Category Archives: Labor

Austerity bites: Greeks sink deeper into poverty


Poverty rate changes in the European Union, 2008-2015. From Reuters.

Poverty rate changes in the European Union, 2008-2015. From Reuters.

When the greed and unprosecuted crimes of Wall Street banksters and their allies in London brought the world to the brink of financial ruin nine years ago, it was the world’s poorer nation who paid — and are continuing to pay — the highest price.

Greece isn’t the only nation in the eurozone to see a poverty increase since the start of the Great Recession, but it’s the only one to see a near-tripling of the number of its citizens in poverty, a direction result of the austerity regime implemented by the austerity regime forced on Europe’s nations with the highest debt levels.

As part of that austerity, the Troika of the Euroippean Central Bank, the European Commission, and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund have mandated massive layoffs of public workers, pay and pension cuts, and the higher costs associated with the privatization and sell off of public transit and power systems.

The Troika has been holding off on its latest bailout loan, demanding yet more austerity measures. But when it comes, most of the money will go right back to lenders on Wall Street, London, and Germany.

More from Reuters:

[R]egardless of who is to blame for the collapse in living standards, poverty figures from the EU statistics agency are startling.

Greece isn’t the poorest member of the EU; poverty rates are higher in Bulgaria and Romania. But Greece isn’t far behind in third place, with Eurostat data showing 22.2 percent of the population were “severely materially deprived” in 2015.

And whereas the figures have dropped sharply in the post-communist Balkan states — by almost a third in Romania’s case — the Greek rate has almost doubled since 2008, the year the global crisis erupted. Overall, the EU level fell from 8.5 percent to 8.1 percent over the period.

>snip<

International organizations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, have urged the government to prioritize tackling poverty and inequality.

Unemployment has slipped from a peak of 28 percent of the workforce to 23 percent but the rate remains the highest in the EU. Since the crisis began, the economy has shrunk by a quarter and thousands of businesses have closed for good.

>snip<

Better living standards seem as far away as ever. Over 75 percent of households suffered a significant income reduction last year, a survey by business confederation GSEVEE and Marc pollsters found. A third had at least one unemployed member and 40 percent said they had to cut back on food spending.

And with the latest round of austerity now in negotiation, things can only get worse.

Remember that, just as in the U.S., the employment numbers don’t reflect totals paid in salaries and benefits.

With rising costs for healthcare, transportation, and other necessities, coupled with pay cuts, living standards have been drastically reduced even for those who are working.

But, hey, a banskster’s gotta make a living, right?

Chart of the day: Greek unemployment by gender


Participation rates in labor force and employment, by sex

Participation rates in labor force and employment, by sex [click on the image to enlarge].

Following up on our previous post, this from the Hellenic Statistical Authority, which notes:

One of the main features of the period 1981-2015 is the growing participation of women in the labour market and the resulting increase in their participation in employment. In contrast, the participation for men has been decreasing, thus resulting in a continuous shrinkage of the differences between them. In this regard, men were more severely affected by the economic crisis, as during the period 2009-2015 the employment rate of men fell by 13% compared to 6% of women.

And it keeps on coming as Labor nominee quits


From the Los Angeles Times:

The troubled nomination of Southern California fast-food executive Andy Puzder to become President Trump’s Labor secretary collapsed Wednesday amid growing Republican opposition.

Puzder, chief executive of Carpinteria-based CKE Restaurants Inc., the parent company of the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, abruptly withdrew just a day before he was to face a Senate confirmation hearing.

He had faced aggressive attacks in recent weeks by Democrats, unions, workers’ rights advocates and fast-food employees over labor law violations at his company’s restaurants and his opposition to a significant increase in the federal minimum wage.

But his decision to pull out was triggered by concerns from a growing number of Senate Republicans about decades-old allegations of spousal abuse and an admission that he had employed a housekeeper who was in the U.S. illegally.

Map of the day: European minimum wages


blog-eurowages

From Eurostat, which reports:

As of 1st January 2017, 22 out of the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU) have national minimum wages: only Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden do not have one. The 22 EU Member States that have national minimum wages can be divided into three main groups based on the level in euro.

In January 2017, ten Member States, located in the east of the EU, had minimum wages below €500 per month: Bulgaria (€235), Romania (€275), Latvia and Lithuania (both €380), the Czech Republic (€407), Hungary (€412), Croatia (€433), Slovakia (€435), Poland (€453) and Estonia (€470).

In five other Member States, located in the south, minimum wages were between €500 and €1000 per month: Portugal (€650), Greece (€684), Malta (€736), Slovenia (€805) and Spain (€826).

In the remaining seven Member States, all located in the west and north of the EU, minimum wages were well above €1 000 per month: the United Kingdom (€1397), France (€1480), Germany (€1498), Belgium (€1 532), the Netherlands (€1 552), Ireland (€1563) and Luxembourg (€1 999).

For comparison, the federal minimum wage in the United States was €1192 per month in January 2017.

Austerians threaten more cutbacks in Greece


This is one of those good news/bad news stories.

Greece was the European nation hardest hit by the greed of Wall Street banksters who brought the world to its knees eight years ago, triggering a Great Recession which still hasn’t ended and threatens to worsen yet again, as the United Nations noted in a report last month:

Although a modest global recovery is projected for 2017-18, the world economy has not yet emerged from the period of slow growth, characterised by weak investment, dwindling trade and flagging productivity growth, according to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2017 report launched today.

The report states that the world economy expanded by just 2.2 per cent in 2016, the slowest rate of growth since the Great Recession of 2009. World gross product is projected to grow by 2.7 per cent in 2017 and 2.9 per cent in 2018, a slight downward revision from the forecasts made last May.

For Greece, that means an unparalleled crisis may be imminent as the nation and its citens are still reeling from the current crisis the onerous costs of the current bailout.

The bailout package from the troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission — has eased the impacts on Greece, though at a huge price. The nation’s ports, transportation infrastructure, and energy grid have already been sold off to multinationals, pay and pensions have been slashed repeatedly, healthcare benefits cut, and much, much more.

And employment, though improved, still reaches staggering levels, especially for young workers, as indicated in the latest numbers from the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

blog-greece

The current bailout isn’t done, and the troika is demanding still more cuts, though a deal may be near.

From Kathimerini:

Representatives of the country’s international creditors are expected to return to Athens this week for a resumption of bailout talks despite continuing tensions between Greece and its lenders, highlighted by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over the weekend.

In a speech before SYRIZA’s central committee on Saturday, Tsipras lashed out at Greece’s creditors, calling on them to revise their “irrational demands” of Greece.

“We will not agree to demands that are not backed up by logic and numbers,” he said.

He called on the International Monetary Fund in particular to revise its recent assessments of Greece’s economic prospects so that stalled bailout negotiations can resume at the technical level.

Tsipras also called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to rein in Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his “constant hostility” towards Greeks, accusing him of trying to create a “two-speed eurozone” and comparing him to a “pyromaniac… playing with matches in a warehouse full of explosives.”

More from Deutsche Welle [emphasis added]:

The new agreement would release a new tranche from its 86 billion euro ($91.5 billion) bailout fund. That, in turn, would enable Greece to meet a major debt repayment of 7.2 billion euros that is due this summer.

EU and IMF lenders want Greece to make 1.8 billion euros — or 1 percent of gross domestic product — worth of new cuts by 2018 and another 1.8 billion euros after that on measures focused on broadening the tax base and on pension reductions.

New cuts — especially to pensions, which have already been reduced 11 times since the start of the crisis in 2010 — are difficult to sell to a public worn down by years of austerity.

>snip<

Breaking the deadlock in the coming weeks is considered paramount, with elections in the Netherlands on March 15 and in France in the spring threatening to make a resolution even more difficult.

But [Eurogroup chief Jeroen] Dijsselbloem warned that the next meeting of eurozone ministers on February 20, which is seen as an unofficial deadline ahead of the votes, would still be too early for a breakthrough.

Protesters win Mexican gas price hike delay


Following privatization of large parts of the state-owned national oil company, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto gave his people a New Year’s present — a twenty percent hike in the price of gasoline.

First, some background.

Big Oil is still smarting over the 18 March 1938 decision of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas to nationalize foreign oil company holdings in the midst of a sometimes violent strike by Mexicans employed by U.S. and Anglo-Dutch oil companies.

The result was the creation of Petróleos Mexicanos, better known as Pemex.

In recent decades, as the neoliberal ideology metastasized, aging infrastructure and politically backed corruption took their toll, as new corporate extraction technologies and aging oil fields caught Pemex in a double bind.

Neoliberalism dictated the solution: Privatize.

So in 2014 Peña won congressional backing to sell off the rights to all new oil fields, leaving Pemex with the aging existing fields and those rapidly obsolescing pipelines and refineries.

Stuck with the increasingly costly side of the deal, Peña ordered the price hike.

The gasolinazo [gasoline punch], which now meant a tank of gas cost more than a minimum wage worker’s daily pay, sent Mexicans pouring into the streets, blocking off roads, barricading the U.S. border, and engaging in violent, sometimes lethal, confrontations with police and the military.

And now their actions have borne fruit.

From teleSUR English:

The Mexican government announced late Friday that it would postpone a second scheduled hike in gas prices, known as the ‘gasolinazo’, in response to the massive protests which have taken place since the first price hike at the start of January.

The Secretariat of Finance and Public credit declared that for the next two weeks the maximum prices for both regular gasoline and diesel fuel will remain the same since prices here hiked upwards of 20 percent on Jan. 1 2017.

The announcement came after protests continued to rock Mexico this week over the massive spike in gas prices which has crippled much of Mexico’s economy and led to massive social upheaval.

Since the Jan. 1 ending of fuel subsidies which led to the price hike, more than 500 people have been arrested throughout the country during protests which saw tens of thousands of people taking the streets, hundreds of gas stations closed, and a reported 250 stores looted.

Protests continued Friday and more were expected for Saturday in anticipation of the hike.

“The austerity measures already announced by the Government of the Republic, as well as the recent evolution of the exchange rate and the international price of gasoline, have created the conditions to keep the maximum prices unchanged during the indicated period,” the secretariat said in a statement release on Friday.

Critics have accused Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto and other government officials of ransacking Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, which has undergone a gradual privatization process in recent years that has broken up the longstanding monopoly.

Charts of the day: Bad economic signs for Italy


From Istat, the Italian Statistical Institute, two sobering charts reflect the increasingly dire plight of the nation’s economy, with kjobless rates rising and wages falling.

First up, jobless rates:blog-italy-jobs

And the average pay agreed to labor contracts:

blog-italy-wages