the downshift was to carve out a more balanced life - that is, less stress and more time with family and friends. Others had a desire to align their personal values more closely with work. "Many react against managerial pressures, unbridled profit-seeking and devoting their energy to something they do not believe in," says Hamilton. The quest for a more fulfilling life and ill-health were the other motivating factors.
The institute looked at the experiences of former lawyers, a senior manager, a public servant, social worker, policy adviser, statistician, medical professional and banker.
Hamilton concedes his 20 case studies, with their higher than average educational attainment and professional jobs, are in some ways atypical. But he says exploring the downshifting phenomenon can reveal a lot about how Australian society is changing. "At one level downshifting represents a challenge to materialism, money-hunger and relentless pressure to succeed in socially sanctioned ways that many see intensifying in Australian society," he says.
Even if the proportion of Australians who downshift remains static, the underlying causes are making some political leaders take notice. Because it's not only downshifters who are aware of the toll punishing working hours can take on health and relationships.
One of the few politicians to express an interest is Lindsay Tanner, federal Labor's communications and community relationships spokesman. Like Hamilton and the Australia Institute, Tanner is intrigued by our prosperous nation's affliction with what is sometimes called affluence fatigue.
Despite enjoying income levels at three times what they were a half-century ago, and living in houses that are twice the size (with families half the size), Tanner says we are like mice on a treadmill. "We may be producing and consuming more, but we are also crowding the parts of our lives which matter most to us, our relationships with others," Tanner wrote in his book Crowded Lives, published last November. "Many Australians are crying out for greater balance in their lives as a result."
One interviewee in the institute's focus group proves Tanner's point. A young man who worked up to 14 hours a day in a large financial corporation told how he began crying at a work meeting because he had not once seen his child awake in the 10 months since the birth.
There is a caveat. Most people will not be in the position to be able to accumulate a surplus in their highly intense work period, then shift down and live off that surplus. "If you spoke to the average train driver, I doubt whether too many of them are contemplating leaving train driving and going off and working for Greenpeace," Tanner says.
He believes government can play a role in alleviating some of the strains that have led to downshifting. "We need to create a society where people do have the choice to shift down without having to drop out," Tanner says. "Most people don't want a dramatic reduction in living standards or income. People want some control over how much work dominates their lives. "Or just because it suits the boss for me to be working 70 hours a week doesn't mean that's what has to happen."
- 3/06 Insurance sector unlikely to follow new working hours, by Samir Salama, Gulf News, United Arab Emirates.
DUBAI - An April 1 deadline set by the Ministry of Economy & Commerce to enforce new working hours for the insurance sector is unlikely to come into effect.
Under a circular issued by the ministry to insurance firms last week, the sector will work in straight shifts from 8am to 4pm. A two-day weekend has also been introduced on Friday and Saturday.
The Emirates Insurance Association will seek Rulers' intervention to safeguard the industry, according to a top industry spokesman. "The new working hours for insurance companies fall short of our demands. As this will undermine the whole industry, we will seek help of economic departments in all emirates," said Juma Saif Rashid bin Bakhit, Chairman of Emirates Insurance Association.
The ministry initially designated Thursday and Friday as the holidays and the working hours from 7.30am to 3.30pm, but this was met by strong opposition from the association and companies. "Working hours should be left to the directors of each company to decide, while the ministry is responsible for ensuring that insurance companies do not violate investment regulations.
[Dandy in theory, but disastrous in practice, as more automation is responded to with downsizing instead of timesizing. And the inconvenient thing about downsizing your workforce is that you downsize your customers' customers.]
"The five-day work week and eight-hour straight shift has been foisted on us without consultation. We are meant to be living in a free economy, but these rules make me think it is not at all free but controlled," bin Bakhit said.
["Meant" by whom, bin Bakhrit? And where's the "free economy" if you don't have enough employment and consumer demand to sustain that economy? This is a discipline that the free market imposes on you for its own survival. Games always have rules, and if you want no rules, you want no game. A single powerful generalized central rule is much better than a burgeoning horde of stifling detailed controls. And making it easier for everyone to support themselves makes it possible to dismantle the 80% of government that is makework, and that saves a lot of taxes and social turmoil.]
The sweeping changes are meant to revolutionise working conditions in insurance companies so that they become a more attractive option for the UAE national jobseekers. Speaking in his personal capacity, Bin Bakhit, however, said the new rules will damage companies by making them less competitive, and different working hours would only mean limited contact with insurance and reinsurance partners abroad. He also believed that staff who apply after the imposition of better conditions are less likely to be dedicated to their careers.
Bin Bakhit welcomed the Friday and Saturday weekend, but said the eight-hour straight shift could be disastrous for the country's insurance sector because the firms are linked to traffic departments which work on the basis of two shifts with the second shift starting from 6pm to 9pm. He rejected the concept of a two-day weekend and said it would mean only minimal contact with insurance partners elsewhere in the world, especially in the UK and Europe. "This could affect airlines because if any of our members fail to provide adequate insurance cover the loss will be very great. Does the ministry want the UAE economy to be a free one or a controlled one? A free economy means that the ministry does not intervene in these matters."
He felt officials of the ministry should understand that their role should be one of the supervisor and controller and not administrative. "Our companies have their own board of directors which should determine their working hours in accordance with their needs."
Millon Landers, a manager of an insurance company, said: "I think it would be very healthy for the employees to have eight hours working day with two-day weekend. To those who are against this because of shorter contact with the European market, I ask how do insurance companies in Japan and Hong Kong communicate with them? "Japan is nine hours before London time and Hong Kong is seven hours before! But the bulk of their risks are placed in the European market."
Bassam Ghalayini, an underwriter of an insurance company, who welcomed the proposed changes, said his company along with certain others are working five-day week and a straight shift from 8am to 5pm with a half an hour break for lunch. "The new working hours and two-day weekend will be a boost for both the employees and the insurance companies," he said.
- 3/06 There's more welfare to reform - A landmark law is in need of serious updating, op ed by Prof. Douglas Besharov of U.Maryland Public Affairs, NYT, A27.
When the landmark 1996 welfare reform law came up for reauthorization in 2002, easy approval was expected. After all, the legislation was popular; it had originally passed with significant bipartisan support; and...it was working, with the number of people on welfare down an astonishing 60% since states started putting reforms in place.
[Incomplete data. By what percentages were disability, homelessness and suicide UP during that period?]
But instead of sailing through Congress, the reauthorization effort became trapped in a political tug of war between Republicans, who wanted tougher work requirements..., and Democrats, who wanted increased federal money for child care. [So] Congress has simply extended [the legislation] several times.... [But I believe] the legislation needs to be updated.
[No kidding, considering that Congress has created an unprecedented jobless "recovery" by failing to reduce the workweek in step with rising levels of highy productive technology, and by failing even to mitigate the problem in the usual way with massive makework programs like the Federal Highways Program and the GI Bill funded by a steeply graduated income tax. On the contrary, Congress has gone along with the administration's dysfunctional, astronomical concentration of the national income via taxcuts for the rich and dismantling of the estate tax, and further clobbered the availability of entry or re-entry -level jobs by pursuing a policy of unprecentedly high immigration numbers.]
Despite the law's success in getting people to join the workforce, roughly two million families remain on welfare [first figure we've seen on this - and note this is multiperson families, meaning at least twice that many individuals on welfare (est.4m) - cmpare our 2.2m Americans in jails and prisons], many headed by single mothers who are unable to get - or keep - a job because of limited education and skills.
[Well, now with "the growth of technical skills in India and cheap, fast communications" pushing outsourcing into offshoring, no amount of education or skills in any field guarantees a job, as pointed out by Steven Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, in "New IBM jobs can mean fewer jobs elsewhere," 3/08/2004 WSJ, B1. As job counsellor Robyn White of Richmond VA asked two days ago in "American jobs, Indian jobs and the global economy," 3/04/2004 NYT, A30, "What field should I tell unemployed Americans to train for now?"]
The Bush administration's reauthorization proposal focused on these [single] mothers. Because few states had made a concerted effort to move them into program[ed activitie]s that build specific job skills,
[gee, wonder what specific skills they had in mind...]
the administration called for states to adopt tougher work and training requirements. Under the proposal, states would have to put 70% of their adults in these designated activities for 40 hours a week [instead of previous 30 hours a week].
[ "The doctors of the law and the Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses; therefore do what they tell you; pay attention to their words. But do not follow their practice; for they say one thing and do another. They make up heavy packs and pile them on men's [and women's!] shoulders, but will not raise a finger to lift the load themselves." Matt.23:2-4, New English Bible.]
The administration's proposal was not quite as tough as it seemed. It had a number of participation exemptions.
What's more, as the bill moved through the legislative process, it was watered down in order to win support from moderates on both sides of the aisle. But the administration was reluctant to broadcast the legislation's softer side - doing so might undermine its pro-work rhetoric. That silence played into the hands of Democrats. If the Republicans wanted welfare mothers to work more, they argued, there should be a parallel increases in childcare financing.
The Democrats had a point. But their demand for as much as $10B in additional childcare aid went far beyond the needs of welfare families [and] would have covered families that had never been on welfare - and were in no danger of needing it. Over time, the Democrats lowered their demands; at this point, they would probably settle for about $6B over 5 years, which is still more than what is needed to carry out the administration's plan.
For the past two years, the administration has rejected such large spending increases and, given the criticism pResident Bush is receiving for the growing federal deficit, it seems unlikely that he will give the Democrats what they want. The Democrats' position likewise seems to be hardening. They are now talking about waiting for a President John Kerry to reauthorize welfare reform. The stalemate is doubly painful because there are clear grounds for compromise....
States have to be encouraged to address the needs of the hardest-to-employ welfare recipients [by providing jobs? no -] by toughening participation requirements [meaning??].
- Another year's wait would keep the states at 2002 financing levels, something that has so far cost them $400m.
- Further delay would also forestall desperately needed changes to the legislation.
[How exactly does "toughening requirements" address the needs of the hardest-to-employ?]
Judging by the experience of the states that have had the most success moving these [single] mothers into employment, we should require [only] 50% of a state's welfare recipients to spend [only] 24 hours a week in required activities - perhaps 32 hours a week for mothers with no children under the age of 6. States should be given greater flexibility in how they reach this level, so long as at least 10% of their welfare recipients are in mandatory community service or on-the-job training [OJT] programs.
[Who defines the community service and where does the OJT come from?]
(A separate exemption of up to 15% would be needed for the disabled.)
To cover additional childcare and administrative costs, a formula should be established that ties payments to the states to increases in participation.
[Isn't this sort of like the IMF and the World Bank development programs, which have had a kind of Typhoid Mary effect on the Third World?]
The question of whether there should be more federal aid for childcare should be reviewed on its own merits, not under the guise of welfare reform.
This kind of bipartisan compromise is never easy in an election season. But 2 million American families are still trapped on welfare. Can we really afford to wait another year?
[Afford or not, wait we will.]
- [The 'campaign against the future' moves to little Malta -]
3/05 Working time directive 'could lead to job losses', Valetta Times [Malta].
MALTA - Removing the opt-out clause from the EU's Working Time Directive would reduce the flexibility of Malta's labour market and could result in job losses, Parliamentary Secy. Francis Agius told the European Union's EPSCO council in Brussels yesterday.
The directive deals with the average working hours that, according to EU legislation, employees in the EU are allowed to work. The directive, however, allows countries to opt out.
Representing Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Dr Agius said Malta had expressed its concern on the implementation of the Working Time Directive during negotiations because of problems of compliance with certain provisions. The government had asked for a special arrangement while negotiations were in progress on the premise that sectors such as manufacturing would suffer.
The Working Time Directive was said to reduce the flexibility of the labour market if not properly implemented. "Malta restricted its request for this arrangement to the manufacturing sector, which was identified as the most vulnerable sector," Dr Agius said.
No derogation had been given but the government had revised its original request because of the existence of the opt-out clause. Dr Agius said the possible removal of the opt-out clause has therefore renewed Malta's concern because this would have serious effects on the manufacturing sector and other sectors of the Maltese economy.
"Malta's health sector has also expressed its serious concern at the possible removal of the opt-out clause of the directive. Specialist health care resources are very limited due to the small number of specialist doctors and are also a relatively expensive resource to train and retain and the health authorities reported that it would have problems to guarantee current levels service in the short and medium-term if the opt-out clause were to be removed."
[The battle for lower worktime-per-person limits is the battle against slavery of the 21st century.]
- 3/07 Porsche, Siemens consider 40-hour work week, Handelsblatt says, Bloomberg.com.
[This article paralleled tomorrow in WSJ: "German firms consider extended work week," 3/09/2004 WSJ, A14).]
Porsche AG, Siemens AG and other German industrial companies may lengthen the workweek for some employees to 40 hours from 35 hours, affecting tens of thousands of workers, Handelsblatt said, citing a survey of companies.
[Great, right when highly productive technology is more ubiquitous than ever. These morons seem intent on concentrating the vanishing employment, disemploying and offshoring their consumer base, and ruining themselves.]
Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG may extend working hours under an agreement reached last month with the IG Metall labor union, the paper reported. DaimlerChrysler AG was the first company to say it will reinstate a 40-hour week for more than 10,000 employees in development and planning departments at its Sindelfingen, Germany plant.
Carmakers need the most flexibility in working hours from construction and development employees, who stand to receive compensatory wages for longer hours, the paper said.
[Carmakers most need markets, and piling more of the shrinking non-yet-automated employment on fewer humans is not going to provide those markets. Recall Henry Ford: "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - Walter Reuther: "Let's see you sell them cars."]
Porsche will start talks with its works council to expand the workweek for about 3,000 employees in its development center, the paper said, citing an unidentified spokesman.
Siemens is negotiating with worker representatives and expects decisions about longer hours to be made at individual plants, a spokeswoman told Handelsblatt. Tiremaker Continental AG is negotiating with the IG BCE union for mining, chemicals and energy workers to increase weekly hours to 40 from 37.5 without a wage increase, the paper said.
- 3/08 Shifting gears - Workers wonder how they'll be affected by new overtime rules, by Andrea Ahles, [Fort Worth] Star-Telegram.
Arlington dental hygienist Nancy Manion Blinn hasn't paid much attention to the debate surrounding the Labor Dept.'s proposed changes to overtime rules because it is unclear how it might affect her profession. Like most dental hygienists, Blinn is paid a daily rate and not necessarily an hourly rate. Currently, she splits her work week between a local pediatric dentist and Children's Medical Center of Dallas. "If I decided to come into [the medical center] five days a week, it would definitely be an issue," because she would most likely switch to an hourly rate and a 40-hour work week, she said.
How the first major revision of overtime rules since 1938 will affect millions of American workers is a question as the Labor Dept. plans to finalize the rules by the end of March. Will millions of U.S. workers benefit, or will they lose the right to make some extra cash when they work more than 40 hours in a week?
Supporters of the Bush administration's plan say the rules needed to be clarified. Opponents say the Labor Dept. is stripping many U.S. workers of their overtime benefits.
As the Labor Dept. gets closer to issuing its final rule changes, employee advocates are working to stop the
implementation of the new rules. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, offered an amendment last week that would block the Bush administration from carrying out the changes even if the Labor Dept. issues its final overtime rules before the amendment is enacted into law. "The administration's new rules are a frontal attack on the 40-hour workweek, and they must be stopped," Harkin said in a statement.
Currently, federal law requires employers to pay eligible employees 1.5 times their hourly pay for every hour they work over 40 hours in a week. That law, part of the Fair Labors Standards Act of 1938, will not change. However, guidelines for eligibility for overtime rights will change with the Labor Dept.'s proposals.
Firefighters, police, nurses and military veterans have expressed concern that employers will use the new rules to exempt workers from overtime. But the Labor Dept. says the proposed rules should not affect those occupations. The new rules apply to white-collar workers only, and not to blue-collar workers - such as those in production, construciton and similar industries or occupations covered by collective bargaining aggreements - which are covered by a different set of federal regulations.
The Dept. says that the confusion that surrounds the existing overtime rules makes clarification necessary. In the past few years, several lawsuits have been filed against employers for not paying overtime to workers who were inappropriately exempted. Fort Worth-based RadioShack settled a case in California in 2002, paying $29.9 million to about 1,300 store managers who should have received overtime. And 2,400 California claims adjusters won more than $90 million from Farmers Insurance in 2001 for overtime pay.
Under the proposed rules, salaried workers who make $22,100 a year or less automatically qualify for overtime benefits, up from the previous salary minimum of $8,060. Both sides of the debate agree that this change will help low-income workers, and the Labor Dept. says 1.3 million workers will now qualify with this change. "The proposed rule is a good step in the right direction toward simplifying and clarifying a 50-year-old regulation that is written in terms that are hard for workers and for employers to understand what their obligations and rights really are," said Ron Bird, chief economist at the Employment Policy Foundation.
The new rules also establish a maximum salary threshold of $65,000, which would exempt most white-collar workers at that salary level from overtime benefits. And the rules also revise the definitions of "duties" that employers can use to exempt workers who earn salaries between $22,100 and $65,000 from overtime benefits.
For example, under the proposal, an exempt executive employee would have to manage the business, direct the work of two or more employees and have the authority to hire and fire employees.
To be classified as exempt from overtime benefits, an employee must meet the salary and the duties test, the Labor Dept. says. Employers cannot arbitrarily decide which workers qualify for overtime and which do not.
One of the classifications that the Labor Dept. may change is for "learned professional" employees. Currently, a worker can be classified as a learned professional if his job requires specialized knowledge that the worker obtained through a specific academic degree program, such as an electrical engineering degree.
The proposed changes say workers can obtain that knowledge through work experience or additional job training and do not necessarily need a college degree to be considered exempt.
These changes could cost paralegals, like Fort Worth resident Julie Sherman, the overtime pay that they receive when law firms are involved in time-consuming trials. Sherman, who works for a Fort Worth law firm, said she has worked as both a salaried paralegal and as an hourly employee in her current position. Although she enjoys earning the extra income, she said she preferred being salaried. As a single parent, Sherman said, she sometimes needs to take time off during the day for medical appointments or school activities and worries about making up those lost hours. "The additional pay is nice, but I will be the first to say that I like the flexibility of being a salaried professional," Sherman said. "As an hourly worker, I do feel like I punch a clock more."
Critics say the new "duties" definitions and the maximum salary limit will allow companies to assign exempt status to more hourly workers. The Employment Policy Institute estimates that 8 million U.S. workers will lose their overtime rights under these new definitions. "I expect that employers will reclassify their employees," said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president and policy director at EPI. "People on an hourly basis will be transferred to a salary basis and lose their right to overtime and be required to work longer hours at no additional pay." EPI identified several professions that are likely to be negatively impacted by the rule changes including cooks, retail managers, funeral directors and dental hygienists, such as Blinn.
Labor Dept. officials caution that the proposed changes may or may not be part of the final rules, which will be issued after the Dept. sifts through more than 78,000 comments submitted in response to the proposals. "The Dept. continues to work on developing a final rule that is based on the comments we have received and the debate we have heard," Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said during a congressional hearing in January.
Highlights of proposed overtime changes
The Dept. of Labor is expected to announce changes to federal overtime rules this month. The Dept. released proposed rule changes last year that included these recommendations:
To be ruled exempt, an employee performing executive duties would have to manage the enterprise, direct the work of two or more employees and have the authority to hire and fire employees.
- # Raising the minimum salary requirement to $425 a week from the current level of $155 a week. Salaried workers who make $22,100 a year or less would automatically qualify for overtime benefits.
- # Instituting a maximum salary threshold of $65,000. This would exempt the majority of white-collar workers making $65,000 or more a year regardless of the job.
- # Broadening the definitions of duties for executive, administrative and professional employees that would allow employers to exempt them from overtime benefits.
For those performing administrative duties, the proposal would replace the "discretion and independent judgment" test with a new requirement that employees must hold a "position of responsibility."
For those performing professional duties, the proposal exempts "learned professionals" as employees who gain special training or skills either on the job, through military training or by attending technical school or community college.
Source: Dept. of Labor
How many people will be affected by the rule changes?
The Dept. of Labor says: 1.3 million low-wage workers would gain overtime protections, while only 644,000 paid hourly workers would lose overtime benefits under the proposed new definitions of duties.
The Economic Policy Institute says: 8 million white-collar workers would lose their overtime benefits under the proposed rule changes, and only 700,000 salaried, low-income workers would benefit.
3/06 Website of the Week - Downsizing, by Asst. Editor Trevor Jackson (email@example.com), British Medical Journal via BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. via ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
LONDON, U.K. - The internet is generally regarded as a democratic medium, a marketplace of information open to anyone with a mouse and a modem. It is surprising, then, that sites about the effects on health of organisational downsizing—the subject of a paper in this week's BMJ (p 555)—seem stacked more in employers' than in employees' favour. While there are several papers available online showing that downsizing can adversely affect health—search “the world's largest online library” (www.questia.com) or PubMed Central (www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/) for these—campaigning sites seem scarce. Instead, searching on www.google.com brings up links sponsored by companies offering occupational health services to businesses to help them, for example, reduce cost of sickness absence or “rehabilitate” stressed or absent employees (www.healthmanltd.com/ and www.matrix-ms.com/).
However, there are some interesting online initiatives. Timesizing.com is a US-based site that campaigns to downsize the working week rather than the workforce (www.timesizing.com). Its philosophy is that if hours are cut a little for everyone, everyone stays employed. It is an intriguing and impressively constructed site that claims to offer the world's first dotcom political party (the man behind the site stood to be a Massachusetts senator in 2000).
[Actually, the man behind the website stood against Ted Kennedy to be a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in 2000, possibly the first Canadian (dual) to run for U.S. Senate, having previously stood against Ted's nephew, Joe, to be a U.S. Representative from the Mass. 8th District in 1996 (possibly the first Canadian to run for U.S. Congress, House of Representatives) and in 1998 when Joe withdrew partway through the race with "Mr.Timesizing" as the major-party opponent and when "Mr.Timesizing" became the Lone Republican as ten Democrats jumped into the race to replace Joe.]
The Job Stress Network (www.workhealth.org/), the home page of the California-based Center for Social Epidemiology, brings together information about job strain and work stress, including downsizing.
General information about employees' health can be found on the sites of various associations of occupational health doctors, but few of these have anything specific on downsizing. However, the internet demonstrates how international an issue occupational health has become with countries linking up to share not only information but also web space. The Baltic Sea Network on Occupational Health and Safety (www.balticseaosh.net/index.shtml) is made up of the occupational health and safety institutions of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, north west Russia, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. While its site contains only two references to downsizing, it is an impressive collection of general occupational health resources, with a useful links page.
3/04/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/3 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- A new minister, a dysfunctional work force, by Murray Campbell, Toronto Globe & Mail, A11.
On the surface, it would seem that Christopher Bentley, Ontario's new Labour Minister, has the easiest gig in Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government.
[Ah, the wonderful old-country names of Canadian public life - "Dalton McGuinty."]
He arrives on the scene after 8 years in which Progressive Conservative labour ministers reviled and ignored union leaders and showed an indifference to the concerns of workers. It's a relatively easy act to follow, but his time in cabinet will not be a walk down a perfumed path.
Mr. Bentley is winning good reviews for reaching out to labour leaders and for pledging to dismantle some of the harshest Tory anti-labour laws, but he faces a difficult task in coming to terms with a work force in Ontario that is more stressed, disloyal, depressed and unhappy than in the rest of Canada. Wayne Samuelson, president of the powerful Ontario Federation of Labour [OFL], is happy with what he's seen so far of the new minister. The pair have met three times, and the OFL chief says Mr. Bentley is a refreshing change from the Conservative era. "The guy is clearly interested in building relationships, interested in what you have to say," Mr. Samuelson said.
It didn't hurt that one of the government's first moves was to raise the minimum wage by 30 cents an hour after eight years. Or that Mr. Bentley signalled he would scrap Conservative legislation that allows a 60-hour work week. He also wants to annul the law that requires employers to put up posters on how to decertify a union and to end the compulsory publication of labour leaders' salaries.
Despite these moves, however, there is a caution about the budding relationship. The minister is quick to say that while the Tories carried an anti-labour reputation he has no intention of following in the footsteps of the earlier New Democratic Party government, which often interpreted the portfolio as being "the minister for labour." He talks about restoring the balance in labour relations, which makes Mr. Samuelson uneasy because he believes it masks the fact that employers hold most of the cards.
The OFL president has relatively low expectations for Mr. Bentley's tenure at Labour. He believes, for example, that while the Tories brought labour-management relations to where they were in the 1950s, he would be surprised if Mr. Bentley gets them back to the 1970s. He seems resigned to getting half a loaf, which could work in Mr. Bentley's favour. For example, the OFL does not expect Liberals to bring back the NDP's anti-scab legislation, which is convenient for the minister because he has no plans to do so.
The likelihood of reasonably good relations with union leaders ought to allow Mr. Bentley some time to deal with the compelling discovery that Ontario's work force is the most dysfunctional in the country. A recent study by academics Linda Duxbury and Chris Higgins found that workers here feel shortchanged.
Compared with workers in other provinces, Ontarians are more likely to believe they have less flexibility at work and get fewer benefits. The result, when combined with long commutes and family responsibilities, is increased absenteeism, less corporate loyalty and higher rates of use of prescription drugs. Mr. Bentley said the study's results are a "huge concern" for him because they decrease productivity.
"We've been working harder and harder, trying to pack more into the day, get more out of ourselves either for more money or because employment demands it and that has consequences over time to society," he said.
Blaming the Tories won't work. The "culture of hours" that the researchers found to be flourishing in Ontario is self-imposed and people were commuting long distances before Mike Harris came to office. This week's move to allow workers eight weeks of unpaid family medical leave is a baby step, but at least it's in the right direction. Mr. Bentley needs, in addition, to persuade employers to become less reliant on overtime and to show that increasing workloads come at a cost.
Other ministers need to step in to encourage plans for healthier workers and more child-care options, but Mr. Bentley needs to take the ball and run with it. It's his work force, after all.
- New ergonomics research shows many extended-hours workers may be at unnecessary risk of injury - Ergonomic issues are different for the 24m Americans who work nights, but many health and safety managers are unaware of the new research, PRNewswire via Yahoo News.
LEXINGTON, Mass... - Limited employee involvement in schedule selection, long work days, and an excess of consecutive work days are all linked to increased risk of ergonomics-related injuries, according to a new report published by Circadian Technologies, Inc. Poor work-life conditions and sleep deprivation can also lead to ergonomics injuries and lost workdays, especially among employees in extended hours positions (regularly working outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.).
"We have long known that long work hours, high fatigue levels, and work schedules that fail to account for human physiological needs are linked to a 20% increased rate of Workers' Compensation claims among facilities with extended hours
operations," said Kirsty Kerin, Ph.D., Circadian ergonomics specialist and one of the principal authors of Ergonomics Risks, Myths, and Solutions for Extended Hours Operations. Dr. Kerin's report further details the link between work practices and
ergonomics injuries, such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). The study notes that:
These conclusions raise significant new questions for managers of extended hours facilities, in which overtime levels have reached all time highs, and in which employees regularly work evenings, nights, rotations, and long shifts.
- In a survey of over 12,500 extended hours workers, 30% of male workers, and 41% of female workers reported "Chronic or Frequent" back pain, while 16% of male workers and 27% of female workers reported "Chronic or Frequent" wrist pain.
- Sleep deprivation could possibly be damaging in terms of muscle, ligament, or tendon injury. With the average extended hours employee sleeping only 5.1 hours to 5.5 hours each day when working a night shift, they could face an increased risk of ergonomic injuries.
- The balance of work and home life is important in controlling the number of lost work days due to MSD complaints. Both men and women who face simultaneous presence of high mental workload and increased domestic workload have increased neck and shoulder MSDs.
- Disturbances in sleep affect pain and negatively impact the time it takes a worker to return to work after suffering a soft-tissue injury such as low back pain.
- Six days of restricted sleep (4 hours per 24-hour period) caused changes to the sleep architecture that are similar to the changes seen in people suffering from depression. Also, lack of sleep causes changes in several natural body rhythms
of hormone secretion including melatonin, cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone, leptin, prolactin and growth hormone.
The study also challenged long-held myths on work schedules and ergonomics, clearly finding that 12-hour schedules are not inherently more dangerous for employees.
[Ha. Some pretty slanted 'research' here. Check our story on 2/28-3/01/2004 #1, "Workers return to shorter shifts - Standard Register employees worked 11-hour days for more than a year".]
With 41% of extended hours facilities using some form of 12-hour schedule in 2003, this conclusion is important to note when designing alternative work schedules. In particular, the authors found:
Managers of extended hours operations can implement numerous interventions to address the increased risk of ergonomics injuries for the 24 million Americans who regularly work nights, rotating shifts, irregular and on-call schedules. "Involving employees in schedule selection, training workers on managing the work-life demands of working extended hours, and revisiting workplace policies such as break rules and rest periods can significantly decrease the risk of costly accidents and injuries," states Alex Kerin, Ph.D., Circadian ergonomics specialist and the other principal author. Fatigue management initiatives to decrease employee fatigue while at work and commuting to the job, as well as improve sleep quality, also represent critical interventions for extended hours employers.
- Although working more than 8 hours a day was shown to increase ergonomic injury rates, working two to four weekends a month was also shown to have a negative impact. Since most 12-hour schedules limit consecutive workdays to four, and provide employees with twice as many weekends off as 8-hour schedules, there are pros and cons to each schedule type
and 12-hour shifts are not inherently problematic.
[We would call "working more than 8 hours a day [being] shown to increase ergonomic injury rates" inherently problematic. This statement is gobbledygook and undermines the credibility of this whole study.]
- Female risk factors for neck and shoulder ergonomic injuries include overtime and unsatisfactory leisure time, which can be linked to poorly designed schedules or excess work hours.
- Employees who reported little or no influence over their work schedule had significant increases in ergonomic injuries of the shoulders, hips and knees.
- Concern over bosses' long hours, ic Coventry [UK].
ENGLAND, U.K. - More than two thirds of Midlands bosses are over-worked and overstressed, says a new survey by business and financial advisers Grant Thornton. 67% are working 45 hours or more a week - more than the recommended working week laid down in the EU's working time directive. And 53% suffer from work-related stress, says a survey of more than 870 business leaders.
The survey revealed that 62% of senior business people worked between 9 and 11 hours a day and 5% worked over 60 hours a week.
The government's working time directive stipulates that people should not work more than an average of 48 hours a week over a 17-week period.
Stephanie Warboys, a partner at Grant Thornton in Coventry, said: "The survey was carried out among senior business people so it is not surprising to see high levels of commitment, both in terms of time and hands-on involvement. "However, the frequency of weekend working and the fact that 13% work a six-day week is concerning, and this will inevitably lead to increased stress levels if people are not achieving the right work/life balance."
- Numbers lie, by Pinchas Landau, Israel News.
[See also our webpage on this issue.]
- How come the unemployment rate in Belgium is 12.9%, but only 5.9% in next-door Holland?
- Why do France and Germany have double the rate that Britain does?
- And why is an unemployment rate of 4.9% in Japan considered dreadful, whilst a rate of 5.6% in the US is thought to be quite reasonable?
Let's start with the fact that the whole area of unemployment data is one of the most statistically unreliable within the general field of economic data and analysis. It is also probably the most politically fraught.
For the leadership, the way to view unemployment is via two old saws. One says that each unemployed person may be a marginal addition to the overall statistics, but as far as that individual is concerned, he or she is 100% unemployed. The second defines the difference between a recession and a depression: a recession is when your neighbors or friends lose their jobs; a depression is when you lose your job. Since, in Western countries, recessions bring down governments and depressions trigger social revolutions (as in the 1930s), politicians are understandably sensitive to changes in the rate of unemployment in their country.
[And they are known to fiddle the figures so that depressions are well-nigh impossible, by definition, and recessions are rare and brief, by definition - both definitions repeatedly doctored for desired happyhappy results. Pinchas' version -]
This has resulted in endless efforts to "massage the numbers." Innumerable methods have been devised to keep the numbers down - from playing with the definitions, to reducing eligibility for unemployment support payments, to shunting the unemployed into "training schemes."
This helps explain why comparisons between countries are dangerous: The methods of compiling the data are different, and undergo frequent changes. For example, in Britain the unemployment rate used in regular public discourse is currently around 3%, whereas among professional economists it is around 5% (as noted above). The latter figure is the "harmonized" one, resulting from the use of the definitions and methodology developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which allow direct comparisons with all countries that employ this approach.
Even so, British unemployment is half that of France and Germany, whilst Belgium and Holland, using the same European Union measurement rules, arrive at vastly different results. This suggests that something much more fundamental than labels and measuring tools is at work.
Indeed it is. Europe provides graphic evidence of how economic and social policy impacts on labor markets over the long term. In the context of Britain vs Germany, for example, it is usual to provide a one-word answer to explain the huge and ongoing discrepancy between them: Thatcherism, the wave of economic reforms instituted by prime minister Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s. These smashed the power of the unions, and also sharply reduced the cost of employing people, as well as encouraging the establishment and growth of small businesses.
In Germany, on the other hand, none of these things happened; as a result, Germany generates few jobs, exports many more, does not attract investment and maintains a persistently high unemployment rate (see graph) and a persistently low rate of growth. Only in 2003 did Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder very reluctantly adopt a watered-down form of Thatcherism, labeled "Agenda 2010," which he had immense difficulty pushing through his Social Democratic Party and the German parliament.
The German experience is mirrored in France, where the Socialists tried (and predictably failed) to counter high unemployment by introducing a 35-hour working week.
[Wrong. They did not fail. UnEmployment (UE) went from 12.6% in 1997 to 8.6% in 2001 before the effects of the downturn led by long-hours, weak consumption USA began to pull France's UE back up, but only to a max of 9.5%, we believe. This is yet another example of mainstream economists' believing so firmly in their mythic predictions that they can't see the data in front of their noses. The same 1% UE reduction per one-hour workweek reduction was achieved in the USA, when the US workweek was set at 44 in Oct/1938 (UE 19%) and reduced in 2-hour/year clips to the 40-hour level in Oct/1940 (UE 9.9% in 1941 with some help from Lend Lease in March/41 and less formal help in 1940 (UE 14.6%) after Great Britain declared war in Aug/39. Of course, time-blind standard economists, faaar too sophisticated to credit as obvious a policy as worksharing even though we'd cut the workweek in half over the previous 100-150 years with passable results (would have been better if pushed down as UE went up), will argue up and down that it was entirely the effect of FDR's Keynesian makework - though that let UE slip from 14.3 to 19.0% 1937-38 - or entirely the effect of Europe's early start on the war, though exports 1939-40 weren't that big a percentage of GNP. "It's not that simple," say the voodoo masters of standard economics, hoping to protect their overpaid jobs and chaotic, increasingly wrong forecasts. As maverick economist Joan Robinson said in 1961, mainstream economics is a branch of theology.]
More interestingly, but less well-known, is that the British experience is mirrored in Ireland and Holland. The Dutch had their own version of Thatcherism, without the same fireworks and passion. The short explanation for the low rate of unemployment in Holland is that the Dutch stopped paying people to be unemployed.
[and started giving so-called "full-time" benefits to people who were working so-called "part time" = in effect, workweek reduction from the floor up instead of the ceiling down.]
Another interesting European unemployment story is Spain. That country's current 11.2% rate seems pretty bad - but not when compared to the 25% levels of the 1980s. But what does this latter number mean? How can a supposedly developed country have a 25% unemployment rate and still function? The answer is that relating solely to a country's unemployment rate, even over time, can't explain what's happening there.
In the case of Spain, the flip side of the unemployment rate is the participation rate - meaning how many people are registered as either in work or looking for a job. Spain's participation rate is exceptionally low - as bad as Israel's. The explanation for this phenomenon must be sought in the "black economy" - which is large and employs many people, although it has been shrinking as Spain fully integrates into the European Union (which it joined in 1985).
Unemployment is much more than a statistical exercise. A country's rate of unemployment and the way it develops over time is largely the result of a set of economic policies, which themselves derive from deep-seated political and cultural factors, which are not readily amenable to change.
So, let's look at the two largest economies in the world, America and Japan. One of the outstanding features of the Japanese economy in its heyday, was the low rate of unemployment - which rarely crossed the 2% level. This was achieved by a seemingly simple mechanism: companies didn't fire their employees. However, in reality, the Japanese labor market was far more sophisticated than that. It was based on an unwritten, but very powerful, understanding between employer and employee. The former provided "lifetime employment," ensuring its employees that they would be free from the worry and potential trauma of losing job, income and "face" - a critical element in Japanese society. In good times, pay would be enhanced by hefty bonuses at all levels within the company, and in bad times these would shrivel or disappear altogether.
In return, the Japanese employee gave the company his unswerving loyalty and - in sharp contrast to the socialist and social democrat systems in Europe, which also effectively guaranteed job security - he worked long and hard.
The Japanese system flew in the face of market-based labor economics. Yet it was much more successful, because it fitted into the insular, xenophobic and elitist Japanese culture. However, this unique system collapsed during the 1990s as the
Japanese economy sank further and further into recession. As in Europe, it turned out that low unemployment was a luxury that required not only a social contract, but steady economic growth to finance it. Without growth, companies were forced to renege on their promise never to fire any full-time employees; the rate of unemployment marched higher in the late 90s to levels undreamt of in earlier decades.
So the current American model of labor market - which is characterized by zero job security and high turnover, but high levels of job availability, a low level of fringe benefits (vacations, pensions etc.) and increasingly huge gulfs between the income of people at the top and bottom ranks of corporate ladders - seems to work best. But for how long is anyone's guess.
- U.S. worker productivity falls, Bloomberg News.
U.S. worker productivity grew at a 2.7% annual rate from October through December, the government said Thursday, a small fraction of the previous quarter's pace, as employees worked more hours and businesses bolstered hiring to keep up
Productivity, a measure of how much an employee produces for every hour of work, slowed from a 9.5% annual rate in the third quarter. For all of last year, productivity rose 4.2%, following a 4.9% gain in 2002. Jobless claims last week rose after matching a three-year low, a separate report showed.
Companies added 144,000 workers to their payrolls in the fourth quarter and hours worked rose the most in three years, suggesting businesses were no longer depending solely on efficiency gains to meet demand.
A report scheduled for release Friday is expected to show that U.S. companies hired 150,000 nonfarm workers after a slim gain of 1,000 in December. "We saw companies finally needing[?] to increase the number of hours worked after cutting hours and workers through the prior three years," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist at Banc of America Investment Services in St. Louis.
[If you increase hours per employee instead of hiring more employees, you guarantee that you increased workload will be temporary. Btw, in the event the 150,000 new hires turned out to be only 21,000 and December's 1,000 was revised downward.]
"This is a trend we will likely see followed in 2004. Companies will need to ramp up hiring."
[Better, much better.]
The rise in productivity was enough to cause unit labor costs, or the amount paid for each unit of production, to fall 1.3% at an annual rate last quarter. The drop is the third in a row and follows a 5.6% decline in the previous three months.
Falling labor costs and rising sales are giving corporate profits a lift and may provide businesses with the means to increase hiring in coming months. Profits rose an average of 28.8% in the fourth quarter for the 347 companies in the Standard Poor's 500 Index that had reported earnings by Tuesday.
3/3/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/02 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Poor image of part-time workers still persists, HR Gateway [UK].
Psychologists argue that there is no difference between the commitment of part-time and full-time workers, however, the image a quarter of the public has of the former is that of 'slackers'.
While psychological research suggests that part-time workers are no less committed and hard working than full-time staff, many people in the UK still see them as ‘slackers’, according to a new ICM poll. Carried out for the Public & Commercial Services (PCS) Union, the poll found that just over a quarter of 1007 adults questioned saw part-timers as being less committed to their work even though it is pushed by Government as a ‘flexible’ way to work.
Mark Serwotka general secretary of PCS says that with such perceptions still evident in the UK, choosing to work part-time may result in some people missing out on pay and career progression: ‘If flexible working is to become a true reality there is still a lot to be done in breaking down negative perceptions to options such as part-time working, as well as making serious headway on parity in pay and progression between full and part time workers,’ he says.
Far from the perception, the reality is that part-time workers’ commitment is equal to full-time employees. British Psychological Society research found that commitment, job satisfaction and intention to leave were the same for all staff, irrespective of hours. However, also revealed in the research was that full-time staff appear to be more involved with their work. This may be attributable to the fact that part-timers choose their hours because they have other non-work roles that take precedence, it argues.
On a more another note, the PCS poll also found that almost a year after the introduction of flexible working rights 69.5% of employers allow their employees to adopt working patterns that help them to balance work and home life. According to Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development figures, 68% of employers in the UK feel that the introduction of flexible working hours has improved attitudes and morale in their organisation.
However, the PCS pointed out today that while flexible hours were being backed by employers, they should not be an excuse to pay part-time workers less as it charges some Government departments of doing: ‘Part-time workers continue to lose out in pay, progression and appraisals. 65% of part-time workers in the civil service are in the lowest grades and earn on average £3000 less pro rata than full time workers,’ said the PCS.
3/02/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/01 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Return of a conundrum - As technology devours jobs at an increasing rate, the conflict at the heart of the market economy is becoming irreconcilable, by Jeremy Rifkin (author of 'The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era' & president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in DC), The Guardian [UK] via alert reader Kumar Venkat.
We are losing jobs all over the world. It has reached crisis proportions. In 1995, 800 million people were unemployed or underemployed. Today, more than a billion fall into one of these categories.
Even in America and Europe, millions of workers find themselves under- employed or without jobs and with little hope of obtaining full-time employment. The US has lost 12% of its factory jobs since 1998, while the UK shed 14% of its manufacturing jobs in the same period. Manufacturing jobs continue to disappear in the UK, even though the sector is growing at its fastest pace in four years.
Where have all the factory jobs gone? It has become fashionable, of late, to blame the high unemployment on companies relocating their production facilities to China. It is true that China is producing and exporting a far greater percentage of manufacturing goods, but a new study by Alliance Capital Management has found that manufacturing jobs are being eliminated even faster in China than in any other country. Between 1995 and 2002, China lost more than 15m factory jobs, 15% of its total manufacturing workforce.
There's more bad news. According to Alliance Capital, 31m manufacturing jobs were eliminated between 1995 and 2002 in the world's 20 largest economies. Manufacturing employment has declined every year in the past seven years and in every region of the world. The employment decline occurred during a period when global industrial production rose by more than 30%.
If the current rate of decline continues - and it is more than likely to accelerate - manufacturing employment will dwindle from the current 164m jobs to just a few million by 2040, virtually ending the era of mass factory labor.
Now the white-collar and services industries are experiencing similar job losses, as intelligent technologies replace more and more workers. Banking, insurance, and the wholesale and retail sectors are introducing smart technologies into every aspect of their business operations, fast eliminating support personnel in the process. The US internet banking company Netbank has $2.4bn in deposits. A typical bank that size employs 2,000 people. Netbank runs its entire operation with just 180 workers.
The UK and US jobs being lost to call centers in India, while important, pale in significance compared with jobs lost every day to voice recognition technology. Consider the US phone company Sprint, which has been steadily replacing human operators with this technology. In the year 2002, Sprint's productivity jumped 15% and revenue increased by 4.3%, while the company reduced its payroll by 11,500.
As far back as the late 1980s, industry analysts were warning that automation would eliminate more and more jobs. Because their forecasts proved somewhat premature, the public was lulled into believing that automation was not a problem. Now, however, the software, computer and telecom revolutions, and the proliferation of smart technologies, are finally wreaking havoc on jobs in every country.
Industry observers expect the decline in white-collar jobs to shadow the decline in manufacturing jobs during the next four decades, as companies, whole industries, and the world economy become connected in a global neural network.
The old logic that technology gains and advances in productivity destroy old jobs but create as many new ones is no longer true. The US is enjoying its steepest rise in productivity since 1950. In the third quarter of 2003, productivity soared by a staggering 9.5%, yet the ranks of the unemployed remain high.
Economists have long argued that productivity allows firms to produce more goods and services at cheaper costs. Cheaper goods and services, in turn, stimulate demand. The increase in demand leads to more production and services and greater productivity, which, in turn, increases demand even more, in a never-ending cycle. So even if technological innovations throw some people out of work in the short term, the spike in demand for the cheaper products and services will assure additional hiring down the line to meet expanded production runs.
The problem is that this theory appears to be no longer applicable. The US steel industry is typical of the transition taking place. In the past 20 years, steel production rose from 75m tonnes to 102m tonnes. In the same period, from 1982 to 2002, the number of steelworkers in the US declined from 289,000 to 74,000. "Even if manufacturing holds on to its share of GDP," says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes, "we are likely to continue to lose jobs because of productivity growth." He laments that there is little we can do about it. "It's like fighting a huge headwind."
[Better to just ask, What can we do about it? = a version of the Big Question.]
Herein lies the conundrum. If dramatic advances in productivity can replace more and more human labor, resulting in more workers being let go from the workforce, where will the consumer demand come from to buy all the potential new products and services?
[Here's another version of the Big Question.]
We are being forced to face up to an inherent contradiction at the heart of our market economy that has been present since the very beginning [of the industrial revolution], but is only now becoming irreconcilable.
Greatly increased productivity has been at the expense of more workers being marginalized into part-time employment or given their pink slips. A shrinking workforce, however, means diminished income, reduced consumer demand, and an economy unable to grow. This is the new structural reality that government and business leaders and so many economists are reluctant to acknowledge.
[How can they acknowledge it when Rifkin is presenting only a problem and not a solution? The solution is, let overall working hours continue to shrink without shrinking the workforce. And the way you do that is through a worksharing or workspreading system such as Timesizing.]
- Pine Bluff Mayor proposes city employees work 32 hours a week, by Larry Ault, Pine Bluff Commercial [Ark.].
PINE BLUFF, Ark. - Pine Bluff Mayor Dutch King has proposed saving money by allowing city employees to volunteer to work 32 hours a week. "I've had some people who've said they'd love to do it," King said Tuesday, explaining the program would be "strictly on a volunteer basis."
King said the shortened work week is aimed at saving the city money and is "just temporary until we get our feet back on the ground and get some reserves."
At 32 hours, city workers would still be considered full-time employees. King said volunteering for the plan would obviously result in a cut in pay. "Given the budget restraints under which we are now operating, I am looking for as many ways, both temporary and long-term, to free up some moneys and provide the city more flexibility," King wrote the city's department heads in a Feb. 24 memorandum.
King asked the department heads to "speak with your non-uniform, general fund employees" about the shorter week. King said that "while this would certainly mean a small reduction in pay, it would also let them spend more time on
personal business and with their family." "Obviously, too, this would save the city some money," he wrote.
King stressed "this must be a voluntary reduction in hours by the employee and no pressure will be exerted on any employee to commit to the reduction."
City Finance Director Ed Bogy had "no comment" on the mayor's proposal, referring a reporter to the mayor's office.
Ken Ferguson, director of the city's Human Resources Department, said between 350 to 375 city employees would be eligible. Ferguson would not comment on whether any employees had volunteered for the plan.
Second Ward Alderman Wayne Easterly would not predict the reaction of city employees.
Speculating on what would happen if "everyone did it," Easterly said, "I'm not sure what effect that would have on City Hall." "It might save a few thousand dollars, that would help," he said.
Third Ward Alderman Bill Brumett said the proposal creates "a situation that is a hard choice for (employees) to make. It puts them in a tenuous situation." Brumett said many city employees are trying to find ways to save the city money. However, many working people are experiencing stressful times because they are "living paycheck to paycheck" and may not be able to absorb a pay cut. The mayor's request is "one the employees will have to make on their own," he said. "They are struggling to make ends meet."
Second Ward Alderman Dale Dixon said that although he had heard about the mayor's memo, he had not seen it. Dixon said he didn't believe many city employees would be willing to take a voluntary pay cut. "I don't think the city employees have had a pay raise in a couple a years. They didn't get a pay raise this year," he said. "I can't see very many of them volunteering for this program."
Mac Norton, a Pine Bluff lawyer who is chairman of the city Parks and Recreation Commission, said he had not seen the memo and the mayor has not mentioned it to him. "We are not a part of their system," Norton said, explaining the parks department operates independently of city government and controls how its revenues are spent. Although parks department employees are not among the employees the mayor's proposal affects, the parks department has been wrestling with ways of cutting costs and saving money because of budget cuts. Pay and working hours for the city's parks department staff surfaced at last week's commission meeting. The commission has taken no action on laying off personnel even though the department's 2004 budget called for a reduction in staff. Norton said salaries and staff reduction will be "our main focus of our next meeting." Norton said the commission is looking at terminating "six average employees" or reducing employee salaries. Norton said reducing the number of hours employees work may be an alternative solution to laying off employees.
The department's 2004 budget called for a cut of $126,000 below last year. The commission will look at the employee situation and salaries when it meets March 11, he said.
- Don't box me in, by Kathy Ruff, Northeast Pennsyvania Business Journal.
Since the role of women as primary caregivers isn't going to change, companies may have to be the ones adapting to a new reality: the necessity of a flexible work environment.
Today, nearly 60% of women contribute in the labor force, a number expected to continue to climb. Observers predict women will gain financially, but will continue to be disadvantaged due to their caregiving responsibilities. Some progress has been made. What used to be a black mark against a woman's work record -time out for family - today acts as a catalyst for change to a family-friendly, flexible work environment.
"Women have traditionally had - and still have - the burden of the caregiver in this society," says Lynn S. Evans, certified financial planner and president of Northeastern Financial Consultants Inc., Clarks Summit. "Many women, as part of the 'sandwich' generation, juggle full-time jobs, children and parental care."
"The flexibility issue is more important now than it ever was before because there are more women in the workplace," says Evans. "I think employers are beginning to recognize that if we want women to be in the workforce, then we have to do something about making this work for them."
But for some, the corporate box isn't bending. Employers' reluctance to meet women's flexibility needs has produced an escalation of women moving from the workforce to self-employment. Women-owned employer firms grew by 37% from 1997 to 2002, four times the growth rate of all employer firms. Although services and retail comprise the largest share of women-owned firms, construction, manufacturing and transportation industries have seen growth.
The flexibility, empowerment and authority inherent in operating a business fulfill the needs of many women. "A lot of women are moving in the area of service businesses because it's more fitting of their lifestyle and interests," says Evans, who speaks from personal experience. For Evans, frustration with the system led to her self-employment as a financial planner. "It was something I had a passion about," says Evans. "Once I figured out what I was doing and how to do it and how not to do it, I decided to open the business."
But in 1990, Evans sold the business and provided financial planning services for an accounting firm for three years before the self-employment bug bit again. "I was not someone who could function in the corporate environment," says Evans. "Having flexibility, control and authority meant more than titles and other employment perks."
Evans predicts a change in business values as more women take this step. "I think that as more women reach higher levels of authority within corporate America, and even in those owning their own businesses, I think they're seeing a greater amount of morality and accountability in those business," says Evans.
Some savvy businesses recognize these traits and have developed programs to help meet women's flexibility needs. "We believe that diversity is a fundamental business strategy," says Chuck O'Hara, public relations manager for Procter & Gamble, Mehoophany. "Just one portion of that is working with women and with our family mix to ensure that we can deliver what it is they need so they have the opportunity to deliver results for the business. It's a balance."
Procter & Gamble provides flexible work hours, reduced work schedules, job sharing and other choices to accommodate today's challenging lifestyles. Working Mother magazine has recognized the company as one of the 100 best companies for working women for nearly two decades. "Being that we are a consumer products business, we need a workplace that mirrors the consumers that we are serving," says O'Hara. "Keeping women in the workforce achieves that objective."
Many companies also recognize the competitive edge gained by offering a family-friendly environment to retain talented women. "We're going to have to see a change in the rigidity of the way corporate America views the work relationship with their employee base," says Susan Wilson Solovic, chief executive officer of SBV.com and author of "Girls' Guide to Power and Success." "Smart companies who want to be competitive and retain a diverse workforce, which includes women, are going
to have to step up to the plate. Otherwise, they are going to be losing a significant talent pool."
Trends show this talented pool chooses self-employment, contributing substantially to the state's economic growth. "(Women) are a very vital part of business in Pennsylvania," says Kevin Ortiz, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of
Community and Economic Development. "According to the Center for Women's Business Research, there are more than 218,000 female-owned firms in Pennsylvania that employ more than 289,000 people. These businesses generate nearly $41.1 billion in sales."
Part of that contribution stems from small companies which recognize the value of flexibility. "The personal touch - being treated on a personal level - makes employees feel comfortable," says Sandra Whiting Osieski, owner of S.E. Whiting Advertising, Dunmore. "And I think that when employees are comfortable, they tend to stay on staff a little longer."
While corporate downsizing led to Osieski's self-employment decision, flexibility plays a pivotal role in her business operations. Employees have the flexibility to attend doctors' appointments and come in late when schools open late as long as notice is provided. Personally, this strategy allowed her to raise two children while being employed.
While women's lifestyle choices contribute to corporate changes and self-employment, it may also factor into women's educational choices. Statistics show women now outnumber men in college admissions. While this trend may help to close the gender wage gap, experts predict women will continue to struggle to achieve income parity with men unless more women enter high-paying fields including engineering and computer sciences.
According to a report by the European Monitoring Centre on Change, education will be the biggest driver of greater social and economic equality for women. History shows that chosen studies affect both income and employment potential.
Traditional feminine career choices such as nursing and teaching offer lower wages than the growing high-tech industries where employment for women continues to lag. The challenges for women are to find more pathways into high-paying occupations
through education or self-employment.
But motivation may play a more crucial role in women's workforce choices as lifestyle choices may supersede high-paying, high-pressure jobs. "I think engineering, computer sciences, math, a lot of that stuff are not necessarily people-related businesses," says Evans. "I think women probably find those fields very sterile and not necessarily very nurturing."
Nevertheless, today more women hold positions of authority in the workforce. Whether that will continue depends on women's motivations. The future of women in the workplace appears to be what women choose to make it.
- Work-life balance trend growing - survey, BizWorld aka Business World [Ireland].
IRELAND - Two thirds of Irish managers say their organisation offers flexibility in balancing home and work life, with flexible hours the most popular option, according to a new survey from Deloitte.
These trends may be a partial reflection of the slow-down in the economy generally, as employers seek means of retaining loyal staff, according to the survey.
- "In our experience flexible work hours arrangements are organised informally between managers and their staff, but companies are increasingly offering flexible hours and flexitime on a more formal basis," said John McGarry director of Human Capital Advisory Services at Deloitte. [Flexible hours is a trivial shell game which does nothing to spread the vanishing non-makework employment to everyone who needs to be self-supporting. A sustainable future requires fluctuating working hours, determined on the organization level by revenues and on the economy level by comprehensively counted unemployment - which naturally means that the fluctuation will generally trend downward toward ever shorter hours as automation and robotization is introduced (and as unregulated offshore outsourcing is tolerated).]
- The number of organisations offering part-time working has increased from half (50% in 2002) to nearly three quarters (74%) in 2004.
- Job sharing has increased from 34% to 39% during the same period.
[Downsizing, whether by layoffs or outsourcing, definitely does downsize the consumer base and slow down the economy.]
Only 68% of managers now claim to offer parental leave, even though this is now a legal requirement. While employers are legally obliged to provide maternity and unpaid parental leave, an increasing number are offering paid leave to both parents.
[Special provisions for quantitative physical human reproduction in an age of global overpopulation are slow suicide in an age when we need to be shifting from quantity to quality on practically all fronts.]
The much-heralded move towards e-working is happening at a slower pace than many expected - the number of companies offering teleworking has increased from 36% in 2002 to 44% in 2004.
[Location of work is immaterial. Length of work per person is the issue.]
The survey pointed to work life balance arrangements being particularly prevalent within the technology, media, telecommunications and financial services sectors.
- Beating the clock, BusinessEurope.com.
UK - The Working Time Regulations were implemented in the UK in 1998 in response to the EC's Working Time Directive; British businesses have been reluctant to embrace the measures to date with many using the opt-out clause to legitimise longer working hours, YourPeopleManager, a website offering help and advice for small businesses looks at the issues.
The ever-changing workplace and increase in working hours have received much media coverage in recent years. According to a survey conducted last year by the Work-Life Balance Campaign and published in Management Today magazine, one in six people now work more than 60 hours a week. Statistics however, show that in the mid-nineteenth century working patterns were much the same, as the average worker laboured for around 60 hours per week. On the face of it, it would therefore seem that [aggregate?] working hours in the UK are actually in decline.
[Working hours everywhere that worksaving technology is introduced are in decline.]
A survey conducted via yourpeoplemanger.com [probably misprint for yourpeoplemanager.com - we've corrected 3 other typos in this paragraph] on behalf of Investors in People UK revealed that small businesses clearly see the benefits of work-life balance; however, 60% admit they need to address flexible working issues and 67% of employees agree their organisations need to address work-life balance.
The figures may however distort the true picture; while the average number of hours might be in decline, the proportion of people working at least 48 hours a week has increased; this has proliferated partly because of the influx of women into the labour market. Working time restrictions have also exposed Britain's long-hours culture. A Confederation of British Industry survey recently showed that in response to the Working Time Directive, a third of UK workers have signed an opt-out agreement. This demonstrates that working hours in the UK appear to top the European Union.
The Working Time Directive was introduced under the remit [US: 'banner'] of health and safety legislation. The UK's...tradition of minimal legislation is reflected in how this Directive was implemented in Britain, with the inclusion of the opt-out clause. The Working Time Regulations along with the National Minimum Wage, signal a further step in the Government's incremental approach to the creation of a flexible labour market underpinned by fair minimum standards.
[A good indication that your national workweek cap is still set too high is that you still "need" a national minimum wage. If the workweek max is low enough to create enough of a perceived labor 'shortage' to raise wages by flexible market forces, you can get rid of your stifling minimum wage legislation and let market forces reconstruct the bottom part of the wage ladder that allows newcomers or returners easier, gentler entry into the job market. Generally in economic design, per-job variables are to be decontrolled while only per-person variables are to be considered for regulation. Examples of per-job variables are worktime per job and money per job (ie: wage or salary). Examples of per-person variables are worktime per person per week from all sources/jobs and income per person per month from all employments or investments or winnings or gifts. Phase Two of the Timesizing Full-Employment Program trespasses into the free-market turf of per-job worktime only as a convenient cushioner of the real cap (alias overage reinvestor or overwork recycler) = the per-person control in Phase Three. The cushioning is carried out by Phase Two's proliferation of on-the-job training programs.]
The basic premise of the Working Time Regulations is that for qualifying workers, working hours should not exceed 48 in any reference period of 17 weeks. This means that although in some weeks, hours worked may be in excess of 48, as long as an average 48 hours per week (over 17 weeks) is achieved the regulations will have been met.
In addition to the average 48-hour working week regulation, certain rest periods and breaks must be adhered to. These include:
Special requirements relate to young and night workers....
- A minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hours
- A rest break for every 6 (continuous) hours worked of at least 20 minutes
- 24 hours rest in every 7 days or 48 hours in every 14 days worked
All employees regardless of length of service are entitled to 20 days pro-rata paid holiday per annum. The Regulations were amended in 2001 abolishing the 13-week qualifying service period. Public holidays may be included as part of the 20 days leave allowance.
- 16-18 year olds are covered under the Regulations but enjoy longer break/rest periods..\..
- Night workers should not work 'normal hours' in excess of 8 hours in every 24, averaged over a 17 week reference period. Normal hours do not include overtime unless this is required under contract, although where the work involves hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, working hours must not exceed the eight hour limit.
- Regular health checks must be offered to night workers. Frequency should be in accordance to type of work and threats to health and safety. Most employers conduct checks once a year as a minimum....
As with many regulations there are exceptions to the rule! Certain sectors and types of workers do not need to adhere to all aspects of the regulations (specific exemption rules should be checked). These include:
There has been much discussion concerning doctors' working hours. As a result of recent ECJ rulings, time spent by doctors on call can count as working time under the directive, while as of 1 August 2004, doctors in training will be subject to weekly working time limits which will be phased in over a five year period.
The opt-out clause
- transport sector workers (most workers are covered by other directives including for example road workers who are protected by the Road Transport Directive)
- members of the armed and police forces
- prison workers
- agricultural workers
- essential workers (including gas or electricity)
The UK is the only EU member state to have made widespread use of the opt-out clause to the Working Time Directive. In response to worrying findings that working hours have actually increased in the past decade in the UK, the EC has issued a consultation. Two issues have been highlighted.
UK businesses have spent considerable time lobbying to maintain the opt-out clause and maintain the current Regulations. In response to the need for a flexible labour market, the consultation has raised the possibility of lengthening the four-month reference period to one year, making it easier to ease the path to phasing out the opt-out clause.
- ...The Commission feels that asking new employees to sign up to an opt-out clause at point of contract removes free will
- ...Suggestions have been made that records of working hours should be kept rather than simply records of opt-outs.
["Flexible" is the new business euphemism for "we can do anything we want."]
Commenting on the implications of the Working Time Regulations for small businesses, Alison Wallace, partner in the London office of Steptoe & Johnson, where she heads the employment practice says: "Many small employers insist that their employees sign opt out agreements on joining. Some do so, so that there is no risk of the Regulations being breached accidentally. Others - more unscrupulous - will use this to insist employees work longer hours than are necessary for their health.
"A balance therefore has to be struck between those employers who see the Regulations as a huge interference with the way they wish to run their businesses (and indeed employees too who may wish to put in extra overtime to suit their financial needs) and the protection/ compliance required for health and safety reasons which the Unions are keen to promote.
"More often than not those working the longest hours are owner managers of small businesses who do so out of choice as much as necessity."
Overall the removal of the opt out clause would be damaging to small businesses but unlikely to alter the long hours culture in some businesses. So what is the cost to business of the Working Time Regulations? Proponents of the current opt-out clause cite references to the increasing burden of red tape on small businesses and the cost to productivity.
Yet businesses should also consider that the Working Time Regulations merely try to put in place basic minimum standards that 90% of employees already have in place. Indeed the cost to business of high-absence, poor morale and low staff retention is often a bi-product of excessive working hours. Flexible and remote working, shift work and job-sharing are some of the solutions available to employers looking to beat the clock, keep a cap on long hours and improve productivity and morale.
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
Nov.21-30/2003 + Dec.1
1998 and previous years.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.Top |
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