Category Archives: Labor

The rest-less society: No time for relaxation


In his remarkable 1883 work The Right to be Lazy, French radical socialist Paul Lafargue made a telling observation:

“Cannot the labourers understand that by over-working themselves they exhaust their own strength and that of their progeny, that they are used up and long before their time come to be incapable of any work at all, that absorbed and brutalized by this single vice they are no longer men but pieces of men, that they kill within themselves all beautiful faculties, to leave nothing alive and flourishing except the furious madness for work.”

Certainly the drive to work longer hours has come to dominate American labor, as longer hours are the only way to to maintain life in a consumer culture.

From the Hamilton Project:

blog-hours

And there’s another question, posed by Harvard Business Review Senior Editor Sarah Green Carmichael in a 19 August 2015 essay:

Is overwork actually doing what we assume it does — resulting in more and better output? Are we actually getting more done?

There’s a large body of research that suggests that regardless of our reasons for working long hours, overwork does not help us. For starters, it doesn’t seem to result in more output. In a study of consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, managers could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who just pretended to. While managers did penalize employees who were transparent about working less, Reid was not able to find any evidence that those employees actually accomplished less, or any sign that the overworking employees accomplished more.

Considerable evidence shows that overwork is not just neutral — it hurts us and the companies we work for. Numerous studies by Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and her colleagues (as well as other studies) have found that overwork and the resulting stress can lead to all sorts of health problems, including impaired sleep, depression, heavy drinking, diabetes, impaired memory, and heart disease. Of course, those are bad on their own. But they’re also terrible for a company’s bottom line, showing up as absenteeism, turnover, and rising health insurance costs. Even the Scroogiest of employers, who cared nothing for his employees’ well-being, should find strong evidence here that there are real, balance-sheet costs incurred when employees log crazy hours.

If your job relies on interpersonal communication, making judgment calls, reading other people’s faces, or managing your own emotional reactions — pretty much all things that the modern office requires — I have more bad news. Researchers have found that overwork (and its accompanying stress and exhaustion) can make all of these things more difficult.

Today’s workers hunger for the right to be lazy

And now comes another study revealing the deep craving of the working class for more leisure, a validation of Lafargue’s central argument.

From the University of Durham:

Over two thirds (68 per cent) of the public would like more rest, according to the world’s largest ever survey on the topic.

The results of the survey, led by Durham University researchers, also revealed that nearly a third (32 per cent) of respondents said they need more rest than the average person, while 10 per cent think they need less.

Rest and well-being

More than 18,000 people from 134 different countries took part in the Rest Test, an online survey to investigate the public’s resting habits and their attitudes towards relaxation and busyness, and the results were unveiled during BBC Radio 4’s programme The Anatomy of Rest.

The survey found that those who felt they needed more rest scored lower in terms of well-being. Similarly, those who responded saying they think they get more rest than average or don’t feel in need of more rest, had well-being scores twice as high as those who wanted more rest. This suggests that the perception of rest matters, as well as the reality. 

Dr Felicity Callard, principal investigator on the project and social scientist in the Department of Geography,said: “The survey shows that people’s ability to take rest, and their levels of well-being, are related. We’re delighted that these findings combat a common, moralizing connection between rest and laziness.”

Five most restful activities

The survey asked people to choose the activities that they find the most restful. The results show that the top five most restful activities are those often done alone:

  • Reading (58 per cent)
  • Being in the natural environment (53.1 per cent)
  • Being on their own (52.1 per cent)
  • Listening to music (40.6 per cent)
  • Doing nothing in particular (40 per cent)

Dr Felicity Callard continued: “It’s intriguing that the top activities considered restful are frequently done on one’s own. Perhaps it’s not only the total hours resting or working that we need to consider, but the rhythms of our work, rest and time with and without others.”

Continue reading

Chart of the day: European Union jobless rates


blog-eu

From Eurostat:

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates in August 2016 were recorded in the Czech Republic (3.9%) and Germany (4.2%). The highest unemployment rates were observed in Greece (23.4% in June 2016) and Spain (19.5%).

Compared with a year ago, the unemployment rate in August 2016 fell in twenty-four Member States, remained stable in Denmark, while it increased in Estonia (from 5.3% to 6.8% between July 2015 and July 2016), Austria (from 5.7% to 6.2%) and Belgium (from 8.0% to 8.2%). The largest decreases were registered in Croatia (from 16.6% to 12.9%) and Cyprus (from 14.7% to 12.1%).

In August 2016, the unemployment rate in the United States was 4.9%, stable compared to July 2016 and down from 5.1% in August 2015.

Youth unemployment

In August 2016, 4.199 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU28, of whom 2.927 million were in the euro area. Compared with August 2015, youth unemployment decreased by 381,000 in the EU28 and by 209,000 in the euro area. In August 2016, the youth unemployment rate was 18.6% in the EU28 and 20.7% in the euro area, compared with 20.1% and 22.3% respectively in August 2015. In August 2016, the lowest rate was observed in
Germany (6.9%), and the highest were recorded in Greece (47.7% in June 2016), Spain (43.2%) and Italy (38.8%).

Troikarchs steal still more of the Greek commons


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party swept into power last year with a promise to end the austerity measures imposed on Greece by the financial overlords of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank.

Their vow has provd as hollow as the political vows of countless other politicians, and in the two years since, Greece has sliced pensions and health care to pay the banksters, as the country continues to record massive unemployment and deepening misery.

And now Tsipras has done it again, surrendering to their latest demands with yet another round of cuts and selloffs of the national commons, although many of his own party voted in opposition.

From Deutsche Welle:

The reforms were passed by a narrow 152-141 majority vote in Greece’s 300-seat parliament, after 152 parliamentary members of the ruling Syriza-Independent Greeks coalition approved the reform bill. Only one member of the coalition voted against the bill, along with all opposition members.

The reforms will see public assets transferred to a new asset fund created by Greece’s creditors. Assets include airports and motorways, as well as water and electricity utilities. The holding company groups together these state entities with the country’s privatization agency, the bank stability fund and state real estate. It will be led by an official chosen by Greece’s creditors, although Greece’s Finance Ministry will retain overall control.

The reforms sparked significant backlash among demonstrators and public sector workers.

Ahead of the vote, protestors outside of the parliament in Athens chanted, “Next you’ll sell the Acropolis!”

Greece’s public sector union criticized the reforms, saying that the transfer of public assets paved the way for a fire-sale to private investors. “Health, education, electricity and water are not commodities. They belong to the people,” the union said in a statement.

Workers at Greece’s public water utility companies in Athens and Thessaloniki walked out on Tuesday to protest the reforms. “They are handing over the nation’s wealth and sovereignty,” George Sinioris, head of the water company workers association said.

Chart of the day: Partisan views of institutions


Given the relentless endorsement of the Republican agenda by the nation’s leading news network, the GOP view of the press is rather ironic.

From the Pew Research Center:

blog-instit

Suspicions confirmed; Brazil’s coup neoliberal


While we’ve noted that the demand for neoliberal reforms rather the urge to purge institutional corruption lay behind the legislative coup that ousted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, we now have conformatuion straight from the horses ass mouth.

From teleSUR English:

Brazilian President Michel Temer told a crowd of business leaders in New York that the parliamentary coup that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff was carried out in response to her opposition to a neoliberal program defended by his political party.

Temer had earlier claimed before the U.N. General Assembly that the coup that brought him to power followed the “constitutional order,” as it complied with the impeachment process outlined in the country’s constitution.

Rousseff was formally impeached over her budgeting practices, which were also widely exercised by previous presidents. Supporters of Rousseff sustained that the issue of budget practices was a smokescreen and that her impeachment was driven by political interests.

However, in his speech on Wednesday Temer did not mention Rousseff’s budget practices but instead talked about her opposition to the neoliberal policies promoted by his party.

>snip<

Temer’s coup government has pursued a hardline neoliberal program, which includes freezing spending in social areas for 20 years and plans to auction off 32 major resource and infrastructure projects.

The coup regime has been criticized for pursuing a political program rejected by Brazilians in the previous election that saw Rousseff re-elected in 2014. Temer’s cabinet includes many of the Workers’ Party’s political adversaries, including Jose Serra, whom Rousseff defeated in the 2010 election.

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .a body count


And note the sheer idiocy of that corporate statement.

From the Poynter Foundation:

Less than three months after acquiring The Bergen Record, the (Passaic County) Herald News and other assets of North Jersey Media Group, Gannett is trimming the newspapers’ headcount dramatically.

In an unbylined story that was skewered on Twitter for trying to put a positive spin on the news, North Jersey Media Group announced that more than 200 employees would be laid off from sales and news departments in mid-November as part of a “bold, ambitious vision to make North Jersey Media Group even more competitive.”

A source in the company told Poynter Wednesday afternoon that employees will discuss the decision at an off-site meeting at a banquet hall in Paramus, New Jersey, about 20 minutes away from the Record’s newsroom.

Tom Donovan, Northeast Regional President of Gannett East Group, said the reorganization will “position us to remain that content and advertising leader” in a statement to Poynter. (Disclosure: Poynter has a training partnership with Gannett.)

Peña plans massive Mexican education budget cuts


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, apostle of Bushist bneoliberal educational “reform,” will make drastic cuts in the national education buget, reports teleSUR English:

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to deepen contested education reforms, by cutting spending for facilities improvements, equipment access, and teacher training, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported Sunday.

The Mexican government proposes federal-level cutbacks in 19 out of 23 programs for children and youths next year,

According to data from Mexico’s Center for Economic and Budget Research, also known as CIEP, spending earmarked for education in the 2017 budget is set to fall by 4.2 percent. Total educational spending represents 14 percent of the federal budget and 3.3 percent of GDP, which represents a reduction in educational investment historically. According to World Bank statistics, Mexico dedicated 5.1 percent of GDP to education in 2011, which was, at that time, more than the worldwide average of 4.53 percent of GDP.

According to numbers reported by La Jornada, some areas will be hit harder than others. Funding for the Education Reform Program is set to plunge by nearly 72 percent, while the Program for Professional Development for Teachers.

Other programs on the chopping block include initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, improving early childhood education, and developing infrastructure in the education system, among others, La Jornada reported.

Peña’s move is certain to spark more unrest among his country’s increasingly militant teachers.

New Politics reported Sunday on the factors driving the increasingly militant teachers to take to Mexico’s streets, actions all too often met with deadly gunfire:

Mexico’s dissident teachers have been engaged in a strike against the Education Reform Law since May 16 of this year–four months! Their strikes of tens of thousands, led by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), a caucus within the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), have also engaged in protest marches, the blocking of highways and railroads, the commandeering of government vehicles, and the occupation of government buildings.

The government has responded by docking teachers’ pay, firing them, sending the police to beat them, and issuing warrants and arresting teacher leaders. One can only call what has gone on in Chiapas and Oaxaca and to a lesser extent in Guerrero and Michoacán class war.

Now there also appear to be death squads carrying out executions of teachers and their allies. So far at least three assassinations have taken place: a teacher, a parent, and a lawyer for the union. This is an ominous and very dangerous escalation of political violence.

  • One teacher, Jorge Vela Díaz, was shot and killed and his wife Lorena Antonio Sánchez, was wounded on Sept. 14 when two armed men men on motorcycles attacked them at a public school in the town of Ocotlán, Morelos. Both were teachers and members of Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) of Oaxaca.
  • At the same time, another man, 19 year old Eder Zuriel Gonzen Mosqueda, a parent, was shot and killed in front of the “Juan Enrique Pestalozzi” primary school in San Juan Bautista Textepec, near the border of Veracruz. His relationship to the union is unknown, but the fact that he was shot in front of a school suggests this is related to the union.
  •  On Sept. 15, Agustín Pavia Pavia, a founder and leader of the MORENA party and  defender of the teachers movement in Oaxaca was shot and killed in front of his house in Oaxaca City, the state capital. He was the fifth member of the Oaxaca MORENA party to be assassinated in 2016; no one has been charged with any of the deaths.