Older women benefitting from the recession?

Interesting take by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development on their (brief) Work Audit report Age, Gender and the Jobs Recession which was released yesterday.

According to the analysis there are now 8 per cent more women between the ages of 50 and 64 in the labour market and 6.2 per cent more in the same category actually in work. This is gratingly referred to as the ‘Madonna generation’, presumably to allow a glamorous photo on the CIPD’s website and generate media interest. This is accompanied by the press release: MADONNA GENERATION OF WOMEN AGED OVER 50 DEFY JOBS RECESSION.

But do they? If there are 8 per cent more of these women in the labour market but only 6.2 per cent more in employment. The answer of course is no. As the report states:

The number of unemployed women has also increased substantially, by almost half a million, to reach a record level of 1.12 million, although this is not primarily due to fewer jobs for women but instead to a relatively large rise of 438,000 in the number of women participating in the labour market. [Bold added]

The large increases are surely more related to ‘reforms’ (read ‘attacks’) of welfare, unemployment within families and dwindling pensions, pushing  ever more people into looking for work that is already scarce. Good news for employers.

Seen in this light perhaps the celebrations can be put on hold.


‘Slavery’ Trial Underway

From the Irish Times

The trial of the Traveller family in the UK accused of subjecting vulnerable men to years of forced labour has begun.

Film Festival in New York

Oh, how I miss NYC!

For those of you who live there, the Workers Unite! Film Festival is coming up.

An editorial in the New York Times calls for President Obama to keep his promise to home health aides who are currently exempt from minimum wage and overtime protections. Those folks at NELP are on a roll with the media coverage.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times.
Evelyn Coke in 2007. She sometimes worked 70 hours a week.

Unpaid overtime in the Great Recession

This article from USA Today highlights the increasing number of claims for unpaid overtime in the current economic climate. An interview with Catherine Ruckelshaus from the National Employment Law Project yields the following analysis: If employers had to bear the actual expense of overtime, she says, they likely would have hired more workers in the economic recovery.” 


The article goes on to make a number of great points, while including the employer perspective. Unfortunately, at the end, it takes a ‘careful what you wish for’ tone. Want to get paid for all the hours you worked? The employers will cut your wages to compensate. Want to get paid for all those calls and e-mails you respond to at all hours? You won’t get a cell phone; worse, you’ll lose the right to work from home. And so on and so forth.

Does USA Today need somebody to define retaliation for them? Does the Labor Department?

Divorce or trial separation?

The honeymoon period is definitely over between the Labour leader and affiliated trade unions. But could divorce be on the cards?

In the run-up to the local elections in less than three weeks the second biggest union in the UK, Unison, has today published a series of rather odd internet and press ads featuring emotive images relating to cuts in public services, including this heart-breaker below.

I use the word ‘odd’ here not for the imagery–we’ll put that to one side–but the wording. The three ads to appear in newspapers for example (available here) talk repeatedly about voting for ‘the party that cares’, itself a Mandelsonian masterstroke in vacuity. Nowhere to be seen are the words ‘Labour Party’, the party to which Unison has donated some £2.4 million since the last general election in 2010.

Yet only yesterday Ed Miliband took to the television to tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr that he supported a cap on donations to political parties far lower than previously stated by any major leader:

“[When] I talk about a £5,000 donations limit it’s got to apply to trade unions.”

Add this to the understandable union exasperation at Miliband’s (odd) decision to surrender Labour’s polling lead in January by endorsing coalition economic strategy and the relationship is looking bleak, not for the first time in recent years.

At the moment the only thing £2.4 million seems to have bought Unison members is five dinners.

Piece on labour radio

As a result of the New Voices in Labour Studies conference, I was recently featured on the Off the Hour radio show about labour (15 March). Its on CKUT, a community radio station out of McGill University in Montreal. The archives can be found here.

The interview was conducted on-the-spot, immediately after it was requested. At the end, the interviewer (David Tacium) quotes another presenter, who said there were 200 million workers in slave labour worldwide. I’m not sure where that presenter got his figures. There are all sorts of challenges to measuring these phenomena – statistically, politically, etc. – and some might argue that these estimates are not helpful anyway. As I state in the interview, it depends where you draw the line. For the record, though, the International Labour Organisation estimates that there are a minimum of 12.3 million people in some form of forced labour worldwide.

Caring Across Generations

Check out this video and story from The Nation on Caring Across Generations

Miners rescued

Thank goodness, they are out

But not sure whether its going to be very effective to simply tell wildcat miners to stay home and to tell employers to respect health & safety…

New Papers on Workplace Violations

From my colleague Annette Bernhardt:

The Role of Labor Market Regulation in Rebuilding Economic Opportunity in the U.S.

In the search for policy solutions to rising inequality and precariousness in the U.S., this essay argues for the central role of labor market regulation. It presents research and policy evidence for a three-pronged approach: (1) strengthening the floor of labor standards (wages, health and safety, and right to organize chief among them); (2) vigorously enforcing that floor; and (3) leveraging government contracting and grants to build a base of good jobs on top of that floor. The essay concludes that getting to scale in the current political climate will require ratcheting up from state and local policy campaigns to federal reform.

All Work and No Pay: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City

Despite three decades of scholarship on economic restructuring in the US, employers’ violations of minimum wage, overtime, and other workplace laws remain understudied. This article begins to fill the gap by presenting evidence from a large-scale, original worker survey that draws on recent advances in sampling methodology to reach vulnerable workers. Our findings suggest that in America’s three largest cities, violations of employment and labor laws are pervasive across low-wage industries and occupations, impacting a wide range of workers. We also find that while worker characteristics are correlated with violations, it is job and employer characteristics that play the stronger role, including industry, occupation, and measures of informality and nonstandard work. We conclude by proposing that employers’ noncompliance with labor regulations needs to be understood as a key business strategy shaping work and opportunity in the 21st century labor market.

Employers Gone Rogue: Explaining Industry Variation in Violations of Workplace Laws

Drawing on a representative survey of workers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, the authors analyze violations of minimum wage, overtime, and other workplace laws at the industry level. They document significant variation between low-wage industries in both the mix and prevalence of violations, and show that while differences in workforce composition are important in explaining that variation, it is differences in job and employer characteristics that play the stronger role. The authors integrate these findings with existing industry research to elaborate the thesis that violations of employment and laws are emerging as a key strategy in the reorganization of work and production at the bottom of the U.S. labor market.