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Timesizing News, July 2-31, 2010
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080
7/30-31/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Germany's Missing Link: Consumer Spending, by Brian Blackstone, 7/30 Wall Street Journal (blog) via blogs.wsj.com
[Geez, there's GOTTA be SOMEthing wrong with the German miracle - just cuz they cut hours instead of jobs, they CAN'T be doin' this good with a DIFFERENT strategy than ours (costly tho' ours may be)! There MUST be somethin' wrong with it and them cuz as we all know, WE'RE RIGHT and everyone else is WRONG unless they do exactly the same as us, however costly!]
FRANKFURT, Germany - The stars are lining up for a strong recovery in Germany: a revival in world trade has lifted its dominant export sector and unemployment has come down rapidly.
Siemens on Friday became the latest industrial giant to announce that it would no longer make use of reduced-hour work arrangements under Germany’s Kurzarbeit program, in which the government subsidized some of workers’ wages and social costs in exchange for company commitments to keep employees on payrolls. At the height of the recession, around 19,000 Siemens employees were on the program. “Now demand is on the rise again, and we’re ideally equipped in terms of personnel,” Siemens said. BMW ended its use of Kurzarbeit earlier in the year.
Business and consumer confidence are now on the rise, the latest data show.
Just add consumer spending, and Europe’s biggest economy will be firing on all cylinders.
[Well, consumer spending IS generally what follows rising consumer confidence, duh.]
Oh yeah, that.
German consumers, better known for their high savings rates than their propensity to spend, pulled back sharply in June, with retail sales down 0.9% on the month.
[Not nearly as sharply as US and UK consumers have pulled back since the economic crisis, and not nearly as much as German consumers would have pulled back if they'd been treated to the waves of mass layoffs that US and UK consumers have been treated to.]
The picture’s not all bad.
[Compared to the US and UK, the picture's not bad at all. It's just that anglophony economists just can't stand to see a different theory than theirs beating the pants off theirs - their apoplectic with envy.]
Consumer spending had picked up smartly in May, and likely rose about 1% in the second quarter, on an annualized basis, according to J.P. Morgan.
But the longer-trend doesn’t look good.
[Maybe not, but it's enough that it looks one helluva lot better than the longer trend in the US and UK, so eat your hearts out, economic yanko- and anglo-philes! Yanks can have the same success if they smarten up and get onboard with their 17-18 states that have Kurzarbeit-equivalent worksharing programs.]
As economists at Commerzbank put it: “Despite the surprisingly favorable labor market development, private consumption is not picking up. And this is unlikely to change in view of slow wage growth.”
[It doesn't need to pick up because it didn't collapse as it did in the US and UK.]
There are a couple of key reasons why sluggish consumption in Germany is a particular problem now.
For one, signs of weaker growth in key export markets like the U.S., Asia and Southern Europe suggest Germany can’t count on exports to drive its economy later this year and into 2011 as much as it did in the first half of the year.
[Fine, with shorter workweeks, Germany has stronger consumption per capita than any other large economy except maybe 35-hour-workweek four-week-vacation France. In the Age of Robotics, you spread the work with shorter workweeks or you shrink, because robots don't buy their own output - employed people and their dependents do.]
And Germany’s export-dependent growth model [growth is history, now it's all about sustainability - and with high domestic consumption per capita based on relatively high employment, Germany is less export-dependent than anywhere] has come under some criticism for not doing enough to lift Europe’s growth prospects. Though German’s unemployment rate is falling toward 7%, the unemployment rate remains stuck at a 12-year high of 10% across the 16-member [EU] currency bloc and is 20% in Spain and over 13% in Ireland. [Don't blame Germany for high unemployment in other EU economies. If they had the smarts to implement Kurzarbeit, they could fix things fast.]
Those countries likely won’t be able to replicate their growth-engine roles in Europe for many years, leaving Germany to pick up the slack.
[What "slack"? The currency union was premature, and all Germany has to do is continue modeling sustainability while the others kill themselves with layoffs.]
If German spending numbers continue like June’s, expect criticism of its frugality to grow loud.
[And boy, these jealous morons are really hoping that June's German spending downblip will continue so they don't have so much rotten egg on their faces for stupidly backing DOWNsizing as a strategy for UPsizing dba growth.]
- Germany Regains Jobs Lost in Recession - Unemployment Rate Falls to 7.6% in July; Euro Surges, Although Country's Export-Driven Economic Recovery Isn't Assured, 7/30 Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - German unemployment fell in July for the 13th consecutive month, putting Europe's largest economy on the brink of a milestone: regaining all the jobs lost during the recession far faster than many economists expected.
Germany's labor market—aided by government subsidies aimed at keeping workers on payrolls at reduced hours—is a contrast with the U.S. where, despite a much more rapid recovery in output so far, unemployment remains stuck near its recessionary peak.
Thursday's labor-market data, along with strong consumer-sentiment figures in the euro zone, pushed the euro to an 11-week high against the U.S. dollar, above $1.30, as investors gain confidence that the euro zone is on a more solid economic footing than seemed the case only weeks ago.
Workers at the construction site of the Marienplatz-Galerie shopping center in June in Schwerin, northeastern Germany. The country's unemployment rate has declined for 13 months.
Still, Germany's export-dependent economic recovery remains at risk amid signs of softer growth in the U.S. and Asia, economists warn.
During the global downturn in 2009, Germany, the world's fourth-biggest national economy, was relatively slow in launching its economic-stimulus package, which was less sweeping than that of the U.S. Now, amid debate about the timing of stimulus withdrawal globally, Germany has led the argument for fiscal rigor and disciplined spending—despite U.S. calls to keep the stimulus engine going—and has announced budget cuts for next year to reassure the German public that the deficit won't balloon.
Unemployment in Germany fell 20,000 in July to 3.2 million in July, the government labor office said, putting it near the pre-recession trough of 3.19 million last seen in October 2008. Germany's jobless rate fell to 7.6%, its lowest in nearly two years, and well below last year's peak of 8.3%. The U.S.'s official unemployment rate crept down to 9.5% in June, after peaking at 10.1% last year.
German employment, reported with a one-month lag, grew 25,000 in June, and also is back near pre-recession levels.
German politicians had feared joblessness would keep climbing past four million during the recession—which shaved 5% off the country's gross domestic product last year—and beyond. Now, Germany's federal labor office says unemployment could fall below three million later this year, the lowest level in nearly 20 years.
The country is faring better than the rest of the euro zone. Unemployment has been stuck at 10% in recent months across the 16-nation currency bloc.
Germany's improved fortunes are spreading optimism through the euro zone. The European Commission's economic-sentiment index, which covers business and households, surged in July, led by a sharp rise among German respondents.
Some German industries already are running into a labor shortage.
[With still 7.6% unemployment? Make that a training shortage, thanks to surplus-spoiled CEOs.]
"We still have a lack of people to work on consulting jobs," said Lothar Kunkel, senior partner in Stuttgart at ConMoto Consulting Group, an 80-person firm that advises German companies on procurement and supply-chain management.
Even when meeting with clients, "we are asked if we have people available that can join their companies," Mr. Kunkel said.
Germany's experience bucks the stereotype that the country's heavily regulated labor market entrenches high unemployment and struggles to create jobs, especially after a recession. This time, it is the more-flexible U.S. labor market that is lagging, exhibiting both higher unemployment and a slower revival in hiring.
The truth, economists say, is that Germany is benefiting from a mixture of circumstances and good policy, and that the U.S. model remains better at moving labor from declining industries to new ones.
Germany has limited job losses in part because of a popular subsidy program for short-hours work, known as Kurzarbeit. Under the plan, companies reduce workers' hours but keep them on staff, with the government kicking in for some of their lost wages and social-security contributions.
At the peak last May, as many as 1.5 million workers were in the program. That has been cut to about half a million, as companies move workers back to full-time shifts to meet rising demand, particularly in the export sector. German unions also have made wage concessions to preserve jobs.
"The German economy was mainly hit by an industry recession in exports," said Klaus Abberger, an economist at Germany's Ifo Institute. "We filled this gap in manufacturing with our short-time working program."
The U.S., in contrast, is still struggling to generate jobs despite a much stronger economic recovery than Germany has seen thus far.
Unlike Germany, the U.S. government didn't embark on large-scale efforts to keep people in their jobs. Rather, stimulus was aimed at supporting demand, while allowing sectors hit hard by the recession, such as construction, to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs.
As a result of the labor shake-out and a faster bounce in output, U.S. productivity has outstripped Germany's, growing even at the height of the downturn when productivity usually falls. That should eventually support U.S. employment growth as companies with bare-bones staffing levels start to hire. Over the course of the recovery, economists expect the U.S. economy to create more jobs than Germany's.
German industry is still digesting a big drop in productivity because output fell faster than employment during the recession. But German companies bet that over time, keeping experienced and well-trained workers in their jobs will be good for business.
"I favor the German approach to the current crisis because I think they did a better job of spreading the cost [of the recession] over the full population," noted Barry Bosworth, economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the U.S., "firms panicked and laid off workers as an extreme reaction," Mr. Bosworth said, "and seem to be making do with fewer workers—a one-shot productivity gain."
But the German way wouldn't work in the U.S., Mr. Bosworth and other economists say. The main difference: Germany's export-driven economy looks much the same today as it did heading into the recession, and its policies have allowed industry to bridge the gap until world trade recovered.
The U.S., however, lost much activity in the overheated real-estate sector and related industries for the foreseeable future. "These jobs won't come back," says Mr. Abberger. Preserving jobs in U.S. construction would only have delayed the pain, he says.
After a sluggish start last year and into 2010, Germany's recovery gained traction in the second quarter, growing as much as 5% at an annualized rate, economists say, largely thanks to exports.
Germany's jobs recovery will run into constraints later this year, economists warn. The say output growth could slow later this year, especially if growth falters in key export markets like the U.S. and Asia. Though domestic spending in Germany is starting to rise, many economists doubt its notoriously frugal households will be able to propel the economy.
The German think tank DIW expects Germany to grow around 2%, at an annualized rate, this quarter, and some economists expect even slower growth at the end of the year.
—Geoffrey T. Smith
contributed to this article.
Write to Brian Blackstone at email@example.com
7/28-29/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Hoping to save the library a brick at a time, 7/28 Charlotte Observer,NC
DAVIDSON, N.C. - The Town of Davidson Library Task Force, in conjunction with the Davidson Public Library, plans an open house 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 3 to kick off its "Pave the Way to Save the Library" fundraising campaign and volunteer drive.
Hours at community libraries have been cut back to four days and 32 hours a week: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The branches will be closed Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays.
In order to keep the Davidson Public Library open for four days a week, as opposed to closing entirely, the Town of Davidson has promised to pay $175,000 to Mecklenburg County's library system and is looking to raise the money from residents.
The Cornelius Library Branch also is seeking volunteers and donations can be made to that branch.
As part of its fundraising, the town of Davidson is selling engraved bricks to be placed in the patio in front of the raised stage on the Village Green. Each brick will be engraved to commemorate donations made to save the library. Bricks can be purchased to honor an individual, family or in memory of a loved one.
Two sizes of bricks are available: a 4-by-8 inch engraved brick for $100 (tax-deductible) or an 8-by-8-inch engraved brick for $500 (tax-deductible).
Donors can pick up an order form at the library's open house. For those not wishing to purchase a brick, straight tax-deductible donations to the town will also be accepted.
People can visit the library Aug. 3 to learn more about the library's programs for all ages, volunteer opportunities and the fundraising drive.
- 'Minor miracle' saves Germany, 7/29 (/30) Bloomberg via Business Report,ZUIDAFRIKA via busrep.co.za
FRANKFURT, Germany - Germany's "short-work" policy showed the rest of the world how to survive a recession without losing jobs. Now it's time to pay the price.
[Yeah sure. Never mind there is hardly any so-called "price" because Germany didn't damage its job market and consumer base as deeply as the US and UK damaged theirs.]
The country's social welfare-driven [ooo, socialism bad, BAD - must have bad CONSEQUENCES even if we have to invent them! - actually Germany preserved more of its pre-crisis job Market] economic model, which the International Monetary Fund [dba Typhoid Mary] says is helping to preserve labour market rigidity, has sheltered it from the worst of the financial crisis. The cost is that as the economy recovers, hiring will not pick up as much as it does in countries such as the US or the UK, posing a risk to growth in a nation that needs to ignite household spending.
[This is a real stretch to slam worksharing/Kurz-arbeit. What invalidates the attempt is the fact that Germany doesn't need hiring to pick up as much as other countries do, because it's damaged its employment basement much less. And watch carefully. the U.S. and U.K. won't be able to restore hiring to precrisis levels because they have damaged their consumer base via their employment basement so much - even if the job numbers are there (doubtful), the hours and wages won't be, because the jobs will be part-time and poorly paid. But, of course, US and UK commentators will ignore this in their increasingly desperate chest-thumping.]
"The government has done a great job keeping unemployment in check during the recession, there's no doubt its policies have been a tremendous success," said Klaus Baader, the co-chief European economist at Sociéété Générale in London. "The problem is the labour market, and by extension consumer spending, won't get the boost it would have during the economic recovery."
[Never mind that Germany doesn't need the massive boost the US and UK need because they have amputated so much of their consumer base via their employment basement with mass layoffs.]
While the worst recession since World War II pushed unemployment in the US to 10.1 percent, a 27-year high [and imagine the unmentioned consequences on consumption per capita!], in Germany the comparable rate fell to 7 percent, a 17-year low.
Rather than firing workers as the economy contracted 5 percent last year, companies from Siemens to Volkswagen were subsidised by the German government to keep them on reduced working hours, saving almost half a million jobs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel last week labelled developments in the labour market a "minor miracle."ť
Under the short-work plan, or Kurzarbeit in German, companies can temporarily move staff onto shorter working weeks to reduce costs during periods of weak demand.
They pay only for the hours worked and the government provides up to 67 percent of the remaining wage. The payment of short-work benefits was extended to a maximum of two years in May 2009.
It supported up to 1.5 million employees at 63 000 firms and saved as many as 478 251 jobs last year, the Federal Labour Agency said.
- Germany Econ Min: GDP Growth Could Exceed 2% This Year: Press, 7/29 MNI via AutomatedTrader.net
[Let's see if the US or UK can come anywhere near that without major book-cookin' and figure-fiddlin'.]
FRANKFURT, Germany - German GDP could grow by more than 2% this year, Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle said in an interview pre-released Thursday evening.
"Germany has overcome the crisis faster than other countries and GDP could grow by more than 2% this year," he told German business daily Handelsblatt.
In the years ahead, the economy will need to draw more heavily on immigrant workers to meet the demand for skilled labor, the minister predicted.
[Mistake! Rely instead on domestic crosstraining and retraining via automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion.]
"With three million unemployed the problem is not so visible," he conceded. But "the longer the recovery continues, the larger the problem becomes."
A "shortage of skilled labor will become the key problem for the German labor market in coming years and not unemployment," he insisted.
[A so-called "shortage" of labor is actually a balance of labor and employment, of jobseekers and jobopenings, that will raise wages by market forces and enable Germans to purchase their own output, and lose their vestigial dependence on ever-weakening consumption elsewhere.]
Making the country attractive for foreign workers "is on top of my agenda," the minister assured.
[What a nitwit. Many Europeans don't know what their doing right in terms of worktime manipulation, and are on course to kill the "miracle" with thinking from the caveman period before the Age of Robotics.]
Bruederle reiterated that he expected unemployment "soon" to fall below three million from its current level of about 3.2 million.
The number of workers on short-time work schemes ("Kurzarbeit") should drop to below 100,000, he said. The latest official data for short-time work go only to March, when about 800,000 employees were still on such contracts. Analysts reckon that the total has dropped considerably in the meantime.
"If the trend continues -- and there are some indications of that -- I think a medium-term unemployment rate of 4% is entirely possible," Bruederle predicted. "In some regions we already have nearly full employment."
--Frankfurt bureau; +49-69-720142; email@example.com
- German unemployment slips to 20-month low, 7/29 International Business Times via ibtimes.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - Unemployment in Germany fell for the 13th straight month in July, as the jobless rate edged down to 7.6 percent – a 20-month low – from 7.7 percent.
According to the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency, the number of jobless people declined (on a seasonally-adjusted basis) by 20,000 to 3.21 million -- the lowest level since November 2008.
The jobs data coincided with better-than-expected earnings for big German manufacturers like engineering giant Siemens AG and chemical-maker BASF, suggesting the nation's export-driven economy [not really - they have among the strongest domestic consumption per capita in the world] is responding well to increased global demand, despite an environment of government spending cuts all over Europe.
[Seems that anglophony economists are desperate to spin Deutschland as export-dependent too, as if they were Hong Kong or Singapore - the heralds of premature globalization grasp at straws.]
“As the world economy recovers and foreign demand grows, Germany’s export industry [and exactly what percentage of their whole economy is that - funny they never tell us] is among the winners,” said Stefan Hardege, an economist at the Berlin-based DIHK chamber of industry and commerce.
“We’ve seen a favorable development in the labor market and we assume this will continue.”
Yesterday's surprising jump in the Ifo business-confidence index for June adds to buoyant spirits in Germany's financial community.
The drop in German unemployment will add to hopes that the impressive recovery in exports and industry might soon spread to the consumer sector, said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics in London. “The German labor market has been surprisingly resilient thanks to the Government’s Kurzarbeit subsidies, which encourage firms to reduce working hours instead of cutting headcounts. On the face of it at least, the ongoing recovery should support household incomes, perhaps prompting a pick-up in domestic spending that would provide a lifeline for the euro-zone’s beleaguered periphery by supporting their exports.”
McKeown tempers his comments with some caution, however.
“Kurzarbeit subsidies last for only two years, so there is a risk of a renewed increase in unemployment as they expire; wage growth has yet to respond fully to earlier increases in unemployment and will fall further; and German fiscal consolidation will begin next year, offsetting at least part of any boost to households’ incomes,” she explained.
“The labor market has been holding up much better than feared so far helped by the use of short work schemes, but this has failed to lift consumption, so far,” said Natascha Gewaltig, an analyst at Action Economics.
[Did consumption fall - at all?? What are the figures?!]
McKeown adds that while Germany will continue to perform well in the near term, “we hold out little hope of a strong domestic revival.”
One of the interesting aspects of the German unemployment picture lies with the pervasive disparity between the West and the formerly Communist East.
“Unemployment in the East continues to be around double that in the West,” noted Gewaltig.
[Gee, could that be because the unionized sector in the East was held only to a 38-hour workweek maximum instead of the 35-hour workweek maximum in the West... Europe doesn't know what it's doing right and how to expand it - simply by surrendering control over the determination of workweek length to the un(der)employment rate and automating the whole linkage.]
“Lower productivity makes the East a less attractive company location despite somewhat lower wages. Also, the east German states have to compete with lower wages in the new EU countries. The disparities in unemployment rates is a cause for social tension and frictions between the former East and the West.”
[So continue separate workweek-reduction regions in East and West Germany as now and then gradually average together the workweek ranges, but for godsake have a lower workweek with more overtime-to-jobs conversion in the East than in the West, not the reverse, as now!]
- MAN AG Second-Quarter Net Income Jumps Sevenfold as Truck Demand Recovers, by Andreas Cremer and Oliver Suess, 7/29 Bloomberg.com
MUNICH, Germany - MAN SE, Europe’s third-largest truckmaker, reported a second straight quarter of profit as demand for heavy trucks in the region recovers.
Second-quarter net income was 153 million euros ($199 million), compared with 22 million euros a year earlier, Munich- based MAN said today in a statement. Profit beat the 141 million-euro average estimate of six analysts compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 16 percent to 3.6 billion euros, driven by Latin America.
MAN is benefitting from a rebound in demand for heavy trucks in Europe, where its division has been profitable since March, and a surge in sales in Brazil. Swedish rivals Volvo AB and Scania AB beat estimates with their earnings, while Daimler AG, the world’s biggest truckmaker, forecast this week a 6 billion-euro operating profit on a surge in demand at the truck unit and at Mercedes-Benz cars.
“The trucks business is in recovery mode but it has not yet completely overcome the previous recession,” said Frank Schwope, an analyst at NordLB in Hanover who recommends selling MAN shares. “Operating profit would be considerably smaller without the gains in Latin America.”
The Latin America division, formed out of the Brazilian business bought from Volkswagen AG in March 2009, posted a record 53 percent gain in second-quarter truck sales to 16,748 units. MAN Chief Executive Officer Georg Pachta-Reyhofen said on July 19 that European sales may increase about 10,000 units this year to more than 50,000 vehicles.
“Our business in Latin America was already booming, but now Europe, Russia and the Middle East have been coming back as well,” CEO Pachta-Reyhofen told a press conference in Munich. “We expect to deliver more than 100,000 vehicles this year.”
Short-time work arrangement will phase out in the second half of this year, Chief Financial Officer Frank Lutz said.
Sales at the diesel-engine and turbine division, which accounted for about a quarter of group revenue, declined 7 percent to 894 million euros in the period.
MAN fell as much as 3.21 euros, or 4.4 percent, to 69.78 euros and traded at 70.39 euros as of 1:11 a.m. in Frankfurt, valuing the manufacturer at 10.2 billion euros.
MAN is 29.9 percent owned by VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker. VW bought the MAN stake to help Soedertaelje, Sweden-based Scania fend off the German truckmaker’s hostile bid three years ago. Volkswagen took a majority holding in Scania in 2008. MAN, which has a 17.4 percent holding in Scania, has said it’s open to cooperation with the Swedish rival.
New Truck Unit
Volkswagen named Jochem Heizmann, its production chief, this month to run a new division overseeing VW’s truck holdings from Oct. 1.
Growing demand for trucks, busses and engines will allow MAN to scale back the number of short-time working days to 20 in the second half from 50 in the first six months for production staff and to 19 days from 40 for office workers. MAN said on July 7 that it won an order for 350 commercial vehicles from a Belgian logistics company with the trucks to be delivered this year and next.
Orders in power engineering, the newly created segment combining MAN’s diesel-engine and turbine and RENK AG divisions, increased 64 percent to 977 million euros while operating profit declined 19 percent to 127 million euros.
Talks on future of MAN’s remaining stake in industrial- services unit Ferrostaal continue, CFO Lutz said, adding that he is “confident” that a solution will be found by the end of the year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andreas Cremer in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
7/25-26-27/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Shouldn't High Unemployment = Less Work To Do? by Dave Johnson, 7/27 SeeingTheForest.com (blog)
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I [=Dave Johnson?] am a Fellow with CAF.
[Here's another hominid puzzling his way toward Worktime Economics, flouting the contradictory, intimidatingly econometricized Prevailing Wisdom of mainstream economists and jumping his way from BGO to BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious) -]
WASHINGTON, D.C?? - Simple question: have we reached a point where machines and computers leave us with less work to do? If so it can mean a lot of people are left without jobs and incomes, losing their homes and health, while the rest have our wages dragged ever downward. Or we can make some changes in who gets what for what, and every one of us ends up better off.
Cake or death? Which will it be? (*explained below)
Somewhere around one in five of us is un- or under-employed while at the same time so many of the rest of us, still employed are stressed, tired, doing the work of those laid off. With too few employed many stores, restaurants, hotels and many other businesses are falling behind. As Bob Herbert puts it today, "Simply stated, more and more families are facing utter economic devastation: completely out of money, with their jobs, savings and retirement funds gone, and nowhere to turn for the next dollar." The government has stepped in with stimulus to pick up some of the slack in demand but that can’t go on forever and we need to find long-term solutions.
Is it structural?
There are signs that the jobs crisis may now be structural, or built into the system. This means that the usual solutions are not going to "restart the engine" and trigger a return to an economy that had [a job for...] where almost everyone can find a job, (even if it is a menial, boring time-suck).
Our unemployment emergency may really be about less work to do. Hale "Bonddad" Stewart writing at 538.com, Labor Force Realignment and Jobless Recoveries concludes, (click through for gazillions of charts and full explanation)
The "jobless recovery" is in fact a realignment of the US labor force. Fewer and fewer employees are needed to produce durable goods. As this situation has progressed, the durable goods workforce has decreased as well. This does not mean the US manufacturing base is in decline. If this were the case, we would see a drop in both manufacturing output and productivity. Instead both of those metrics have increased smartly over the last two decades, indicating that instead of being in decline, US manufacturing is simply doing more with less.
So it may be that machines and computers are doing more of the work that people used to have to do.
Robert Reich sees signs of structural unemployment as well, writing in The Great Decoupling of Corporate Profits From Jobs,
... big U.S. businesses are investing their cash in labor-saving technologies. This boosts their productivity, but not their payrolls. [. . .] The reality is this: Big American companies may never rehire large numbers of workers. And they won’t even begin to think about hiring until they know American consumers will buy their products. The problem is, American consumers won’t start buying against until they know they have reliable paychecks.
So what do we do?
Maybe we need some changes in who gets what for what. Right now we have an economy that is structured to send most of its benefits to a few at the top, while the rest of us -- the help -- sink ever downward into less and less security. People with power and wealth benefit when they figure out how to cause other people to receive lower pay -- or just lose their jobs. Eliminating jobs brings bonuses to the eliminators -- a perverse incentive if ever there was one. If someone can figure out how to cut your pay and benefits or just get rid of you (“eliminate your position”) they get to pocket what you were making, and you get nothing (and conservatives say you're lazy). If you don't own the company you're out of luck.
In the past this perverse incentive was mitigated by people banding together in governments and/or unions and forcing the wealthy and powerful to share. But modern marketing science has been successful at making people believe that government and unions are bad for them. This was also mitigated by the ongoing need to find people to do the jobs that needed to get done. But with continual improvements in technology this need is reduced. We're living the result.
Also, this perverse incentive structure assumes an infinite pool of customers to sell to, ignoring that the transaction of benefiting from eliminating a job also eliminates a customer. But modern business has become so efficient at job elimination that this comes into play. Who will be able to buy theTVs that the employee-eliminating factory makes, if all the employees are eliminated and have no income?
These are structural problems that we can change. Let me just brainstorm a few possibilities for structural changes into the mix here:
# Today when they replace a worker with a machine, the few at the top get another chunk of income, the worker gets nothing. But suppose a worker got to keep some of the economic benefit from getting laid off! Suppose that if your company replaces you with with a machine you get, say, 15% of the cost-savings as ongoing income. Heck, getting laid off would be a good thing, like winning a prize. After you get laid off a few times you only have to work part time. Get laid off enough times, you can retire.
# Suppose we just shorten the workweek? What if we change from a 40-hour workweek to a 30-hour workweek? Economist Dean Baker has been offering ideas for workweek reductions for some time.
The other obvious way to provide a quick boost to the economy is by giving employers tax incentives for shortening their standard workweek or work year. This can take different forms. An employer who currently provides no paid vacation can offer all her workers three weeks a year of paid vacation, approximately a 6% reduction in work time.
# Suppose the corporations and wealthy were taxed at the rate they were taxed before all the deficits and income inequality started, and the government just sent everyone a check, which served as a base income? Then everyone's wages would be higher because desperate people wouldn't be fighting over the few jobs. So then the better those at the top do, the better all of us do.
These are just a few ideas for restructuring the economy in ways the help all of us instead of just a few at the top. Please add your ideas in the comments.
We have a choice. We can continue with the system we have, and most of us -- the help -- will just get poorer and poorer while a few at the top take home more and more.
[Note also that the few at the top will have fewer and fewer sustainable investments - which require not just productivity to invest in but MARKETABLE productivity.]
Or we can change who gets what for what, and everyone comes out ahead.
*So which will it be, cake or death?
- Stimulus funds give Rome kids summer jobs, by Rod Guajardo, 7/25 Rome News Tribune,GA via romenews-tribune.com
ROME, Ga. - More than 100 Rome High students are hard at work this summer thanks to a program funded by the Georgia Department of Labor.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program allowed students ages 14 through 18 to work 35 hours a week for eight weeks and earn $8.50 an hour at one of 50 different locations around Rome.
[35 hours a week in Rome, Ga. USA from the American federal gov't TANF program? Isn't that the same workweek as those "radical socialist communist lazy" FRENCH have?]
The program, also funded by the Georgia Department of Human Services, is implemented through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and administered by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.
Dwight Henderson, social athletic director and Rome coordinator, has coordinated the program for several years and said there are several assessments in place to make sure the students find a work site that matches their skills.
“They are placed based on their job skill availability and job skill levels by doing an occupational skills assessment at the beginning of the program to determine where the strength of that young person might be placed the best on the work site,” Henderson said. “Most of the time young people will rise to the level of expectations if you continually have high expectations for them, especially knowing that young people will make mistakes then move on and be better and learning from their experiences.”
Deserre Scott, 17, just graduated from Rome High School and plans to attend Gadsden State Community College. She has been working at AutoMax and thinks the program offers a chance to build up a resume while getting some summer cash.
“I enjoy it here. There are lots of phone calls, people come in and pay rent, we just have people coming in and out all day,” Scott said. “They put me here because they think I’m outspoken and that I would do a good job answering telephones.”
Robert Sewell, 18, just graduated from Rome High School and will be majoring in mechanical engineering at Georgia Southern. Sewell was placed at the Rome-Floyd Fire Department training site and helps plug floor plans into a computer program called CAD Zone.
“This program has been good because it’s helping me with my major so it’s right up my alley,” Sewell said. “I’ve liked learning job skills and being able to interact with other people because it can help me out in college and throughout college.”
The program will end on July 30 with an assessment of all the students involved.
- Daimler lifts operating profit targets, by Daniel Schäfer, 7/27 Financial Times via ft.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - Daimler added to the regained optimism in the global car industry on Tuesday when the German car and truckmaker increased its operating profit target by 50 per cent.
The maker of Mercedes-Benz cars said it now expected profit before interest and tax to reach €6bn ($7.8bn, Ł5bn) this year, after previously forecasting ebit [huh??] of more than €4bn.
The move came on the back of record June sales and marked the second time that the German premium carmaker lifted its guidance this year, highlighting how the luxury car sector is quickly returning to full speed after last year’s drastic demand drop.
BMW, Daimler’s German arch-rival and the global market leader for premium cars, also increased its profit and its sales forecast two weeks ago, driven by a more than doubling of sales in China and a rebound in European markets.
Premium carmakers such as Daimler, Audi and BMW have profited from a surge in demand from China and other emerging export markets, which helped to rapidly drag them out of the deep trough hit during last year’s global economic crisis.
Dieter Zetsche, Daimler’s chief executive, displayed optimism for the second half of the year. “We expect significant revenue growth for the year 2010.”
Mr Zetsche’s comments underlined the positive mood among Germany’s export-led industrial companies, where orders for chemicals, engineering goods and cars have been pouring in at a rapid pace in recent months. However, economists and analysts have warned of a possible slowdown in growth from emerging markets, which have been the main drivers of the recent demand bonanza.
Philippe Houchois, analyst at UBS, said: “We believe we are reaching the end of the upgrade cycle at Daimler with 2010 likely to create a challenging base effect for 2011-12.
“The flow of supportive news seen in the second quarter is unlikely to be sustained”, he added, referring to positive currency effects from the depreciated euro and to the exports to emerging markets in particular.
In the second quarter, Daimler’s operating profit swung to a positive €2.1bn, up from a €1bn loss in the same period of the past year.
The carmaker posted an industry-leading operating margin of 9.8 per cent in its Mercedes-Benz car segment, helped by a higher proportion of sales in emerging markets, where margins by far exceed the ones in the developed world.
Daimler said the expectation-beating results had been due to a recovery of global car markets, strong growth in the main car and truck markets, an attractive product portfolio and efficiency gains.
Daimler used short-time work and a temporary agreement to reduce the workforce’s salaries to cut costs during last year’s steep crisis. With the end of the second quarter, Daimler dropped all short-time work, while the labour agreement ran out automatically.
Arndt Ellinghorst, head of automotive research at Credit Suisse, said the end of the temporary labour accord could cost Daimler €300m to €400m in the second half of the year.
“We expect potential labour cost headwinds into the second half and ongoing high incremental costs from CO2 compliance,” he said.
- Germany's Labor-Market `Miracle' Comes at a Price for Recovering Economy, by Christian Vits and Jana Randow, 7/27 Bloomberg.com
[But when you read carefully, you notice it's a tiny "price" compared to the price the U.S. is paying...]
Germany’s “short-work” policy showed the world how to survive a recession without losing jobs. Now it’s time to pay the price.
The country’s social welfare-driven economic model, which the International Monetary Fund says is helping to preserve labor-market rigidity, has sheltered it from the worst of the financial crisis. The cost is that as the economy recovers, hiring won’t pick up as much as it does in countries such as the U.S. or the U.K., posing a risk to growth in a nation that needs to ignite household spending.
[This is a real stretch to slam worksharing/Kurz-arbeit. What invalidates the attempt is the fact that Germany doesn't need hiring to pick up as much as other countries do, because it's damaged its employment basement much less. And watch carefully. the U.S. and U.K. won't be able to restore hiring to precrisis levels because they have damaged their consumer base via their employment basement so much - even if the job numbers are there (doubtful), the hours and wages won't be, because the jobs will be part-time and poorly paid. But, of course, US and UK commentators will ignore this in their increasingly desperate chest-thumping.]
“The government has done a great job keeping unemployment in check during the recession, there’s no doubt its policies have been a tremendous success,” said Klaus Baader, co-chief European economist at Societe Generale SA in London. “The problem is the labor market, and by extension consumer spending, won’t get the boost it would have during the economic recovery.”
While the worst recession since World War II pushed unemployment in the U.S. to 10.1 percent, a 27-year high, in Germany the comparable rate fell to 7 percent, a 17-year low. Rather than firing workers as the economy contracted 5 percent last year, companies from Siemens AG to Volkswagen AG were subsidized by the German government to keep them on reduced working hours, saving almost half a million jobs. Chancellor Angela Merkel last week labeled developments on the labor market a “minor miracle.”
Under the so-called short-work plan, or Kurzarbeit in German, companies can temporarily move employees onto shorter working weeks to reduce costs during periods of weak demand. They pay only for the hours worked and the government provides up to 67 percent of the remaining wage.
The program supported up to 1.5 million employees at some 63,000 companies and saved as many as 478,251 jobs last year, according to the Federal Labor Agency. In March this year, the latest month for which data are available, some 693,000 people worked fewer hours. The government extended the payment of short-work benefits to a maximum of two years in May 2009. Before the crisis, it was limited to six months.
The idea dates back to 1910, when the government compensated workers who were put on shorter hours in the potash and fertilizer industry during an earnings slump. In 1924, when unemployment climbed to 11 percent, the government introduced nationwide short-work policies similar to those used today. A quarter of the German workforce was enrolled in the program at the time.
Another tool that has played a central role in containing unemployment is the so-called work-time account used by about half of all German firms. This allows them to reduce employees’ working weeks during downturns. The hours saved accrue in an account and can then be used during booms without adjusting wages.
“Companies have replaced rigidly agreed working hours with flexible labor schemes that allow them to breathe with the economy,” said Joerg Kraemer, chief economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt. “Germany’s labor market is less inflexible than commonly thought.”
At Trumpf GmbH & Co. KG, a German maker of machine tools, electronics and lasers, each employee works up to 250 hours more than contractually agreed when business soars and up to 250 hours less when demand is low. When orders collapsed in November 2008, the Ditzingen-based manufacturer exhausted its 500-hour buffer before switching about 3,200 of its 4,500 workers in Germany onto the government’s short-work program.
“It was our top priority to keep our core workforce and preserve knowledge and experience for the next upswing,” said Trumpf Executive Vice President Gerhard Ruebling. “We had layoffs in foreign markets with less flexibility, such as Spain, Japan, Poland and partly also in the U.S.”
[Note that the knowledge loss of the downsizing economies is a form of luddism, just as inefficient as the poster picture of India with its twenty women cutting the grass with scissors instead of one doing it with a power mower.]
The downside is that firms won’t need to hire for some time. Labor agency chief Frank-Juergen Weise said companies cut working hours by an average of 30 percent; capacity they can now utilize before having to hire again.
“We won’t see a mass of new hires as in previous upswings,” he said, adding the labor agency estimates employment will rise next year by just “30,000 to 50,000 jobs.”
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts Germany will experience a “jobless recovery,” with its unemployment rate rising to 8 percent next year as the U.S.’s declines to 8.9 percent.
“Gross domestic product in Germany can expand by more than 7 percent without any increase in employment, if hours worked per employee and hourly productivity were to rise back to their pre-crisis levels,” OECD economists said in a report on July 7. “Achieving GDP growth on this scale is expected to take several years, and thus it is unlikely that the steady decline in the unemployment rate during recent months will continue through the second half of 2010.”
That’s a challenge for Germany, whose economic Achilles Heel has long been the reticence of its consumers to spend. Even as exports boom, the Bundesbank forecasts GDP will rise 1.9 percent this year and 1.4 percent next.
“Short-time labor certainly helps to shoulder a temporary loss of work in times of crisis,” said Andreas Rees, chief German economist at UniCredit MIB in Munich. “But it’s not a panacea against structural problems. There’s no job-market miracle.”
Weise said the short-work policy appears to have “paid off” in broad economic terms. The labor agency spent 4.6 billion euros ($6 billion) on the program last year, or 13,675 euros for every full-time job preserved. That’s roughly comparable with the money the government saves on unemployment benefits and the costs companies would incur if they had to hire new workers in the upturn, he said.
“That’s assuming that short-work results in retained employment and workers aren’t fired when the policy comes to an end,” he said. “If a significant number of people on short- work are subsequently made redundant, then one would have to say the policy had been very expensive.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Jana Randow in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org; Christian Vits in Frankfurt at email@example.com.
- Budget Cut in Newark: Toilet Paper, Work Week, Decorations and City Pools Axed, by Jim Roberts, 7/26 NationalLedger.com
NEWARK, N.J. - Budget Cuts in Newark, NJ are drastic from Mayor Cory Booker as even toilet paper has been cut from the city budget. As hygiene is tossed, certainly city pools can be closed as well and any kind of decorations can also be shelved. All have been axed from a city budget deep in the hole.
A report from CNN reveals the mayor is dealing with a budget that is bloated by $70 million and he is looking to make drastic cuts including reducing the work week and workers' salaries by 20 percent.
"Every single contract that does not go to the core function of our city in providing safe streets, providing fire protection, or other things to keep our city afloat will now be cut," Mayor Cory Booker said during an emergency press conference last week.
Workers are..also being shifted to a four day work week, essentially a 20% pay cut.
Booker said he is making the severe cutbacks "to avoid a tax shock to our city."
7/23-24/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- City union likely to take furloughs, 7/24 Vineland Daily Journal
VINELAND, N.J. - City employees will likely take furloughs rather than have their hours reduced, Mayor Robert Romano said Friday.
The 242 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Unit 2 were asked to decide whether City Hall employees should take 12 unpaid days off or cut 2.5 hours from their workweek.
Either way, the city will save at least $1.1 million.
Romano asked the union to voluntarily accept the furloughs after the state rejected the city's mandatory furlough plan last week.
That plan required only some of that union's members to take furloughs, but state rules require full departments to take furloughs or no one in that department can, Romano said.
Romano said the union hasn't yet made its decision official, but said Charlie Hill, a business agent for the IBEW units, told him the members are "overwhelmingly" leaning toward furloughs.
The mayor was happy with that decision, knowing that's what the majority of city employees want.
"They would much rather take the furloughs because they actually get the day off -- whatever day we pick -- and it doesn't affect their pension," Romano said. "It's a smart choice."
Hill could not be reached for comment Friday.
Romano said he would know Monday the union's official decision and what day each month city employees would be furloughed.
The union is made up of the city's clerical staff and laborers outside public safety, but does not include supervisory staff.
- Economy in 'party mood,' survey finds, 7/23 TheLocal.de
Germany’s business climate has shown the biggest monthly improvement since reunification, the respected Ifo economic institute reported Friday, in another sign that the crisis is but a distant memory.
[Distant?? Deutschers too can be dumm.]
FRANKFURT, Germany - “The German economy is in a party mood,” Ifo president Hans-Werner Sinn said in a statement.
The Munich-based institute reported that its monthly “business climate for industry and trade” figure rose sharply between June and July – from 101.8 points to 106.2 points.
“This increase is the largest since German reunification,” Sinn said.
The monthly survey of 7,000 firms in manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail also showed healthy rises in firms’ expectations for the next six months.
The survey results came as daily Bild reported that just 10,000 workers at the country’s biggest firms are still on the Kurzarbeit scheme, under which their work hours are reduced to avoid layoffs.
Among the 30 major companies that make up the Dax share index, the vast majority are no longer using the system, which was a pillar of Germany’s response to the sharp economic downturn of 2008 and 2009.
At the high-point of the recession in May 2009, about 1.5 million workers at German firms were on the scheme.
The mechanism allows firms to put their workers on shorter hours during tough times, rather than lay them off. Taxpayers then make up part of the workers’ lost salary.
Car maker Daimler, for instance, said it had all but wound up its Kurzarbeit programme.
“Other than a few exceptions, we ended Kurzarbeit on June 30,” human resources director, Wilfried Porth, told the paper.
At the high point of the crisis – Germany's worst downturn since World War II – some 41,000 workers at Daimler were on Kurzarbeit. A further 77,000 were on a smaller version of the scheme, taking an 8.75 percent cut in work hours and a corresponding cut in salary.
Indeed, the majority of workers still on Kurzarbeit are at one firm – truck-maker MAN, which has 8,000 employees on the scheme.
Deutsche Post has 124 Kurzarbeit workers, steel-maker ThyssenKrupp has 969 workers, while airline Lufthansa has 600 – all of them at its catering subsidiary LSG Sky Chefs. Engineering giant Siemens announced a week ago it would end its Kurzarbeit programme on July 31.
The Local (email@example.com)
- Police on the march over working hours, by George Psyllides, 7/24 (7/25) Cyprus-Mail.com
NICOSIA, Cyprus - Some 500 off-duty police officers yesterday demonstrated outside the presidential palace mainly against the decision of the Chief of Police to implement an eight-hour day.
The two-hour demonstration was peaceful.
Representatives of the police association (SAK) handed government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou a resolution, which he promised to convey to President Demetris Christofias.
“We are asking for the president’s intervention to diffuse the situation between the association and the chief of police,” SAK chairman Charalambos Socratous said.
The officers shouted “no to the eight-hour shift” and held placards demanding their working hours to be harmonised with those of the civil service.
The association’s demands include abolition of the eight-hour day, ending disciplinary action against members of the association and recognition of its status as a union.
Police chief Michalis Papageorgiou launched disciplinary proceedings against two members of the association for breaking the chain of command.
The officers had held a meeting with the Attorney-general to discuss the imposition of the eight-hour shift across the board.
“The Chief of Police has imposed fait accompli on us and we are asking for them to be lifted to enter negotiations,” Socratous said.
Stefanou said the two sides needed to engage in a dialogue to resolve the matter but SAK insisted there cannot be negotiations as long as Papageorgiou does not withdraw his decisions.
Police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos said the right of the officers to demonstrate peacefully was, is, and will be respected.
Katsounotos urged the officers to agree to dialogue to resolve the issue.
SAK secretary Panayiotis Panayiotou said the eight-hour shift started during the island’s colonial years and was scrapped in 1983.
It was re-introduced on a trial basis for three months in 1993 and was deemed “unhealthy and inhuman” and was again withdrawn.
“The chief of police decided to bring it back without prior dialogue with the police association,” Panayiotou said.
In doing so, the chief is forcing the officers to work over 49 hours per week instead of 40 hours, Panayiotou said.
- Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Making fulltime working hours more flexible, by Rika Kayama, 7/24 Mainichi Daily News via mdn.mainichi.jp
TOKYO, Japan - How would you answer if you were asked until what time do you work? Many fulltime employees, or those self-employed, would give answers such as, "My shift ends at 5:30 p.m., but I usually stay past 6 p.m.," or "I start working relatively late, but my shift lasts until 7 p.m." or "I close my store at 8 p.m., but have to stay there till 9 p.m. to handle miscellaneous work." But few people would answer, "I usually leave my workplace before 5 p.m."
At my clinic, I often encounter how difficult it is for some people to work until 5 p.m. This is the case with Mr. A, who is trying to return to work after being absent because of depression. His workplace offers a system under which employees can come to work during sick leave as part of a rehab program. He utilized the system to try to reintegrate himself into his workplace by initially participating in only the regular morning meeting, and then working until noon, then until 2 p.m. etc., while gradually extending his work hours.
However, he hit the wall when he extended his work hours until 4 p.m. He can work until 3 p.m. after taking a lunch break, but feels exhausted after that. He always tells himself that he has to work just one more hour until 4 p.m., but he gets headaches and begins to feel dizzy, and has no choice but to tell his boss, "I can't work any longer. I'm going home."
"I can work until 3 p.m. without any problem, but my shift ends at 5:30 p.m. If I can't overcome the hurdle of 2 1/2 more hours and can't return to the office fulltime, I may have to resign. I wonder whether my company will allow me to return to work on condition that I work until 3 p.m.," he says. However, the company does not permit such a short shift except for those who are caring for their children.
I believe that there are numerous patients with depression or some other mental problems who can't return to the office just because they can't work for a few more hours to complete a so-called "full" shift.
There are obviously many young people who have withdrawn themselves from society and shut themselves in at home but have wanted to work, even though they can't stay at work until the evening.
Some people may say such people should only work part-time, but I wonder whether people with depression or other mental problems can retain their permanent positions but be allowed to work shorter shifts, such as until 3 p.m. or for four days a week. If it is possible, there would be numerous people who could demonstrate their vocational skills because they would not have to worry about being unable to work until the evening.
I don't necessarily think people must work for eight hours a day, five days a week.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
7/21-22/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- New Hampshire Tries Work Share Idea, by Jon Greenberg, 7/22 nhpr.org
CONCORD, N.H. - One of the initiatives to emerge from the statehouse this year is a jobs program called Work Share. Work Share gives a company an alternative to layoffs. Rather than firing workers, it can reduce hours for everyone and state unemployment benefits will keep employees’ take home pay close to what it had been.
New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jon Greenberg has a look at how the program has worked in other states and what it might suggest for the workplace of the future.
At the worst point in the recession, New Hampshire had lost more than 40 thousand jobs. People who might have been with the same company for ten even twenty years found themselves without work.
REARDON: A layoff is just a devastating situation for both employers and employees.
Employment Security Commissioner Tara Reardon wanted to offer companies another option and she found it in Work Share. The idea has been used elsewhere for more than two decades. It creates a middle ground between full time employment and no job at all.
Let’s say for example that that the company cuts a production line back to three days a week. Reardon says workers would get two pay checks.
REARDON: They’re going to get three days of regular pay, two days of unemployment benefits, and the plan can be for up to 26 weeks long.
There are several advantages. The employer holds on to trained people. Workers aren’t divided into winners and losers, and in most cases, there’s less of a hit on the state’s unemployment fund.
So far, no New Hampshire firm is using the program but before setting it up here, Reardon spoke to her counterparts in several states. One was Missouri, where they’ve used Work Share since 1987. Amy Susan with the Missouri Department of Labor says the recession put the program to the test and it worked.
SUSAN: What we’re seeing is employers retaining their workforce and that’s the whole point and that’s the bottom line of this program.
During the past two years, the program has helped some 37 thousand Missouri residents.
Last spring, the Sunnen Corporation, a St. Louis-based manufacturer, enrolled about 300 employees, from office clerks to machinists. They had cut back to a four-day work week. Human Resources Manager, Lee Holmes, says some workers could have squeaked by on the reduced pay, but others could not.
HOLMES: Few people told me that it saved the house, saved the car. Which was a nice thing to hear.
That’s all to the good but the Sunnen case also reveals the limits of Work Share. First, Holmes says the program played no role in Sunnen’s decision to reduce hours across the board rather than layoff employees.
HOLMES: We were planning based on what we thought the business was going to do. We made those decisions outside of the Shared Work program.
Second, by the summer of 2009, sales declined so much, Sunnen went on to lay off 20 people.
Still, Holmes says, without the program, the impact of the recession on workers would have been worse.
Whatever its limits, the Work Share concept takes government policy into a key aspect of the labor market, the length of the work week. Boston College sociologist, Juliet Schor, says more people working fewer hours might not be just a good idea, it might be the only way for the economy to create enough jobs on the other side of the recession.
Schor says technology has boosted productivity so much, the country could be looking at a glut of labor for a considerable time.
SCHOR: We saw it first in manufacturing, and now information technology, the web and so forth, is having a huge impact throughout the economy, which allows employers to do more with less labor.
Schor says long hours are something that define the U-S economy. Each year, the typical American works at least a couple of hundred hours more than their counterparts in other industrialized nations. She argues that if American employers offered more free time rather than a higher paycheck, they would find many takers.
But Schor says those companies that offer health insurance and other benefits face a strong disincentive to taking that approach.
SCHOR: A lot of benefits are paid on a per person basis. So what they like to do is hire fewer people and work them for longer hours. It’s part of why we have job scarcity in this country.
Schor notes that if you look at comparable economies, while it doesn’t hold true everywhere, there’s a strong correlation between lower health care costs for employers and a shorter work week.
A minor issue like health care is just one of the challenges for the labor market but this all raises the possibility. If the idea of more people sharing the same amount of work makes sense when the economy heads down, maybe it also makes sense when the economy heads up.
For NHPR News, I’m Jon Greenberg.
- Mesilla employees return to 40-hour week, By Steve Ramirez email@example.com, 7/22 Las Cruces Sun-News
MESILLA, N.M. - Finally, some good news about town finances came out of a Mesilla board of trustees meeting Wednesday.
For 1 1/2 years, town government has battled with shrinking gross receipts taxes, residual effects of a global economic recession, and the fallout it caused. Town employees have seen their work weeks slashed to 32 hours to save money paid for salaries and benefits.
Others have been flat-out laid off. Mesilla residents have seen town government services reduced as the hours dropped for town employees.
But, in a somewhat interesting twist, Mesilla's 26 full-time town employees will be able to return to a 40-hour work week on Oct. 3, ending close to two years of reduced hours.
"The state talks a lot about the furloughs they've had to implement. But we've had a furlough on Fridays for a year and a half," said Trustee Carlos Arzabal, just moments after trustees voted 4-0 to approve a final operating budget for the town's 2011 fiscal year that will allow the employees to go back to a 40-hour work week.
The twist to accomplish that will come from the resignation of Town Clerk and Treasurer Juan Fuentes, plus a consolidation of Mesilla's Community Development and Finance departments. With Fuentes leaving at the end of July to accept a position as finance director for the city of Truth or Consequences, the town will save $63,910 in salaries and benefits Fuentes would have been paid.
Fuentes will be replaced by Nicholas Eckert, who will relinquish his position as community development director. Building inspector - and former community development director - Gina Gentile will take on additional duties as community development coordinator.
Trustees also unanimously approved the appointment of Lt. Deputy Marshal Jeff Gray to town marshal, replacing Marcel Jojola, who resigned July 10.
"All of this, together, saves the town a ton of money," Arzabal said.
Trustee Sam Bernal said the departures and reorganization of town administration was a "win-win situation for everyone," and Trustee Jesus Caro Jr. added, "It's a good time to take advantage of this. I think this (return to a 40-hour work week) will help keep our employees from looking elsewhere."
Mayor Nora Barraza said it was Fuentes who proposed the changes after he accepted his soon-to-be new position.
"You hate to lose quality people like Juan and Marshal Jojola," Barraza said. "But this is a solution that we can live with because we've got two great people to take over for them."
Town employees who attended Wednesday's special board of trustees meeting, at Mesilla Town Hall, were obviously glad to hear they'll be going back to 40 hour, five-days-a-week work schedules. But they also lobbied trustees to consider consolidating work weeks into four, 10-hour days.
"I appreciate the fact the board wants us to go back to 40-hour weeks," said Deputy Town Treasurer Linda Goff. "...(But) with 10-hour work days, I can get more done."
Barraza said the board would be willing to review the work week within the coming year.
Steve Ramirez can be reached at (575) 541-5452
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker announces 4-day work week for non-uniformed city workers, by Philip Read, 7/21 The Star-Ledger via NJ.com
NEWARK, N.J. — Newark Mayor Cory Booker, facing a mounting budget deficit, announced a series of "savage" cuts today, including a four-day work week for 1,450 non-uniformed city workers, shuttering the city’s pools and even banning the purchase of toilet paper.
The extreme measures Booker said he will implement starting next month come on the heels of the city council’s decision earlier this week to defer action on the creation of a Booker-backed municipal utilities authority. The authority, which would take over Newark’s vast watershed holdings is a linchpin in his budget.
Without the MUA, the budget is left with a $70 million hole the mayor said he must attempt to fill without resorting to draconian tax increases that could push homeowners over the edge and cripple the city’s fragile economic revival.
"In the meantime, I’m going to shut down as much of city government as I can," Booker said during a City Hall press conference. "We’re going to stop buying everything from toilet paper to printer paper. Call me Mr. Scrooge, if you want, but they’ll be no Christmas decorations around the city."
Barring any city council action, Booker said, the belt-tightening will begin Aug. 2 with the closing of Newark’s city pools and the popular Camp Watershed in West Milford. On Sept. 27, allowing for the required civil service notifications, the city’s non-uniformed employees — all except police, fire, water and sewer — are to begin a 4-day work week, the equivalent of a 20 percent pay cut. And, he said, he’s "taking away" the council’s gasoline debit cards and asking members to voluntarily join their City Hall colleagues on the furloughs.
Rebuffed over his $600 million spending plan, which already includes the prospect of as many as 350 police and firefighter layoffs and the closing of the city’s two branch libraries, Booker threw the budgetary ball back at the nine-member council.
But at least one member, Donald Payne Jr., the council president, wasn’t ready to return the serve.
"We continue to try to work with him to lessen the pain of the citizens, but at the end of the day, it’s his obligation," Payne said. "The ball is in his court." Asked whether Booker was playing a game of brinkmanship to force the council’s hand on the MUA, he would say only, "You’re pretty perceptive."
Councilman Ras Baraka, who in May captured the South Ward seat from a Booker ally, declined comment, saying he planned a news conference of his own at 11 a.m. today.
The "savage" cuts Booker said he is imposing are expected to save only $10 million to $15 million of the $70 million needed during "an untenable financial crisis" similar to those shutting New Jersey towns halls and forcing public-safety layoffs across the state.
Symbols of Newark’s resurgence, including a Courtyard at Marriott next to the Prudential Center arena and an expansive "Teachers Village" marrying charter schools and residences, could be in jeopardy if taxes are used as a budget remedy, administration officials said.
Still, Booker said he has faith the council, having rejected the MUA, would lead the way to resolve the crisis.
"It is not a time for politics. It is a time for us to come together," the mayor said.
Newark’s non-uniformed city employees were already on notice that they would be taking biweekly furloughs starting July 30. Today’s action will increase those 11 unpaid days to 19, saving the city an extra $1.9 million, officials said.
"Once again, the people affected are the people who live in the city, work in the city and pay taxes in the city," said Rahaman Muhammad, president of Local 617 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 500 city workers. "Where’s the leadership in that?"
But Booker emphasized he is unwilling to impose a big property tax increase, at least beyond the 7 percent proposed in his June 30 budget submission, saying it would inflict too much harm on the 2,500 Newark homeowners now behind on their mortgage payments.
At least one councilman, Augusto Amador, appeared to be in his camp.
"The last thing I would support is an increase in taxes," Amador said. "I will do everything in my power to prevent that because that will be the beginning of chaos in my city."
- Worked up during work hours?, 7/21 Economic Times of India via economictimes.indiatimes.com
NEW DELHI, India - Not having time for friends, family and even for oneself can have serious consequences on the overall balance of life. Gone are the days of nine to five jobs. Today you are called to work whenever there is a need to work.
Natasha Grover works at a propriety trading firm, a job that requires a twelve hour commitment every day, five days a week. One among the handful of women in her office, Natasha finds it challenging to spend almost her entire day at work and yet find time for family.
While initially she enjoyed the thrill of her job, long hours are now taking a toll on her work-life balance. While the corporate culture has successfully filled pockets, at the same time it has emptied one out of his/her free time.
Long hours are now taking a toll
Rahul Kulkarni, Head HR, Kale Consultants, explains, “The trend of long and odd work hours took off in India largely due to the emergence of the outsourcing industry, which serve different countries in different time zones. However, long and erratic work hours come with a lot of problems especially health and related issues.”
Pratyush Pundir, Director, OnStage Retail Ventures, suffered from serious back pain last year. While health was taking a backseat, yet he could hardly stay away from work even at home, “It is not just about work hours. When you get so engrossed in work, you start to work even after you reach home or when you have taken a day off. Since we have US clients, I try to respond to their emails in real time by working till late. However, companies are increasingly supportive these days. It is more a matter of personal choice and how much responsibility you are willing to shoulder.”
Aiming for balance
While everyone knows the importance of balance, work tends to supersede leisure, especially new entrants in the industry. It is surprising though, that in nations such as the US, while in 1983, the lowest-paid workers were more likely to work long hours, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, by 2002, the most highly paid workers were twice as likely to work long hours as the lowest paid.
Rahul Gama, Vice President HR, Godrej Consumer & Household Products Ltd, emphasises the need to balance, “We try to build a culture where balance is most important. In fact, we want to do away with people who have to work for long or extended hours. There needs to be a healthy balance between office and home. Only in exceptional circumstances, in a need or project based situation, would we want people to stay longer. Otherwise if people are working more, we actually ask them to explain. A healthy mix helps you on the job. Too much work causes fatigue, tiredness, etc leading to lower productivity. Burnout happens quicker. There is more stress. Employees grow only in one direction and not overall.”
Coping with long work hours
Employees can strike the right chord by making a little extra effort to integrate their work and personal life. Rahul Kulkarni advises, “Some of the measures employees can adopt to care for their health are to watch their food habits, sleeping hours and to try and take breaks in between shifts. Often, long work hours hamper one’s personal and family life too. While it is majorly the individual’s responsibility to take charge and handle these concerns, support must also flow from the organisation. Employees should have a window, an outlet for their emotions and needs. They should be open to counselling in office. Even supervisors should communicate freely. Long work hours often damage work-life balance. People start getting into the habit of staying late at office. Only when the person can shift his focus to work-life integration can he achieve a long-term solution and promote all round development without letting work or home suffer. Integration is the key.”
Thus, while one can’t completely change how things are, one can definitely make a small start to promote a healthier way of living and working.
[Long working hours, less freedom, when humanity has more worksaving technology than ever before in history? We are an embarrassment to intelligent life in this quadrant of the galaxy. There is an alternative.]
7/18-19-20/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Popularity of work-sharing plans saves many jobs, by Kerry Isberg, 7/19 PBP Media via HRmorning.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Even companies facing the toughest of times may be able to keep a large percentage of workers on their payroll – instead of laying off valued employees.
That is, if your company’s able to take advantage of work-sharing programs 20 states now offer.
Rather than starting temporary or permanent layoffs, many states now allow companies to reduce certain employees’ work hours. These people are then eligible to receive a portion of regular unemployment benefits to cover the lost work hours.
Of course, there are always drawbacks. In most cases, employers must submit written work-share plans to the state. Some programs last only a limited time.
Here’s a quick look at just a few states now offering this type of program. To find more, check with your state’s unemployment office.
CALIFORNIA – This trail-blazing state, offering the first program of its kind, allows sharing for six months. You can find info here [*Fact Sheet - Guide for Work Sharing Employers].
COLORADO – A new state work-sharing program allows participants to keep their jobs and receive unemployment benefits if their hours are significantly reduced.
Employers must submit a written work-sharing plan that falls within state guidelines. [SB 28, L 2010.]
NEW HAMPSHIRE – Employers must submit written plans and will hear back from the state within 15 days. Note that employees must continue receiving full health insurance benefits and be allowed to participate in other benefit plans based on hours worked. [SB 501, L 2009.]
NEW YORK – Here, a plan can cover the employer’s total work force, a particular shift or shifts, or a work unit or units. Applications should be submitted at least two weeks but not more than four weeks prior to the proposed effective date. More information’s available here [*It's No Longer Necessary To Lay Off Employees During Temporary Declines in Business. Now there's SHARED WORK, The layoff alternative].
RHODE ISLAND – Employees here can retain their jobs and receive up to $460 per week – while retaining their benefits and seniority. Click here for more info [*Do you want to keep your skilled workers? Learn about WorkShare].
TEXAS – If employees’ work hours are reduced less than 10% or more than 40% for any week, they won’t be eligible for Shared Work benefits. Info’s here [*Special Circumstances - scan down 3/4 of page to: If Your Employer Has a Shared Work Program].
- Worse than ever - The Path of Unemployment, by Dean Baker, 7/19 CounterPunch.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It has been two-and-a-half years since the recession officially began in the United States. While the economy has been growing for more than a year, unemployment remains near the 10.1 percent peak of October 2009. Few economists predict a rapid decline from its June level of 9.5 percent and, with stimulus being phased down over the next year, it is very plausible that the rate will edge higher in coming months.
The US, unlike most western European countries, is not set up to sustain long periods of high unemployment. Its system of social welfare is very much centered on work. This is most evident with health care. The vast majority of non-elderly people get their health care through employer provided health insurance. Individual policies tend to be very expensive, especially for people with any history of medical problems. When people lose their jobs, they generally lose their health care coverage as well. While there is a public program for low-income families, it doesn’t cover most of the unemployed, and the quality is often quite poor.
The same is true of other forms of public support. The US was never very generous to people who are not working, and it has become less so in the last three decades. That is why the prospect of a prolonged period of high unemployment in the US is likely to mean serious hardship for large numbers of people.
The unemployment seen in this recession is already as bad as in the worst previous post-war recession, and it is almost certain to linger much longer. In the 1981-82 recession, unemployment in the US peaked at 10.8 percent in December 1982. However, the economy turned sharply upward at the beginning of 1983, and the unemployment rate fell back quickly. By July 1983 the unemployment rate was down to 9.4 percent, and it had fallen to 8.3 percent by the end of the year.
There is little prospect for a similar turnaround in this downturn. While the unemployment rate has edged down slightly since its October peak, most forecasts show the rate remaining nearly constant or just falling modestly over the next year and a half. Most official projections show the unemployment rate remaining well above its normal level until 2015 or 2016.
It is also worth noting that the same level of official unemployment implies a considerably worse labor market situation today than in the early 1980s. This is due to changes in the age composition of the labor force and also a declining coverage rate for the labor force survey used to measure unemployment.
The change in the age composition is fairly straightforward. In the 1981-82 recession, the huge baby boom cohort was mostly in its 20s or early 30s. The youngest were still teenagers. Workers at these ages have few financial and family commitments and therefore tend to change jobs more frequently. As a result, we expect to see higher rates of unemployment among younger workers. By contrast, the baby boomers are now mostly in their late 40s or 50s, ages at which workers very infrequently change jobs. Therefore we should expect a lower unemployment rate at present compared with 30 years ago.
If we look at unemployment by age group, it turns out that for every age cohort the unemployment rate is higher at present than it was at the peak unemployment rates of the 1981-82 recession. This means that on an age-adjusted basis the unemployment rate in this recession has already been much worse than during the recession that had prior claim to being the worst in the post-World War II era.
The aging of the population is not the only issue that affects the measure of unemployment. The coverage rate of the Current Population Survey (CPS), the labor force survey used to measure the unemployment rate, has fallen sharply over the last three decades. In the early 80s more than 95 percent of the population was covered by the survey. In recent years, the coverage rate has slipped to 88 percent. This decline in coverage would not matter if the people who are excluded from the survey are similar to the people who are covered.
However, we have good reason for believing this is not the case. The groups that face the highest unemployment rates (e.g. young African-American men) also have the lowest coverage rate. Using a comparison with Census data from the 2000 Census, my colleague John Schmitt concluded that the fall in coverage rates is likely to lead to an understatement of the unemployment rate of approximately 0.2 percentage points. This means that if we adjust for both age composition and declining coverage rates, the current unemployment rate would be comparable to an 11 percent measured unemployment rate in 1981-82.
Europe: From unemployment to partial employment
While the downturn has led to high and prolonged unemployment in the US, it has not had quite the same effect in Europe. Although the overall unemployment rates are very similar at present, the European average is inflated by the 20 percent unemployment figure for Spain, which adds more than a full percentage point to the EU average. It is also important to remember that the EU started the downturn with an unemployment rate that was two percentage points higher than in the US. This means that the recession led to a much sharper rise in unemployment in the US than in Europe. This is in spite of the fact that Europe has actually seen a sharper decline in GDP than the US.
One of the main reasons for the difference is that several European countries, most notably Germany and the Netherlands, have adopted a policy of work sharing to limit unemployment. The basic logic of work sharing is very simple. Under a standard system of unemployment insurance, workers are paid out benefits only if they are completely unemployed. In effect, the government is paying workers for being unemployed.
Under work-sharing schemes, instead of just paying workers for being completely unemployed, the government pays workers for being partly unemployed. In the standard model used in Germany, if a firm cuts workers hours by 20 percent, then the government covers 60 percent of the lost wages or 12 percent of the total wage. The employer is expected to pick up another 20 percent of the lost wages or four percent of the total wage. The worker is then left with four percent less pay but is working 20 percent less time. Since this likely corresponds to working a four-day week rather than a five-day week, savings on commuting and other work-related expenses may come close to offsetting the cut in pay.
Germany has been able to use this system to keep its unemployment rate from rising at all in the recession. In fact, its unemployment rate is slightly lower today than it was at the start of the recession. The Netherlands, which has also aggressively pursued a work-sharing policy, has seen a modest rise in unemployment, but its unemployment rate was still just 4.1 percent in the most recent data.
The success of Germany and the Netherlands thus far in protecting their workers from unemployment in such a steep downturn is a remarkable step forward in macroeconomic policy. It would be best of course to avoid recessions altogether, but if their impact on employment can be offset to the extent accomplished by these two countries, then it would be an enormous accomplishment.
In the US workers are seeing near double-digit unemployment with the implied loss of income and benefits, as well as the loss of self-esteem and social status that is associated with long-term unemployment. By contrast, workers in Germany and the Netherlands are adjusting to the falloff in demand with shorter workweeks and longer vacations. This is a great model and with luck it will quickly be adopted throughout the EU.
It may take a bit longer to see work sharing catch on in the US. While 15 million are unemployed, none of the people responsible for the recession are in that category. Economic policymakers are not given their jobs based on performance nor do they lose them as a result of bad performance. Therefore, we are likely to see far more suffering in this recession in the US than in Europe as the unemployment rate remains high for several more years.
Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.
This column was originally published by the Zurich-based ISN.
- Alliance launches job-training program, 7/18 Canton Repository via cantonrep.com
ALLIANCE, Ohio - Looking to put the unemployed in jobs, Vincent Marion and other Alliance officials have launched a $50,000 incentive project.
With the recently created Alliance City Training Program, city officials intend to fund job training to prepare local residents to fill open positions with area industries and corporations.
Along with preparing city residents for specific jobs, the program offers incentives for employers to hire Alliance residents. The city will pick up the tab for the new employees’ training.
“We were hearing issues with employers needing trained employees for either technical or office positions,” said Marion, the city director of planning and development.
As of May, the Stark County unemployment rate topped 11 percent. The state does not issue specific figures for Alliance and other cities with fewer than 25,000 residents.
The program recently was created through a City Council ordinance authorizing municipal officials to utilize $50,000 in Urban Development Action Grant funds.
“We developed this from scratch,” Marion said. “It is a work in progress. It might be tweaked down the road at some point.”
One of the city’s partners in the project is the Alliance Area Development Foundation, which promotes industrial development.
The foundation ran a similar program in recent years where job-preparation training was offered, and participants were sent to local industries for jobs.
“I think it will be well-received as it was in the past,” said Tom Pukys, president of the Alliance Area Development Foundation.
“We talk with them about their training needs. We partner with them in a training program that will assist them in getting skilled workers.”
The job-preparation training could be provided by the employer.
“If it is done on-premises and the employer is doing the training, we can reimburse the employer,” Marion said.
Others who could provide the training could be Stark State College of Technology or the adult education division of the Alliance City Schools.
With $50,000 available, each job-seeking participant will be eligible for up to $1,000 of training.
“The only eligibility requirement is the person receiving the training has to be a resident of the city of Alliance,” Marion said.
“If (employers) want to receive the $1,000 grant, they have to hire an Alliance city resident. We just gave the person who lives in the city an advantage because we will defray their training cost.”
Each job must be at least 32 hours a week, and the hourly wage must be at least $10.
“The objective is to have that employee productive (from) Day One,” Pukys said. “Each business is going to have its own training program. If you can bring value to a company, that company likely will hire you. What we are trying to do is bring value to a company.”
Potential employers do not have to be inside the city. Those not in the city limits have to be in unincorporated areas, not in other cities or villages.
Marion and Pukys have not gotten any specific industries to sign up.
“That is what we are in the process of doing right now,” Pukys said.
Some of the large industrial plants in the Alliance area include the Genie Co. in Ma-honing County’s Smith Town-ship, MAC Trailer in Lexington Township and Transue & Williams in the city.
City Councilman Steven Okey, while supporting the spirit of the effort, has some reservations.
For one, Okey, D-at large, prefers employers be within the city rather than in neighboring townships.
“I represent the people of Alliance, and we need jobs in the city of Alliance,” Okey said. “We are talking about using public money to encourage job growth. I think the jobs training is good for a first step.”
Generally, city officials have used the UDAG fund to provide loans to fledgling or expanding businesses. Those loans are to be repaid to the city under a revolving loan process.
The money is not expected to be repaid with the Alliance City Training Program. But once city residents land jobs, they would pay the 2 percent municipal income tax.
“We do not expect to be repaid,” Auditor Kevin Knowles said. “We would re-coup the money through income taxes. There are companies that are hiring. They are having difficulty finding people with proper qualifications. This is to give them some stimulus.”
Joblessness has been a concern in Alliance and other communities.
“My hope is the $50,000 goes fast and we can find 50 people in Alliance who need jobs,” Marion said. “If that money does get used, we are planning on allocating more from our revolving loan fund.”
- Parents cut working hours due to childcare costs, by Joe Lepper, Children & Young People Now via cypnow.co.uk
LONDON, England - Four out of 10 families are cutting their working hours due to the high cost of child care, according to a survey.
The survey of more than 1,000 parents with two or more children found that 39 per cent did not feel it was worth both parents working full time because of prohibitive childcare costs.
Aviva, the insurance firm that carried out the Cost of a Sibling research, estimates that full-time childcare for two children of early years age costs Ł17,000 a year.
Of those questioned who reduced their hours or quit working, more than half choose not to return to work after the birth of their first child.
Around half of those who decided not to return to work after the birth of their second child plan to take at least five years off work.
- Downturn leads to volunteer upturn - Many people who are working fewer hours or who have lost their jobs are using their spare time to help out, by Eithne Donnellan, 7/20 IrishTimes.com
DUBLIN, Ireland - Many people who have found themselves working shorter hours or with no jobs as a result of the recession are putting the extra time on their hands to good use – by volunteering.
[Volunteering sounds lovely but any economy that relies for vital functions are charity is lethally flawed. Volunteering is noble slavery, and the more paid employment has to compete with slavery, the lower the pay.]
The Samaritans has reported increasing numbers coming forward to train as volunteers for its helplines, while the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) has had a similar experience.
An IBTS spokesperson said the difficulties it often has at this time of year trying to keep blood supplies at optimum levels have not been a concern this year as people seem to have more time on their hands to give blood.
Suzanne Costello, national director of Samaritans Ireland, said while her organisation has never had any difficulty getting volunteers, it has noticed increasing numbers coming forward over the past months. These included people who had taken redundancy and had more free time as well as those who were doing a lot less overtime than in previous years.
“It is a very heartening and positive response in this current climate that people are willing to put themselves forward in this way,” she said.
“And it’s obviously vital because the State becomes more reliant on the voluntary sector at times like this,” she added.
The Samaritans, which runs a 24-hour helpline for those who are feeling lonely or suicidal, has about 2,100 volunteers north and south of the Border.
Those who volunteer receive training one night a week during an eight- to 12-week period. They can end up offering support on the telephone, by text messaging or face to face with those in need at drop-in centres.
“It’s a really positive way of remaining engaged if you are looking for work or have more time on your hands and it is enormously rewarding,” said Ms Costello.
At the IBTS blood stocks are “quite comfortable” for this time of year, which would not normally be the case.
A spokeswoman said this had to do with the fact that people have more time on their hands to donate blood in the current economic climate. But she stressed it wouldn’t be the only factor.
She said that during the past year the IBTS had gained up to 17,000 followers on Facebook and this, combined with targeted text messaging, was also likely to have increased the numbers of donors coming forward.
“We would traditionally always find the summer period difficult because people are on annual leave, they have exams, etc, and it always leads up to a position where you would be under a bit of pressure, but that is not the case this year.”
Meanwhile, Prof John Monaghan, vice-president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, indicated that there had been a “significant increase” in people volunteering to work with the society throughout the State.
This has enabled it to open new conferences or branches in places such as Dundalk and Balbriggan to meet additional demand.
“I can’t say they are all people made redundant or on short-time working. That may be part of it, but I suspect it’s more likely that it’s people who simply feel, ‘there are others in difficulty and let’s see if I personally can do something to help them’,” he said.
Not alone was the organisation seeing more people willing to volunteer to help it in its work, donations were also holding up well, despite the downturn, he said.
“We are very grateful to have the increase in volunteers and donations because calls for help throughout the country have gone up dramatically in the last year.
“For example, in Dublin, calls for help have gone up 37 per cent, in Cork they are up 53 per cent, and in the midwest they have gone up 46 per cent.”
- Domestic working hours explained, 7/20 NewEra.com.na
WINDHOEK, Namibia – Legal Assistance Centre (LAC)’s Gender Research and Advocacy Project has published a fact sheet for domestic workers and their employers.
The sheet explains some of the key rules in the Labour Act of 2007 and the Social Security Act of 1994, which apply to all employees.
Under the Act, a domestic worker should not work more than 45 hours per week. Any additional hours worked are considered overtime, while she/he must be paid 1.5 times basic hourly wage for overtime work.
In addition, no one should be forced to work overtime, and overtime may not be more than 10 hours per week.
If a domestic worker works between 20h00 and 07h00, during night hours, she should receive at least an additional 6 percent of her basic hourly wage.
If a domestic worker works on Sunday, she should receive either twice her basic hourly wage or 1.5 times her basic hourly wage plus an equal amount of time off during the next working week (if the domestic worker agrees to this arrangement).
With regard to meals, after a domestic worker works for five hours without stoppage, she should be given one hour off as a meal break.
Both the employer and domestic worker must register with the Social Security Commission (SSC).
The employer should pay 0.9 percent of the domestic worker’s monthly salary, and deduct 0.9 percent from her salary, making a total 1.8 percent contribution to the SSC each month.
These payments will become part of a fund that will allow the domestic worker to receive money for maternity leave, sickness, and death (when money is paid to the family).
It is the employer’s responsibility to pay this money to the SSC. If the domestic worker works for more than one employer, each individual employer is still responsible for registering the domestic worker and paying 1.8 percent of the domestic worker’s monthly salary to the SSC.
The SSC will add up payments made for the domestic worker from each employer.
It is against the law not to register a domestic worker with the SSC.
Even if one’s domestic worker only cleans one’s house for one morning per week, she/he is still an employee in the eyes of the law.
7/16-17/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- The Buzz Blog, by Mark Carlson, Herald Staff, 7/17 HeraldNet.com (blog)
An economist in Berkeley, Calif., argues that the U.S. could create more jobs by shortening the workweek.
Typical out-of-touch ivory tower thinking.
[If he's refering to Gene Coyle (see story 7/09-10/2010 #1 below), I don't think Gene is an "ivory tower" thinker associated with some university - Gene is an independent thinker (as few university economists are) - and I don't think the millions of Americans who created more jobs from 1840 to 1940 by shortening the workweek from 80 to 40 hours a week were "out-of-touch ivory tower thinkers" either. Neither were Lord Leverhulme of Lever Brothers ("The Six-Hour Day and Other Industrial Questions"), W.K. Kellogg of Kellogg's Cereals (30-hour workweek 1930-1986), Arthur Dahlberg (suggesting 20-hr wk in 1932), the Technocrats (16-hr workweek in 1932), Sen. Hugo Black (Black-Connery 30 Hour Bill), FDR (44,42,40-hour US workweeks 1938,39,40), the Lincoln Brothers (fluctuating workweeks to maintain jobs 1959-present), Nucor Steel (ditto 1980s-present), France (35-hrs, 1997-2001), South Korea (40-hrs from 44, 2004-2011)... I do think blogger Mark Carlson of the Herald staff is out-of-touch though - out of touch with his own American history and with much else that's going on in the world. Basically he's another cog in the machine who's OK with a pre-computer 40-hour workweek forever, no matter how much automation and robotization we implement, or how weak our markets for what they produce, or how much our taxes to make up for making it harder to get a job than to go on disability. Wake up, Mark.]
The average American’s workweek already has been reduced in a bold program called “mandatory furloughs.”...
[He'd prefer they completely lose their jobs perhaps? Typical superficial thinker.]
- Europe vs. US: The Post-Recession Productivity Divide, by Brian Blackstone, 7/16 Wall Street Journal (blog) via blogs.wsj.com/economics
New data from the ECB confirms the Great Recession took a major bite out of productivity in the currency bloc.
The calculations, presented in the ECB’s latest monthly bulletin (pages 32-33), were based in part on quarterly hours-worked data that the EU statistics agency Eurostat started releasing in March. Productivity is defined as output per unit of labor.
According to the ECB data, quarterly productivity fell at an average of 0.4%, from prior year levels, between the beginning of 2008 and the first quarter of 2010. In contrast, U.S. productivity expanded at an average of 3.2% over that period.
The data confirm what’s long been suspected; that efforts in Europe to cushion the effect of the recession on employment hurt productivity, at least in the short run. In the U.S., employment fell much more sharply despite a more modest drop in output than in Europe.
Why does it matter? Over the long run, productivity is key to rising wages, low interest rates and higher standards of living. If workers produce more, then they can command higher wages without putting pressure on corporate profits or inflation. Central banks can thus keep interest rates lower than would otherwise be the case, feeding a virtuous cycle of consumer and business and consumer spending and low inflation.
There are plenty of caveats when it comes to international comparisons of statistics, especially productivity. For one, the ECB data are for the whole economy, while U.S. productivity stats are limited to the nonfarm business sector. There are also differences in how hours worked are defined and how GDP is calculated.
Those caveats aside, the data still reflect differences in how the U.S. and euro zone responded to the deepest recession in decades.
Europe’s experience was more typical of past downturns. Businesses get caught off-guard by a drop in demand and find themselves overstaffed. Assuming that the fall-off will be temporary, they hold onto staff as long as they can to avoid the extra costs of firing and re-hiring, which are particularly pronounced in parts of Europe. Many European governments encouraged companies to keep workers by subsidizing wages and social costs, a program known as “Kurz-arbeit.” Kurzarbeit is very popular in Germany, where it is credited with keeping unemployment from rising to a significant degree even as the slump in global trade last year pummeled Germany’s export-reliant economy. The offset is that productivity took a major hit.
[So what. Unmarketable productivity is meaningless. And without jobs, you've got no markets. And Germany's economy is not export-reliant like China's or Singapore's or Hong Kong's - Germany has a very healthy domestic consumer base, thanks to their worksharing-anchored employment basement.]
U.S. productivity’s resilience is the surprise of this recession. Firms appear to have shed payrolls in anticipation of a drop in business, and have been making due with fewer workers even as demand started to pick up around the second half of last year.
[Make do with fewer workers and you'll have to make do with smaller markets.]
Each region is now at a key inflection point when it comes to productivity and the recovery. The drop in euro zone productivity suggests hiring won’t take place on a large scale even as the region recovers, since firms can simply increase the hours worked of their existing work forces.
Employment should be picking up in the U.S. as companies with lean staffing levels are forced to hire in response to greater demand. The risk is that the severity of the employment decline holds back consumer confidence and demand, the linchpin of the recovery.
- Hypermarket Urged To Operate Shorter Hours, 7/17 Bernama.com
KOTA BAHARU, Malaysia -- Hypermarkets in the country should operate shorter hours to give a chance to small retailers to operate their businesses profitably, said Universiti Malaysia Kelantan (UMK) senior fellow, Dr Kassim Buhiran.
He said this was the case in Cologne, Germany where hypermarkets only conducted business until 6pm on normal days and closed fully on weekends and public holidays.
The small retailers stood no chance against hypermarkets and would have to fold up if they failed to get assistance in competing against these giants, he told a public lecture at the university here Saturday.
However, he stressed that he was merely making a suggestion and the matter needed to be discussed in detail by all the stakeholders before a decision on it (shorter operating hours of hypermarkets) could be reached.
- Will you vote for a five-day work week? 7/16 (7/17) Sify.com
INDIA - More and more people are giving importance to ‘me only’ time says Taru Bahl.
Are you willing to work on weekends?" asks a tough looking interviewer on the "Hear what you want to hear" television advertisement of Tata Docomo. The first-time job seeker mutters a tentative "No." After a pregnant pause, the interviewer announces, "in that case, you are hired!"
The five-day work culture has been around since the ’60s. Henry Ford brought in a five-day, eight-hour work schedule in the US, while paying employees for a six-day week. His logic was not based on philanthropy alone but on a strong business case. According to him, giving people more personal time would translate into them searching for greater leisure, entertainment and consumption options. They would spend more, eat more, travel more, buy more and commute more which for him, meant buying more cars. In India, credit for initiating this along with other employee-friendly initiatives such as awarding overtime to workers goes to the Tata group.
In China, the five-day work culture was brought into effect in 1995, supplemented with an altered television schedule that had a greater entertainment-focused programming mix. The end result? Weekend travel peaked. The thrice-a-year "golden weeks", which are three sets of week-long vacations, also contributed to a growing tourism industry in China.
Indians have traditionally been known to sweat it out, even over weekends. They are the first to volunteer to work on holidays, especially if promised an extra compensatory allowance. Offensive as it may sound, in many workplaces around the world, when asked to work on an urgent project over the weekend, some reply, "Sorry, we have plans, but why don’t you ask an Indian?"
When travelling to an outstation location for a training programme or conference, the itineraries of an European or American would most likely indicate a Monday to Friday programme or meetings scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday, to protect the weekend. We, on the other hand, are far less likely to think twice about travelling on a Sunday, cancelling personal engagements and getting in earlier to set things up, get a feel of the place and be better prepared.
Sure, it’s a good thing to be committed to one’s work or even go beyond the call of duty. But in the pursuit of a newly-defined happiness, workaholics too are beginning to see merit in having a weekend off — to finish odd jobs, spend time with the children, pursue a sport or catch up on sleep. And many opt to work from home, to be at least a step closer to bringing that elusive balance back in their life.
The tougher task would be for those of us who allow work to define our existence, to figure out what to do in those free hours.
["That's why God created the leisure industries."]
Many have had to struggle to make ends meet or pay back a loan, in the process forsaking what we may term ‘legitimate’ leisure. But judging by what employees want now and what employers are willing to give, this seems to be a trend of the past. In the present, we are learning to ‘have a life’ and not feel guilty about it.
7/14-15/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Firms Get Aid for Avoiding Layoffs, by Melanie Trottman, 7/15 WSJ via online.wsj.com
The New Buffalo Shirt Factory, which prints concert T-shirts in Clarence, N.Y., avoids seasonal layoffs thanks to a program called Shared Work. [photo caption]
[Or in other states, called "work-sharing" (or work sharing or worksharing), or even, like the British, "short-time working."]
CLARENCE, N.Y. - The New Buffalo Shirt Factory in Clarence, N.Y., used to lay off workers to cope with seasonal slowdowns in orders.
"Then, on a couple days' notice, I would need everybody back," said human-resources director Pam Thayer. Three years ago, the company tried a different approach with the help of a state program that makes up the wages of workers whose hours are cut but who remain on staff. And this past winter, the company reduced the hours of 60 to 70 employees instead of laying off 25.
New York was one of the early adopters of Shared Work, a program originally used in parts of Europe that has now caught on in about 20 states. The program is being increasingly used by a broader range of companies to weather the latest economic downturn.
More than 2,200 New York employers participated in the state's Shared Work program in 2009—quadruple that of the year before—preserving 11,000 jobs in the state, said New York's Labor Commissioner Colleen Gardner.
"Rather than laying off or closing up shop, this is an opportunity to stretch things out until things get better," she said.
With joblessness hovering just under 10% nationwide, other states appear to agree.
*New Hampshire this year became the first state since the mid-1990s to sign a program into law.
*Colorado followed last month.
Pennsylvania is nearing adoption of a similar plan as the national unemployment rate, though slightly improved, stood at 9.5% in June.
The number of employers applying for Shared Work in New York is slightly down this year, something state labor officials say reflects a stabilizing economy. New York's unemployment rate, while high, has improved and been better than the national level.
In May, the latest period for which state data are available, New York's unemployment rate was 8.3%, its lowest since April of 2009. That compares with a national rate of 9.7% in May.
Still, New York's labor department is promoting the program within the state and working with other states seeking guidance. Pennsylvania officials in February held a work sharing hearing at which a New York Labor Department official testified.
To qualify for the New York program, employers must have five or more full-time employees and their hours and wages must be reduced at least 20% but no more than 60%. Traditionally, workers in the various state programs could participate for about 26 weeks but it's risen to as much as 53 weeks following congressional action to extend unemployment benefits nationwide.
One reason some states have been reluctant to adopt such programs is that funding to top off the wages would come from employer taxes collected by the state.
Some proponents of the plans are pushing for federal funding to strengthen existing programs and encourage more states to participate. Under similar bills in the House and Senate seeking such aid, the federal government would cover costs of the unemployment benefits through most of next year and award start-up grants to interested states.
The U.S. Department of Labor is considering support. At a Senate Finance Committee hearing in April on unemployment insurance, Jane Oates, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, said the benefits of shared work are "obvious."
"We are willing to discuss with you whether states—or employers—should be given incentives to participate," she told committee members.
Write to Melanie Trottman at email@example.com
- ECB Urges Timely Unwinding Of Labor Market Support Measures, 7/15 Need to Know News via AutomatedTrader.net
FRANKFURT, Germany - A timely dismantling of employment-protection programs established during the crisis is necessary to allow labor markets and economies to undergo necessary restructuring, the European Central Bank argued Thursday in its Monthly Bulletin.
Many short-time working schemes, such as Germany's Kurzarbeit program and a similar program in Italy, helped to prevent "excessive" job shedding and maintain levels of human capital in the short run. But "as the recovery takes hold, and since economies need to restructure, necessary adjustments could be hampered if employment is frozen in certain sectors," the ECB warned.
[On the contrary, short-time working schemes should be standardized and elaborated to achieve the real restructuring that's needed for sustainability. If they are dismantled, "levels of human capital" will just go back into surplus, wages will continue to deteriorate, and officially denied depression will deepen. What's needed is to achieve maximum consumption per capita via full employment, no matter how short a workweek that may require.]
Furthermore, "the measures also generate a major fiscal burden without creating incentives for investment to foster recovery," the central bank argued.
"A timely dismantling of many of these measures would help to accelerate the restructuring process," the bank asserted.
"Without sectoral reallocation and greater wage flexibility, the euro area may take many years to generate sufficient employment growth to absorb those workers currently displaced," the bank said.
By contrast, the maintaining or expanding of new or extended training programs for the jobless that help restructure economies as well as countries' efforts to "improve the flow of information in the labor market and thereby enhance the job-finding prospects of the unemployed" could enable the unemployed to find jobs in a time of continuing sectoral reallocation. The ECB pointed out that this would only be doable "to the extent that budgetary resources allow."
Extending unemployment benefits to counteract the social costs of the crisis "reduce job-search incentives, as well as adding to the fiscal burdens of Eurozone countries," the bank said.
Employment "can be expected to continue to fall in 2010, albeit at a slower rate than has been seen so far," the bank predicted.
Given that there is "considerable room" for an expansion of hours worked over the long term, "there is some risk that job creation will be insufficient to bring down unemployment for a significant period of time if wages do not moderate sufficiently to stimulate labor demand," the ECB cautioned.
Furthermore, the bank said that questions still linger regarding how well sector-specific skills of those laid off from construction and some other industrial sectors can be transferred to new sectors.
"Policy reforms should now be geared towards facilitating restructuring and generating sufficient employment growth to absorb those workers currently displaced," the bank urged.
"Efforts to reduce the degree of labor market dualism" -- referring to the difficulty of dismissing permanent workers in some countries versus the relative ease in shedding temporary staff -- "in many countries should concentrate on increasing labor market mobility and flexibility, rather than seeking to extend employment protection to temporary workers," the bank argued.
"In the recovery phase, further reforms aimed at extending flexible contracts are likely to encourage employers to hire, in an environment characterized by a high degree of economic uncertainty," the bank said.
--Frankfurt bureau; +49-69-720142; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bürkle finishes short-time work and grows by 30%, by staff editor (email@example.com), 7/14 evertiq.com
KARLSRUHE, Germany - Already in June, the line manufacturer finished short-time work in all business units having lasted 13 months in total.
PCB - The reason is the continuously increasing receipt of orders since beginning of the year which culminates in 30m euros by 30th June 2010. This order volume is three times higher than in the previous year and also higher than in the first two quarters of the booming years 2008 and 2009.
["Booming"? - what the heck industry is this anyway?]
An important business sector of the specialist for press and coating technologies [we're none the wiser] is still the business unit "Surfaces" which contributes 35% of the total turnover, subsumed in the total turnovers of the derived timber board, glass, automotive and graphical industry.
[This whole article could be a spoof for all we know.]
Another novelty is the successes of the subsidiary Fiber Engineering GmbH in Karlsruhe. The company will deliver the first order to the USA this summer, a line for the manufacture of recyclable fibre moulded parts for the automotive industry.
Thirty percent are earned by the pioneer of multi-opening technology in the recent business unit "Photovoltaics". More than 60 lines of the brand Ypsator and single-opening laminators have been sold since market entry three years ago. In the third business unit "Plastic cards and multilayer", Bürkle gained 15% of the turnover, whereas the first large order in the amount of 2m euros for complete card body manufacturing equipment has been delivered to Mexico since the product portfolio of PCU was taken over in 2008.
7/11-12-13/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Iowa amends its UI law regarding voluntary leaving, shared work plans, 7/13 CCH via hr.cch.com
Effective July 1, 2010, the Iowa Employment Security Law has been amended as follows:
Voluntary leaving. A claimant will not be denied benefits if his or her quit was caused by the relocation of the claimant’s spouse by the military. In addition, neither contributory nor reimbursable employers’ accounts will be charged under such circumstances.
Shared work plans. An employing unit will no longer be limited to approval of only one shared work plan during a 24-month period.
- Auditors urge Camden to adopt longer workweek for firefighters, by Deborah Hirsch, 7/12 Cherry Hill Courier Post,NJ via courierpostonline.com
CAMDEN, N.J. — While Camden has made progress in cutting overtime, fiscal watchdogs say costs will mount again if officials don't take a harsher stand against generous firefighter contracts.
State law allows firefighters to work up to an average of 56 hours in a standard work week because the nature of the job entails significant downtime. That's fairly common among South Jersey towns like Cherry Hill, which schedules firefighters to work one 24-hour shift followed by a two-day break, said Bob Brower, vice president of the New Jersey Firemen's Mutual Benevolent Association.
Camden firefighters used to work that schedule but moved to an average of 42 hours a week more than three decades ago. Though their hours were reduced, city public works director Patrick Keating -- who was the business administrator at the time -- said the number of sick and vacation days didn't change.
Like Camden, many fire departments across the state schedule firefighters to work one full day followed by three days off, said Dominick Marino, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey. Marino said this has become a popular shift rotation because it allows firefighters extra time to recover from physical tolls.
State auditors, however, have called for Camden to revert to a longer workweek. Doing this would cut staffing by 25 percent, the audit said, resulting in "dramatic" savings of upwards of $3 million a year.
In Camden, all unionized employees can bank unlimited amounts of sick leave.
Keating, who was involved in four contract negotiations between 1973 and 1996, said this was originally designed as a safety net in case employees had a long-term illness because the city was unable to join the state's disability plan. That changed in 1998, but, again, the contracts stayed the same.
"It's absolutely absurd, these payments," Keating said.
When asked why he allowed such perks to remain in the contracts, Keating said the city went to arbitration in the 1990s but reached a settlement. He declined to explain what happened.
- Long working hours fuel diabetes risk, by Siobhan Barry, 7/11 (7/12 due to dateline) ABC Online via abc.net.au
BRISBANE, Queensland, Australia - Diabetes Queensland says longer working hours are increasing people's risk of developing the chronic disease.
The organisation polled 600 people in Brisbane and found half of them work extra hours, and two-thirds work through their lunch break.
Chief executive Michelle Trute says there is a direct link between working hours and type two diabetes.
"If you're working longer hours, what we're finding is you're going home a little bit later, so it starts to encroach on any time that you could have put towards physical activity," she said.
"If you're working longer hours, you'll also find that you may not have enough time to plan for a healthy meal and reflect on what you've eaten during the day, and also sleep deprivation."
Ms Trute says an information kit is being launched for workers and employers.
"It's no point in the employees trying to be healthy if the workplace itself doesn't allow them to do that," she said.
"It's about making sure that there's a bike station to tie your bikes up to securely, making sure that there's some showers in your workplace, making sure that there's lots of water available for staff.
"Because at the end of the day, healthy staff mean healthy profits."
7/09-10/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Berkeley activist [Gene Coyle] has fix for job[seeker] glut: cut the work week, 7/09 San Francisco Chronicle (blog) via sfgate.com
BERKELEY, Calif. - With all signs pointing to sluggish recovery, the challenge of the times is to spur job growth, with Democrats generally backing government spending to stimulate the economy while Republicans favor tax cuts to spur investment.
Against this backdrop, Eugene Coyle, an independent economist living in Berkeley, argued in a recent edition of the political newsletter CounterPunch that the surest way to increase the demand for labor would be to shorten the work week.
Coyle, whose professional credits include work for the California Public Utilities Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, writes:
"At the end of the Great Depression, when the nation similarly faced a severe job issue, a new Wages and Hours law in 1940 cut the work week from six to five days, the now standard 40 hours. Hours have not been reduced in the 70 years since, despite the relentless gains in productivity."
To some extent the work week is being shortened by a combination of government action and market forces. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of 31 industrialized nations including most of Europe, the U.S., Canada and South Korea, reported in 2009 that "in a large majority of OECD countries hours worked have fallen over the period from 1994 to 2007."
South Korea holds the record for length of workday among the OECD nations according to this OECD chart from 2002:
How would hour-shortening legislation work in an era when labor is increasingly globalized, whether that means moving service jobs to low wage areas or importing goods from cheaper locales offshore?
Posted By: Tom Abate (Email) | July 09 2010 at 10:40 AM
- In Part-Time Jobs, Women Out-Earn Men, by Catherine Rampell, 7/09 New York Times (blog) via economix.blogs.nytimes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - When it comes to part-time work, the gender wage gap goes the other way: Women generally out-earn men.
In the last week, we’ve been plucking choice items from the Labor Department’s latest report on women’s earnings, including one post on the evolving gap between pay for women and men.
The numbers in that post were for weekly wages for full-time workers. But some readers questioned whether it was fair to treat all full-time workers as equivalent. Different workers choose to allocate more or less time to their “full-time” careers, decisions driven in part by other commitments like family responsibilities (which still fall primarily, though not entirely, to women). One person might work 60 hours a week and another 35; all things being equal, surely we should expect the former to earn more.
Thankfully the Labor Department also reports statistics on typical weekly pay broken down by hours worked, for workweeks ranging from just a handful of hours to over 60 hours. Let’s take a look at the pay gap by these workweek lengths:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009“
Data refer to the sole or principal job of full- and part-time workers, for wage and salary workers.
[GRAPH (doesn't copy well)]
As you can see, among workers who work at least 40 hours a week, men still significantly out-earn women.
But as soon as you drop below that 40-hour-a-week mark, the reverse happens: Most women make more than men who work equivalent hours, with the exception of workers who put in fewer than five hours a week.
There are a few things to consider when puzzling over why these pay gaps might exist.
One is that these pay statistics do not control for what kinds of jobs these workers are in. And the type of work — whether it be education versus finance, doctor versus nurse, manager versus assistant — accounts for a large portion of the variation in the pay that people receive.
Additionally, men and women are not equally distributed amongst these different workweek lengths. Women are much more likely to be in part-time jobs than men. In fact, in 2009, 66.6 percent (about two-thirds) of American workers logging fewer than 35 hours in the typical workweek were women. By comparison, just 45.1 percent of workers logging more than 35 hours a week were women.
In other words, the “typical” workweek length for men versus women is very different. Men who work part-time are deviating from the “male” workweek norm, a fact that may say something about their quality, ambition or priorities, or at the very least how employers view their quality, ambition or priorities. Likewise with women who deviate from the “female” norm and work full-time.
7/7-08/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Maine Voices: Maine needs to move forward with real budget solutions - Furlough days show the way: A voluntary shorter work week for state employees will save millions, by Kevin Scott, 7/7 PressHerald.com
AUGUSTA, Maine - ANDOVER — Maine's state Legislature passed a "tax reform initiative" that was soundly defeated at the polls on June 8.
Less than a month later, Maine's finance commissioner, Ryan Low, reported the state would actually have a budget surplus of $50 million. According to a Bangor Daily News report, Low "is particularly pleased that sales tax revenue in May was again above estimates."
According to the report, our state took in $5.5 million more than expected, bringing the sales tax to $11.8 million above projections for the year. Until April, the sales tax had not met projections for 18 months.
Now is the time to learn from our past. There is a fundamental solution to address the unsustainable state budget process that Democrats and Republicans have been relying on in Maine. Mismanagement of our state finances must be addressed immediately.
Maine will not attract new business, create jobs and break out of the "same old, same old" if we do not have the courage to act on bold initiatives. There is a sensible plan that will move Maine in the right direction.
The idea behind this sensible policy has already been used, but in a very destructive way. In the current budget cycle, Maine's major political party members are using furlough days, which wreck family budgets and lower employee morale, as a way to "solve" the budget problem.
It is time we use this sensible plan in a constructive way that benefits not only private-sector Maine taxpayers, but also works to help those Maine taxpayers who unfairly bear the brunt of political party incompetence: Maine state employees.
The voluntary 32-hour workweek is a sustainable, forward-thinking solution. State furlough days prove this model works.
We need to make this model a best choice for reducing Maine's tax burden, not a panic button. Maine workers, Maine private citizens and businesses, all of us, deserve a lasting solution.
We can do better. Our next governor needs to move away from the unsustainable practice of radical and abusive piecemeal budget cuts.
Throughout my gubernatorial campaign, I have listened to thousands of Maine voters, many of them state employees.
When asked, more state employees answered "yes" than "no" to this question: "Would you volunteer for a 32-hour work week if your benefits, jobs and technical expertise were acknowledged and respected in the process?"
Those who answered "yes" for an extra day off per week cited an elderly parent who needed care, more family time, or a better work-life balance as the reasons they would sign up.
Maine is currently proving 32-hour weeks are workable; what Maine is not doing is taking the idea to the next level.
Initially, using an hourly income average, converting 3,000 state employees to 32 hours a week saves $29.9 million a year in payroll savings alone.
That number does not take into account facility savings, carbon footprint issues, heating and cooling costs for state offices, etc.
This may seem like a bold step, but it is not that bold in today's modern work world.
Today, companies such as Google, Texas Instruments and others lead the world through improved work schedules and productivity processes.
American productivity is not maximized at 40 hours a week. Performance is improved when employees have a secure, predictable work environment. Employees in today's often-stressful world perform best when there are clear goals, expectations and recognition.
The size and scope of our state government are unsustainable. In Maine, crushing taxation is the single biggest threat to our way of life.
In this environment, businesses cannot grow or create jobs. A fresh "set of eyes" looking at the challenges is needed.
Maine voters have a choice: Continue the downward cycle of our state with the same old thinking, or cast their lot with a candidate who knows how to grow Maine out of its economic recession with fresh, innovative, putting-the-citizen-first solutions.
- Special to the Press Herald
ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Kevin Scott (e-mail:email@example.com) of Andover is an independent candidate for governor in the Nov. 2 election.
- Anecdotes from Germany regarding 'Kurzarbeit' (Part-Time for Economic Reasons), by Mike "Mish" Shedlock, 7/08 FavStocks.com (blog)
Here is an interesting email from “Klaus” in response to "Economists Surprised Again as German Factory Orders Unexpectedly Fall" -
I have a German friend visit whose family owns a small manufacturing company that makes the machinery to clean and refurbish commercial concrete forms.
This is his story: a few years ago business was steady and they had about 12 employees. They didn’t really see any slowdown in 2008. Moreover, 2009 was a bit of a boom year and they staffed up to about 15. That lasted for a while, but this spring (May) business fell off a cliff.
They are now down to about 3 people, the rest are on ‘Kurzarbeit’ (translated: ’short work’), which is essentially a way to keep people on payroll while slashing their hours and pay.
[and having much of the pay "slash" made up from the unemployment insurance fund which is being spared by the continuing employment. This is the same as American "worksharing" which is the temporary transitional form of permanently sustainable, and increasingly necessitated by automation and robotization, timesizing, which shifts over to some form of sustainable funding, such as a tax on chronic overtime with an exemption for reinvestment of overtime advantage (relative to hiring) in ... hiring - and training wherever needed. No more downsizing our way to permanent high-tech hell with more miraculous worksaving technology converted from blessing to curse by cutting jobs and markets instead of working hours and the most fundamental enemies of freedom, poorly paid overwork for fewer and fewer people in the midst of desperate underemployment for more and more others as layoffs leave the survivors to do all the work - or get replaced by part-time 20-somethings at minimum wage.]
A quick search shows ‘Kurzarbeit’ is being hailed as a model for other countries to follow. This makes me wonder how much ‘Kurzarbeit’ is masking unemployment problems in the US.
Kurzarbeit in the US
Hello Klaus, thanks for the report and thanks for your question. I am quite certain Europe will slow much more than the mainstream talking heads realize.
[But the USA will slow much more in terms of consumption per capita because only 17-18 U.S. states have Kurzarbeit (worksharing) programs to maintain the consumer base via the employment basement.]
In the US, “on Kurzarbeit” is known as “part time for economic reasons“.
[No, it isn't - "part time for economic reasons is a statistical category" of the BLS. Kurzarbeit is equivalent to American "work sharing," or "shared work," or even as the British (and Florida) have it, "short time working."]
If you work as much as 1 hour you are considered employed.
[Only by the twisted U.S. definition of employment and unemployment.]
Part-time census workers alone added 411,000 jobs in May. 225,000 of those jobs went away in June as noted in "Jobs Decrease by 125,000, Rise by 100,000 Excluding Census; Unemployment Rate Drops to 9.5%; A Look at the Details"....
Moreover, those “not in the labor force” rose by a whopping 842,000 in a single month. In the last 3 months, those “not in the labor force” rose from 82.6 million to 83.9 million, an increase of 1.3 million.
In the US, if you want a job, but do not report you looked for a job, you are not a part of the labor force and therefore are not considered unemployed. This explains how the unemployment rate dropped.
Most of those not in the labor force are under the age of 16, retired, or in prison. However, there are 2.6 million workers who want a job but did not look for a job in the last 4 weeks. The euphemism for this sorry state of affairs is not unemployed, but rather “marginally attached“.
If you add up the "marginally attached" and "part-time for economic reason" workers and add those totals to the official unemployment rate, you arrive 16.5%. That number is a more reasonable approximation of unemployment misery than the “official” number. We label that total “U-6“.
[True. But the spreading worksharing programs offer a stepping stone to a sustainable future where "full time" is pried loose from our pre-computer 40-hour workweek frozen since 1940 despite wave after wave of underestimated technology-borne productivity jumps and adjusted downward to a level more appropriate to the age of robotics - which unless we do and do quickly (worksharing, that is) will leave us with permanently weakening markets and an economic death spiral that will make the Great Depression look like a Sunday School picnic.]
Mike “Mish” Shedlock (http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com) is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management.
- Economics focus: Hoard instinct - The nature of the recession, not government schemes, may explain why some countries lost so few jobs, 7/08 Economist.com
["The nature of the recession"?! Oh please. "The Economist" and many other envious, resentful and clueless English-language economists will say anything to keep from crediting worksharing and maintain the sophistry of their "lump of labor" sneer.]
LONDON, England - Germany's gross domestic product fell by 4% in the two years to the end of 2009, twice as much as in America. Yet its employment rose by 0.7% while America’s plunged by 5.5%. When German politicians contemplate why a gruelling recession produced almost no increase in unemployment, they usually have a one-word answer: Kurzarbeit. “It is only thanks to Kurzarbeit that more jobs were not lost,” Angela Merkel, the chancellor, told Germany’s parliament in November.
Kurzarbeit is Germany’s practice of providing a federal subsidy to companies that voluntarily reduce the hours of their employees while keeping them on the payroll.
[In the USA, it's called worksharing or shared work and 17-18 states have it, more every year because the alternative, layoffs alias downsizing alias "rightsizing" etc., seems to precede strange weakness in consumer confidence and spending - all purely coincidental, of course! The longer people are unemployed, the harder it is to get employment and - the longer they are unemployed. They lose their skills, their income and their morale, and we gain ... more basketcases. So let all who think Britain and America are too big for their britches criticize worksharing and champion downsizing. It is certainly cutting these noisy/nosy anglophonies down to size - but, maybe that's why they call it "downsizing."]
It is perhaps the best known of many short-time work programmes implemented or expanded during the recession by countries trying to defray the social and economic costs of unemployment. But such schemes only partly explain why employment in many countries, Germany included, diverged so greatly from output. Other reasons can be found in the OECD’s annual “Employment Outlook”, published on July 7th. (But only after a lot of digging [yeah, they really had to strain for a counterargument!]: the 308-page report is a dense mass of impenetrable jargon, a frustrating way to treat a subject so vital to the average citizen.)
Judging the net impact of short-time work schemes on permanent employment is not simply a matter of counting all programme participants. Some people would have stayed in employment anyway and so the subsidy is wasted on them. [ALL programs have leakage.] Others are sacked while the programme is still running or when it ends—their job is not truly saved.
[That's why it's only transitional till we have the sense to continue the 100-year downward adjustment of our still pre-computer 40-hour workweek.]
To glean its net impact the OECD compares employment across countries with the extent to which short-time working was used. It concludes the average scheme boosted permanent employment by 0.4% relative to what it would have otherwise been. The size of the boost varied considerably, from 1.3% in Belgium to zero in Norway. It estimates that the net impact for Germany, at 220,000, is considerably less than the 350,000 jobs officially preserved by Kurzarbeit,suggesting that a third of the subsidy was wasted.
[Saving 220,000 jobs saves, what, 330,000-440,000 consumers? And The Economist's alternative would be _____??]
That is still nothing to be sniffed at. The net benefit translates to a 0.75% boost to permanent employment in Germany, enough to cover the entire increase in the country’s employment between the fourth quarter of 2007 and the end of 2009. Yet this effect is not big enough to explain the enormous divergence between its steady unemployment rate and its falling GDP. In Germany and elsewhere many companies cut hours or held onto idle workers (as evidenced by falling productivity [but then, unmarketable productivity is also "wasted"]) without any prod from government ["many" doesn't work unless it matches "actual with Kurzarbeit"]. A study by the Federal Employment Agency in Germany concluded that Kurzarbeit explains only a quarter of the reduction in the average work week. The remainder came from employers reducing overtime or workers’ hours under contract provisions with unions; or by workers taking free time stored up in working-time accounts before the downturn.
[and if the government simply implemented automatic adjustment of the economywide "full time" workweek to vary inversely with unemployment or directly with full employment or inversely with falling productivity, we'd all be able to quit jerking ourselves around by the livelihood and move beyond today's self-destructive blindness.]
The path of economic recovery may partly depend on whether employment stayed firm because of companies’ own decisions rather than government subsidies.
[=belaboring the obvious - and neglecting the huge influence that government policies have on companies' cultures...]
Short-time work schemes introduce distortions: they could impede growth [nothing wrong with impeding unsustainable growth] and productivity [nothing wrong with impeding unmarketable productivity] once recovery begins by discouraging workers from moving from firms in declining industries to growing ones.
[Oh please, nothing discourages workers from changing jobs more than lack of jobs to change to, and short-time work "schemes" PRESERVE jobs. Cut the self-contradictory sophistry!]
Firms that hoard workers voluntarily do so because they expect to need them when business bounces back and, having invested heavily in their training, do not want the expense of replacing them. That suggests a more upbeat view of the future.
[And figure out which side you're arguing on!]
In fact, employment is unlikely to spring back sharply anywhere in the OECD but for very different reasons. In countries where a collapse in housing and construction was a big contributor to the recession, notably Spain, America and Ireland, firms were much more likely to slash employment and raise the productivity of remaining workers, believing the recession signalled a structural decline in the importance of construction.
["Consumption" of new housing is only one form of consumption - and slashing employment and concentrating surviving workers on churning out more unmarketable productivity just made the whole recession worse.]
Long-term unemployment has risen as a share of total employment, reflecting both the length of their recessions and permanent job losses in industries like construction. Both factors will make it difficult rapidly to re-employ the jobless.
[They're arguing FOR Kurzarbeit again.]
In countries whose recessions were due largely to falling exports, such as Japan, Mexico, Germany and Korea, the OECD notes that companies were more likely to cut hours and productivity than jobs.
[Maybe that's cuz as the world sinks deeper into recession, the only consumer base you're going to be able to count on (unless you kill it with downsizing instead of timesizing, oops, transitional Kurzarbeit) is your own.]
The export drop “might plausibly have been viewed as being a largely transitory phenomenon”, reflecting global conditions rather than a structural change in the economy.
[The structural change everywhere is maintaining pre-computer workweeks into the age of automation and robotics, after cutting workweeks in half 1840-1940 - the resulting labor surplus has depressed wages and opened wide the Great Leak Upward where national income and wealth funnels into the top tiny percentage of the population who don't spend it and finally vacuum up so much that there isn't enough in circulation to provide sustainable investments for that mongo scale of coagulated cash.]
Such firms are also more likely to use highly skilled labour, and the report reckons that these companies are far less prone to cut employment when sales fall. That also means that Japan, Germany and other countries where firms hoarded labour are at greater risk of a jobless recovery: higher production will be achieved by restoring hours and productivity rather than payrolls.
[UNLESS they take the obvious expedient of adjusting the definition of "full time" downward to achieve a jobFULL recovery, because there's no such thing as a "jobless recovery" except in the minds of bubble-blowing investors.]
But that is not a bad thing if it is because employment fell so little in the first place.
[Then why waste time mentioning it?]
Short-term work programmes have played their part in softening the effects of recession. Although they may yet slow the movement of employees from declining companies to more productive employers [and from any companies to long-term unemployment, welfare, disability, crime, and suicide], most governments in Europe have wisely resisted the remedies of previous recessions, such as early retirement [same principle as Kurzarbeit, reduce worktime per person to reduce wage&spending-depressing labor surplus] or easier qualification for disability benefits [downsizing disables employees and consumers, Kurzarbeit doesn't], that hurt their long-term labour-force growth [cancer cells do nothing but grow - we're looking for sustainability today, not braindead growth]. But the independent decisions of firms to "hoard labour" [our quotes = negative spin for "save jobs and markets"] also help explain unemployment during the crisis and beyond. Just because bosses expect business to rebound does not mean they are right, of course.
[Unless they rebuild their consumer base via their employment basement by cutting worktime per person more deeply as required by the Age of Robotization - Ford: "Let's see you unionize these robots!" Reuther: "Let's see you sell them cars."]
If the global economy, and thus exports, prove weaker than businesses hoped, they may start to fire the workers they had previously hoarded, irrespective of the government incentives on offer.
[Yeah, and a huge meteor may destroy the Earth in 2012.]
- A healthy diet can combat weight gain from long work hours, by Kathy Kolasa, 7/7 Greenville Daily Reflector via reflector.com
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Q: I have started working a 12-hour shift and I have gained weight. Any advice? RL, Greenville
A:Gina Firnhaber, a nurse and also a librarian at the Brody School of Medicine Laupus Library, and I recently studied the literature to see what lifestyle tips we could give to nurses and others working long shifts. There are few studies but we do know that both your health and performance can be negatively impacted unless you plan to take care of yourself. So, here is our advice.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. If your BMI is greater than 27 and you have health risks or your BMI is greater than 30, a weight loss of seven percent to 10 percent of your baseline weight can be achieved by creating a caloric deficit of 250-500 calories per day over a period of 24 weeks. Keeping a food diary is effective for managing weight.
Follow a Mediterranean-style eating pattern. This is recommended for prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome.
There is no one Mediterranean diet but it means eating whole foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts. Use olive oil or canola oil. Eat only a little bit of meat (no more than 16 ounces of red meat per month) and animal fats. Use other “good fats” like oils from sunflower, safflower, peanut, pistachio, and almond, and avocado fruit.
Eat up to five servings of fish and three servings of skinless poultry a week. Eat fruit for dessert. Some descriptions of the Mediterranean diet include a daily glass of wine (5 ounces), beer (12 ounces) or spirits (1 1/2 ounces) for health benefits. You can supplement with psyllium, wheat dextrin, pectin, resistant starch, inulin, flax, or guar gum, on days when you don’t get at least 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories from food.
Eat a high-protein “breakfast.” High-protein diets improve satiety and help retain lean body mass. Some experts suggest getting at least 25 percent of calories from protein — getting at least 25 grams at breakfast.
For weight loss, make sure six of those grams come from the amino acid leucine. This reduces hunger later in the day. Many meal-replacement shakes contain that amount of protein. Other sources of leucine are egg whites, soy protein isolates, whey protein, tuna, turkey, pork and fish. Eat breakfast to reduce the urge to consume calorie-dense foods. It also improves attention span and increases energy for physical activity.
Pack “survival” lunch bags with a protein source (skim milk, turkey or low-fat deli meats, hard-cooked eggs, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese), a fruit and/or vegetable and a whole grain (high-fiber cereal, oatmeal, whole grain crackers, whole grain bread or cereal) to avoid the fast-food drive-through. Stock your pantry with higher-protein, lower-fat choices. Use the Nutrition Facts label on food packages to select better cereals or meal-replacement bars and store some in your desk or locker.
A cereal should have less than 200 calories, less than 6 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving. A meal-replacement bar should have less than 300 calories, at least 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 15 grams of sugar and less than 5 grams of fat per serving. There is a list of good choices at www.cspi.org.
Ensure adequate Vitamin D to prevent fatigue. The recommended 15 minutes per week of hand and face exposure to the sun is not enough to produce adequate amounts of Vitamin D for some people. Those folks need to eat foods high in Vitamin D or take a dietary supplement. Good food sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines canned in oil, and fortified dairy products. Ask your doctor what the right dose is for you of a daily supplement.
Obtain adequate sleep. Most adults require at least 6.5 hours but not more than 9 hours of sleep per day to avoid carbohydrate craving, stimulated overeating and/or elevated appetite. If it is not possible to acquire the needed hours of sleep, choose low-carb foods high in dietary fiber.
Professor Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian and Ph.D., works with the Family Medicine Center, Brody School of Medicine at ECU. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Judge Rules Against Injunction to Suspend Four-Day Work Week in Huntington - AFSCME Local 598 filed motion against City of Huntington, by Brooks Taylor, 7/7 WOWKtv.com
HUNTINGTON, W.V. - A Cabell County Judge heard the case between the City of Huntington and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union Local 598 Wednesday afternoon, about the city going to a four day work week.
Judge Jane Hustead ruled against a temporary injunction that the city, going to a four-day, 36-hour work week, is in violation of the unions collective bargaining agreement with the city. Huntington Mayor Kim Wolf said the city will continue with its original plan.
“We want to provide the very best service, not only to the public but we'll continue with the plan we have to reduce the work week,” Wolfe said. “Quite frankly we're trying to protect our workers, because we didn't want to layoff workers.”
Jim Porter, the president of local 598 said they hope to continue to argue their case.
“I hope, we have to approve the funding, to go on,” Porter said. “She said she would fast track the case, so we hope to take it and establish the contracts enforced.”
Hustead said she was only ruling on an injunction and will hear a final case as soon as both sides have prepared their cases.
7/04-05-06/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Bulgarian Municipality Might Impose 4-Day Workweek, Novinite.com
Hasan Azis, the mayor of the Bulgarian city of Kardzhali, announced Monday that there is a possibility of imposing a 4-day workweek, due to the expected cuts in the municipality's budget. (Photo caption)
KARDZHALI, Bulgaria - The municipality of the Bulgarian city of Kardzhali is considering the introduction of a 4-day workweek, due to the expected cuts of the municipality budgets.
“We might decide to learn from other municipalities in Bulgaria and implement a 4-day workweek,” the mayor of Kardzhali, Hasan Azis, announced Monday, referring to the municipality of the Bulgarian city of Haskovo, which is working four days a week starting July 1.
Azis said that the reason for the possible change would be the expected cuts of the municipalities's budgets, envisioned by the 2010 Revised State Budget Act.
The mayor of Kardzhali has assigned all the experts and specialists in the municipality to come up with proposals for an anti-crisis plan.
“It is expected that among the measures would be a decrease in the number of constructions, as well as a regime of the streetlights,” Azis said.
- Macedonian Trade Unions want Shorter Work Week, 7/06 (7/7) MINA (Macedonian International News Agency) via macedoniaonline.eu
SKOPJE, Macedonia - Macedonians feeling French?
The Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSM) demands reduction of the working week from 40 to 32 or 36 hours. They also demand the government to subsidize a half of salaries of workers who were sent to forced vacations.
These are some of measures proposed by SSM for the purpose of cushioning negative effects of the crisis.
The state should also provide money for additional education and training of workers. SSM thinks that this would result in an improved social and economic situation for workers as well as decrease in unemployment.
Chairman of SSM Zivko Mitrevski thinks that the state should not have any problems with providing money for salary subsidies in the amount of 30 to 50 percent. According to SSM, such measures saved some 5,000 working places in Slovenia.
- UK: Bees stick to working hours, 7/04 Issue:131, UniversityWorldNews.com
NORTH OF ARCTIC CIRCLE, Finland - Bees are often admired by humans for what appears to be a strong work ethic - working throughout the day to gather pollen. But what happens when the insects have the opportunity to work around the clock? Will they do so?
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London in the UK tested that scenario during the constant daylight of summer in the Arctic Circle.
Professor Lars Chittka and PhD student Ralph Stelzer tagged 1,049 worker bees in northern Finland with radio identifiers. They thought the bees would use the extra working time of the Arctic summer to their advantage and maximise intake and colony growth.
Past studies have shown that the circadian rhythms of social insects are fairly flexible, and that these creatures can alter the expression of clock genes to fit the demands of the colony.
They tested the foraging rhythms of native bumblebees and a group of bee colonies imported into the Arctic, Bombus terrestris and B. pascuorum. But, contrary to expectations, the bees did not work round the clock.
Both species worked a day shift and were at their busiest around midday. A few hours before midnight, they returned to their nests.
"We found that bees do not naturally take advantage of this opportunity, suggesting that there is some benefit to an overnight break," explained Stelzer.
[More research to support the obvious. Where did these anglophone researchers (and the anglophone world in general?) get the idea that "work ethic" implies 24/7 or workaholism?]
The researchers say the bees might use an external cue to tell the time in the absence of day and night cues. That external cue could be light intensity and quality or changes in temperature.
"Daily fluctuations in the spectral composition of light, especially in the UV (ultraviolet) range, could also be responsible for synchronising the circadian clock of the foragers under the continuous daylight conditions," they wrote.
"Despite the light, temperatures do fall during the Arctic 'night', so it may be that the bees need to return to their nests in order to warm their brood," the researchers said. "Also, it has been suggested that a period of sleep helps bees to remember information gained during the day's foraging."
The study is published in the journal BMC Biology.
7/02-03/2010 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Mortgage rates stand still after bad jobs report, by Holden Lewis, 7/03 (7/02) Bankrate.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The June employment report was bad. The effect on mortgage rates has been minimal. The implication is that mortgage rates simply don't have much more room to fall.
Nonfarm payrolls fell by 125,000 jobs in June, about 25 percent worse than expected. In my opinion, the more ominous news was about hourly earnings and the average workweek.
Average hourly earnings fell by 0.1 percent, from $22.55 in May to $22.53 in June. The average workweek shrunk by six minutes, to 34 hours and 6 minutes. So the average worker earned about $3 per week less in June than in May. Don't think that's a big deal? For all employed people, it adds up to shrunken wages of $408 million per week, or $1.6 billion for the month. And that's for people who kept their jobs in June. It doesn't count those 125,000 vanished [40-hour/week] jobs.
[Of course, if we cut through the fog and dropped the arbitrary 40-hour "full time" workweek to this 30.1-hr/wk level, and then adjusted it further downward, say 6 minutes a month, until we had recreated all those 125,000 no-longer-40-hour jobs, and then adjusted it further down as far as it took to get full employment, employers competing against one another for good help in a perceived labor shortage would restore wages and undo the recent redistribution of the money supply to upper income brackets who spend smaller and smaller proportions of it the richer they are. Such a simple market-oriented way to restore economic dynamism without deeper government debt or more artificial makework but the U.S. won't be the first economy in the world to implement it and instead, "the first shall be last."]
"I think the bottom line is we're not out of this recession," says Ted C. Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title. Yes, he realizes that a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of shrinking gross domestic product, and a recovery is two quarters of economic growth.
But Jones believes a more useful definition of an economic recovery is two consecutive quarters of job growth. That hasn't happened yet.
Naturally, the terrible job market is bad for real estate, too. "This is technically the 'holiday period' for people involved in the real estate transaction business," Jones says. "It's going to be tough, with that many people losing their jobs."
For people who have jobs, or who are prosperously retired, a bad job market is prime time for getting a mortgage, because a moribund economy brings lower mortgage rates. But this jobs report had little effect on mortgage pricing.
What about the drop in the unemployment rate? It's a bad sign. When people stop looking for work, they're no longer counted as unemployed. "The drop in the unemployment rate was due to a large drop in the labor force which is a worrisome sign that people may be once again giving up on finding a job," economist Joel Naroff says.
Naroff sees some blue sky in the jobs report, because private sector employers added 83,000 jobs. Much of the decline in nonfarm payrolls, he notes, comes from the expiration of 225,000 temporary Census jobs.
- City headed for 4-day work week amid budget woe, by Jonathan Clark, 7/02 NogalesInternational.com
NOGALES, Ariz. - The City of Nogales is preparing to move employees to a four-day, 37.5-hour work week starting Oct. 4 in an effort to confront a widening budget gap.
The move is raising deep concern among city workers – especially those in the police and fire departments – who are already facing difficult belt-tightening measures amid the budget crisis.
The city council gave City Manager Shane Dille the green light to prepare for the work-week change on Wednesday when it approved a tentative $52.9-million budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year in front of a standing-room-only audience at City Hall.
Predicting a general fund deficit of $2.5 million and an enterprise fund shortfall of $1.1 million in the coming year, Dille proposed the four-day, reduced-hour work week as a measure that could save the city close to $800,000.
“That is a huge cost savings to this organization,” he said, adding that other cities in Arizona have successfully implemented similar plans.
“When we have an operating fund that is largely comprised of personnel – 60 to 80 percent of our costs are personnel, depending on the department you’re looking at – the only way to really hit the savings is to hit the salaries,” he said.
The hit to salaries comes by trimming employees’ weekly hours from 40 to 37.5, which translates to a 6.25-percent overall paycheck reduction. Four-day, 40-hour work weeks like the one adopted last year by Santa Cruz County deliver only marginal savings, Dille said, since they don’t reduce salary.
To make up for the lost day of service to the public, which would be Friday, Dille said city offices would expand their hours Monday through Thursday to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If the city does not implement the work week change, Dille said, it could mean layoffs down the road.
“My personal opinion is that we need to do everything possible to prevent layoffs,” Mayor Octavio Garcia-Von Borstel said.
Councilman Cesar Parada said he was concerned for city workers earning in the $20,000 range, who in addition to a 6.5-percent pay reduction, are also being required to contribute more to their health insurance plan.
“It’s a strip-down,” he said.
Parada said he wished the city had considered a graduated pay reduction that would have had higher-earning employees take more of the brunt.
In other cost-cutting measures, Dille also proposed a freeze of all budgeted job vacancies as of June 30, which he said would save the general fund another $688,955 for the year. And he asked city departments to work more efficiently and show greater accountability in collecting revenue, noting court fees and ambulance bills as two underperforming areas.
The tentative budget sets the maximum expenditure limit for the final budget that the mayor and council will approve on Aug. 4. However, individual expenditures and reductions in the tentative plan can still be changed, meaning that other cost-cutting measures contained in the budget – such as position cuts – can be undone before August if workers and management can agree on alternatives.
The four-day, 37.5-hour work week could also be cancelled on Aug. 4 in favor of other cost-cutting measures, but Dille said he wants to begin preparing for it immediately so that it can be implemented by Oct. 4.
The council and mayor approved the tentative budget by a vote of 5-2, with Vice Mayor Olga Valdez and Councilman Ramon Felix casting the “no” votes.
In preparing the draft budget, Dille asked department heads to trim 12 percent from their 2010-2011 spending plans.
The cuts, as well as the cost-saving measures he announced Wednesday, became necessary, he said, after expenditures began to outpace revenues at the end of last year. With the economic recession unlikely to lift any time soon, Dille predicted that revenues would continue to slip.
Some departments proposed to eliminate positions in order to reach the 12-percent goal. In all, the plan initially called for 14 employees to be laid off, including seven at the 47-member fire and rescue department, and four at the 81-member police department. However, the firefighters’ union, through negotiations with the city, has managed to reduce the number of layoffs to one by cutting funds for other areas, including housekeeping, uniforms and extra pay for night shifts.
Council members on Wednesday praised the firefighters’ flexibility, and urged other departments and unions to make concessions to avoid layoffs.
“You all have the opportunity to do this,” Councilman Arturo Garino said.
However, Oscar Rosas, president of the police officer’s association, said it would be difficult for his department to find alternatives to the four proposed layoffs and the 37.5-hour work week.
“We’re pretty much cut to the bone,” he told the NI after the meeting.
In addition to the potential layoffs, the department has five vacancies that it now won’t be able to fill, and Rosas is scheduled to retire later this year, he said.
While the fire department has made progress in reducing job losses, the firefighters would suffer disproportionately from the 6.25-percent salary reduction, since their coverage system makes it impossible for them to drop to 37.5 hours.
Unlike other city employees, firefighters would have to work the same number of hours, but for less money.
“It doesn’t seem fair to us,” said Juan Ceballos, president of the firefighters union, especially since the firefighters also agreed to give up some of their benefits in order to stave off job cuts.
During a call to the public, former Mayor Marcelino Varona Jr. said he was concerned that by eliminating jobs and not filling openings in the police and fire departments, the city would fall below staffing thresholds established by Proposition 401, a 1996 ballot measure creating a .25-percent city sales tax to support public safety.
Varona stressed the importance of pubic safety to the citizens of Nogales, and said: “To me, the reduction of four police officers plus leaving the vacancies (unfilled) is detrimental to our community.”
Dille said voter approval of Proposition 401, as well as Proposition 100, a 2006 ballot measure that also authorizing a sales tax increase to fund public safety, had made him keenly aware of the importance of police and fire services to local citizens.
The fact that the two departments have to give up so much to satisfy the 12-percent budget cut goal, he said, is “only because they command such a large budget in our operations.”
- Can I run my business with a 4-day work week? by Alison Green, 7/03 International Business Times via ibtimes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A reader [name??!] writes:
As a future employer (I hope!), I have an idea that I've been kicking around in my mind for awhile. I feel that a five-day work week is stifling and that people in general would be happier with a four-day work week at approximately 32 hours a week.
However, in my scenario, this would be considered full-time: such employees would qualify for benefits through the company, and the wages (much of the initial staff will be exempt; however, I would apply this to hourly workers as well) would be roughly equivalent to working full-time. I believe in the living wage and it would be important to me to do right by my employees.
Is this just pie-in-the-sky thinking? Is it feasible to run a company like that, provided that the CEO is not making $5 million a year (in any for-profit business I owned I would have salary caps, I think, but this particular adventure would be a non-profit, so the salary caps kind of come with the territory anyway)? Do you think this would be reasonable, and welcomed?
Can it work? Absolutely. Will it work? That depends.
Things to think about:
* If you're going to shave off 20% of the standard work time, are you going to expect your employees to work harder/smarter in order to achieve the results that another organization of the same staff size would get with five-day weeks? With a strong culture, strong management practices, and great people, it's feasible that you could achieve that, but you'd need to have a plan for how you're going to build that culture, find those people, and achieve that high bar.
* Or, if you don't have those things and instead are a more typical organization, does that mean you'll be producing at 80% of the rate you'd achieve otherwise? Are you okay with that? Alternately, are you willing to hire additional employees if that's what it takes to get your productivity up to what it would be with a longer work week?
* As a nonprofit, you have special obligations: Your donors are donating money to support your mission because they want to see it realized, generally as soon as possible, and you're accountable to them. If you're not getting results at least at the same rate as similar organizations, but you're paying similar salaries, a smart donor is going to send their money somewhere else. To attract donors, you'll need to be able to show that it's not going to take you 20% longer to get the same or better results at the same cost.
* Nonprofits also tend to have workloads far higher than their staffs can juggle, and in many cases have staffers who work long hours (depending, obviously, on the organization). Most of them are looking for ways to fit in an extra 20%, not shave it off. Is a shortened work week realistic for the mission you're setting out to achieve? Will you have to compromise on your goals or shortchange the interest groups you're serving?
Now, if you can pull this off without sacrificing results, it would be a huge recruiting and retention tool for employees. But the key would be to execute it in such a way that you're not losing the performance-oriented culture and drive for results that characterize high-performing organizations. So you'd want top-notch managers, really rigorous hiring practices, high performance standards, a willingness to let go of people who don't meet that bar, and a culture that reinforces that drive to achieve.
What do others think?
Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is currently chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a medium-sized nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. She blogs at Ask a Manager.
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