The Japanese government is attempting to end Japan's culture of "death by overwork" (now known as karoshi) by moving to make it illegal to not take mandatory paid vacation days. Why won't Japanese workers go on vacation? The Japanese work some of the longest hours in the world and fear taking paid holidays in case they are ostracised by colleagues. The stress is so extreme that every year thousands of workers succumb to “karoshi”, or “death by overwork”. They either commit suicide (the see suicide as salvation), or die of a stroke or a heart attack. The Japanese are literally dying for work and the phenomenon is spreading to other Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and Bangladesh. A "chapter" of the award winning documentary "Happy" (now on Netflix and other online venues) looks at this Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi. HAPPY (trailer here) takes you on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the slums of Kolkata in search of what really makes people happy. Combining real life stories of people from around the world and powerful interviews with the leading scientists in happiness research, HAPPY explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion.
Let Us Face the Future - "All parties pay lip service to the idea of jobs for all. All parties are ready to promise to achieve that end by keeping up the national purchasing power and controlling changes in the national expenditure through Government action. Where agreement ceases is in the degree of control of private industry that is necessary to achieve the desired end. In hard fact, the success of a full employment programme will certainly turn upon the firmness and success with which the Government fits into that programme the investment and development policies of private as well as public industry." [more inside]
The Department of Justice issued a memo today (pdf) stating that the litigation concerning gender identity employment discrimination regarding transgender Americans working in the federal government will be covered under the sex discrimination prohibition in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. [more inside]
The most recent episode of the Ruby Rogues podcast — #179 Accountability and Diversity with Meagan Waller — is a treasure trove of insights and info about unconscious biases, diversity, employment, culture, tech, and more. The podcast page features a timestamped topic outline of the discussion, as well as many links to the Ruby community websites, projects, studies, conferences, and controversies they discuss… [more inside]
Will Killer Robots Destroy Humanity? What The Future Of Robots Reveals About The Human Condition. Peter Thiel says 'Robots Are Our Saviours, Not the Enemy,' via. Brad DeLong reponds with The Rise of the Robots. Don't forget your 'Terrifying Robot Update,' especially when robots grow our food. Or maybe we'll get the Robots of Resistance, with human values. New World Order: Labor, Capital, and Ideas in the Power Law Economy. AI, Robotics and the Future of Jobs. [more inside]
"But it wasn’t sugar, heaps of which are sucked down daily by the middle and upper classes, that guided his and my grandma’s dental fates. And it wasn’t meth. It was lack of insurance, lack of knowledge, lack of good nutrition – poverties into which much of the country was born." Sarah Smarsh in Aeon on the sociological, political, and medical intersection of bad teeth.
In recent days, news stories have emerged about a wilderness expedition company, Amaruk, rejecting an applicant due to her religious beliefs and affiliation with a restrictive Christian evangelical school. [more inside]
Silicon Valley's Contract Worker Problem Earlier this year, I hired a house cleaner. I wouldn't have done so normally, but my place was a mess, I was busy at work, and I saw an offer on Facebook that looked too good to be true — a San Francisco start-up called Homejoy was offering home cleanings in the Bay Area for $19. (Not $19 per room or $19 per hour. Just $19.) So I booked an appointment through Homejoy's website, and a day later, a young man showed up at my door. [more inside]
The political economy of a universal basic income: "your view of what is feasible should not be backwards looking. The normalization of gay marriage and legalization of marijuana seemed utopian and politically impossible until very recently. Yet in fact those developments are happening, and their expansion is almost inevitable given the demographics of ideology... UBI — defined precisely as periodic transfers of identical fixed dollar amounts to all citizens of the polity — is by far the most probable and politically achievable among policies that might effectively address problems of inequality, socioeconomic fragmentation, and economic stagnation." [more inside]
The "skills gap" is a myth. So why does it persist? "...by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate. Of course, that may be another reason corporate executives like the myth so much. So we need to kill this zombie, if we can, and stop making excuses for an economy that punishes workers." [more inside]
Humans Need Not Apply. Video essayist CGP Grey explains why we need to start preparing for a post-human economy.
"We haven't found a disability we can't employ."
"Let me tell you a story,” says Randy Lewis, former senior vice-president at US retailer Walgreens, in a Texan drawl. And it’s quite a story. It’s the tale of how a man who led logistics at America’s largest drug-store chain, supporting it as it grew from 1,600 to 8,000 outlets with the most advanced logistics network in its sector, did so while giving job opportunities to thousands of disabled people. In Walgreens’ distribution centres today, an average 35% of the workforce comprises people with disabilities, and it has set targets to make sure one in every 10 in-store hires is also disabled.[more inside]
The loaded meaning behind 'What do you do?': [Deb] Fallows says the questions are meant to tease out socioeconomic status, political viewpoints, and cultural background. “You know that somebody’s kind of digging for information to put you into their world – how do you fit into my world?” [more inside]
"When our donors met the actual people they were helping they often didn’t like them. During our Secret Santa drive, volunteers sometimes refused to drop gifts at houses with TVs inside. They got angry when clients had cell phones or in some other way didn’t match their expectations. Other times, the donations we got were too disgusting to pass along—soup cans that bulged with botulism and diapers so dry rotted they crumbled in our hands. One Thanksgiving, a board member called from the parking lot, requesting help carrying a frozen turkey from her trunk to our office. “Can you find a deserving family?” she asked. I lugged the bird up three flights of stairs. Somewhere near the top, I noticed the expiration date. It was seventeen years old." Anya Groner talks about working for Hudson Outreach in up-state New York and the sobering, chilling effect it had on her idealism.
"Pastry work takes a level of skill, precision and rigor that I lacked in spades. I could’ve maybe become a decent pastry cook, with months of practice and a patient boss, but I was in no way qualified to be a pastry chef. I gave it my best effort, for three days, until the chef-owner realized her mistake and fired me. The place closed in less than 6 months. I never got paid." Laurie Woolever at The Billfold talks about how she went from Botantical Garden Intern to Anthony Bourdain's assistant.
"Although the Civil Rights Act passed the Senate by 73-27, with 27 out of 33 Republican votes, one of the six Republicans who voted against it was Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who weeks later became the GOP’s presidential standard-bearer and started the long process by which the Party of Lincoln became the party of white backlash, especially in the South. Today, Republicans hold complete legislative control in all 11 states of the Old Confederacy for only the second time since Reconstruction." [more inside]
Yesterday, President Obama announced that in addition to the already announced executive order regarding protecting federally contracted workers from discrimination, the White House is preparing an executive order banning job discrimination among federal employees on the basis of gender identity. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez wrote in a blog post yesterday that DOL will be "updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals" to comply with the EEOC decision in Macy v. Holder. [more inside]
"Hi, Marc... You seem to think everyone's worried about robots. But what everyone's worried about is you, Marc. Not just you, but people like you. Robots aren't at the levers of financial and political influence today, but folks like you sure are. People are scared of so much wealth and control being in so few hands... Unless we collectively choose to pay for a safety net, technology alone isn't going to make it happen." [more inside]
65 to 70 million U.S. adults, 3 or 4 of every 10, have an arrest or conviction record, greatly reducing their chances of getting a job, if they even get an interview, as many job applications ask applicants to check a box if they have a criminal record. "Ban the Box" is the slogan used by groups who are trying to counter this practice. The ban is spreading with cities and states around the country "banning the box" from government job applications, and some jurisdictions are forcing private employers to ban the question, too. A few major companies have removed such questions from their applications ahead of the local and state requirements, with Target following Wal-Mart's decision (previously).
Portrait of a Young Man with Down Syndrome. A father reflects on his son's search for employment.
A day in the life of New York City's public libraries: Traveling from borough to borough, this short documentary by Julie Dressner and Jesse Hicks reveals just how important the modern library is for millions of people. Why Libraries Matter.
VC for the people - "It's just that people who have options are much more likely to actually find success than people who don't." [more inside]
"I say “you” deliberately here, because much of the writing about low-wage workers tends to obscure just that fact — that these stories could well be about you. Too much writing on the left and the right has tended to treat the people in some of the nation’s most common jobs as if they are some exotic Other rather than our neighbors, our family members and ourselves. " --Sarah Jaffe on the media's strange ways of talking about low-wage workers.
Amid a number of recent articles (previously, previously, and previously) about the state of doctoral study in the United States, the NSF has released an interactive report compiling statistical analysis of broad trends about who earns a doctorates, which fields are attracting students, influences to obtain a degree, payment for that degree, and trends after graduation. The report is also available as a .pdf, with further explanation of what these numbers generally indicate.
Target Bans the Box. Target Corp., one of the nation's largest employers, joins the growing number of cities and states to Ban the Box. Most Ban the Box legislation has been targeted towards public employers and contractors, but there has been a growing trend to enact legislation applicable to private employers, including in Target's home-state Minnesota. Target is one of the few private employers to take the step, and as far as I can tell, the largest yet. [more inside]
"One of the most important aspects of the interview is to check the tidiness of the future help. Lam Ling checks the hands of a student." In a beautifully shot series, French photographer Gratiane de Moustier depicts the Indonesian women and Hong Kong employers who are linked together in global care chain, beginning at their training camp in Java to their final place of employment in the homes of Hong Kong families.
Zero Hours - For a workshop on future London, Arup, Social Life, Re.Work, Commonplace, Tim Maughan and Nesta created 10 Future Londoners for the year 2023. This one describes the working day of 19 year old Nicki, a zero hours retail contractor.
With mass layoffs still taboo in Japan, senior workers who refuse to resign are sent to "chasing-out rooms" instead of being allowed to work. (SL NYTimes)
Fifty years ago, another bus-centric race dispute took place. Despite "Just 12 miles away in Bath, black crews were working on buses. London Transport recruitment officers had travelled to Barbados specifically to invite workers to come to the capital" ...non-whites found it impossible to obtain employment working on buses in Bristol, England. [more inside]
Why do we find free time so terrifying? Why is a dedication to work, no matter how physically destructive and ultimately pointless, considered a virtue?
A corporation is not a living creature. It has no soul. It has no heart. It has no feelings. It can neither experience towards you nor enjoy from you even the concept of loyalty. It is a legal fiction, and it exists for one purpose only: to make profit. If you assist in this goal in the long term, your ongoing association with the organization is facilitated. If you detract from it consistently, you will be cut. Family is “where they have to take you in no matter what you’ve done.” A corporation is… well, it’s sort of the exact opposite of this.Be loyal to yourself.
An editorial in the Nation recently argued in favour of higher wages for WalMart employees, many of whom make only the minimum wage. WalMart responded by pointing out that the Nation employs its interns at less than the minimum wage. The Nation replied that since interns are at the beginning of their careers, the situation is different.
President Obama visited an Amazon facility in Tennessee today giving a speech proposing a "grand bargain for middle-class jobs" that would cut the U.S. corporate tax rate and use billions of dollars in revenues generated by a business tax overhaul to fund projects aimed at creating jobs. The American Booksellers Association is not happy about the visit and called him out on it.
"Trusting your child with someone else is one of the hardest things that a parent has to do — and in the United States, it’s harder still, because American day care is a mess. About 8.2 million kids—about 40 percent of children under five — spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent. Most of them are in centers, although a sizable minority attend home day cares.... In other countries, such services are subsidized and well-regulated. In the United States, despite the fact that work and family life has changed profoundly in recent decades, we lack anything resembling an actual child care system. Excellent day cares are available, of course, if you have the money to pay for them and the luck to secure a spot. But the overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian."
There is a curious feeling of power you get when you drop a couple of twenties without a trace of critical thinking. "Here in the West, a lifestyle of unnecessary spending has been deliberately cultivated and nurtured in the public by big business." [more inside]
Yolanda Spivey was unemployed for two years, but job offers only started coming in after she changed her race - and name - to White. She wrote about her experience; she's also been interviewed by The Current's Young Turk (video).
Economists and the theory of politics - "why unions were often well worth any deadweight cost" [more inside]
“Never takes a vacation or holiday. Never asks for a raise. Never costs you a dime for slack time. (When the workload drops, you drop her.)" A brief history of temps. [more inside]
What's Going On In Japan? "Really Japan is quite a remarkable case, since neither fiscal nor monetary policy seems to be working to achieve the anticipated results. This year Japan will have a fiscal deficit of around 10% of GDP and gross government debt will hit 235% of GDP, yet the country is still struggling to find growth. Instead of reiterating old dogmas (whether they come from Keynes or from Hayek) more people should be asking themselves what is happening here. This is not a simple repetition of something which was first time tragedy and is now second time tragedy, it is something new, and could well be a harbinger for more that is to come, elsewhere. Oh, why oh why are economists not more curious?" [more inside]
Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment - "The poor do not employ one another, because the necessities they require are produced and sold so cheaply by the rich. The rich are glad to sell to the poor, as long as the poor can come up with property or debt claims or other forms of insurance to offer as payment..." [more inside]
Many people say that a law degree enables the holder to do virtually anything. Am Law Daily explores the logical fallacies behind this statement.
Is it possible to make a living in the arts? Meet the double jobbers.
Colorblind Racism Inside the U.S. Advertising Industry. A dissertation by Chris Boulton. [15:13 Vimeo] [more inside]
Discover Magazine posted a couple of blog entries about the law school scam as a cognitive bias and why law school tuition isn't more dispersed.
Let it Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace from Crooked Timber.
I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day.Tim Kreider: The ‘Busy’ Trap.