Essential Information on an Essential Issue
30 June, 1998
Insecurity and the corrosion of character. Richard Sennett on the personal consequences of work in the new economy.
- GREENSPAN ON INSECURITY
The US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, recently observed that the
rapidly changing global economy has "... clearly raised the level of anxiety and insecurity in the
Greenspan, in a speech to the American Council on Education, says research shows
that the fear of job losses has escalated in the economy of the late 1990s. Greenspan has also
previously suggested that rising job insecurity is one reason why inflation has remained so tame
in the US, despite a very tight labour market.
Greenspan quoted from a study by International Survey Research, showing that, in
the depths of the US recession in 1981, 12% of workers feared losing their jobs. Today, in the
tightest US labour market in two generations (with a 4.3% jobless rate), the same research
organisation has found 37% of workers worried about job loss.
Source Reuters 16 February 1999 "US Job Insecurity Up in 1990s Greenspan"
- SENNETT ON INSECURITY
The rise of insecurity in the contemporary workforce is the main theme behind
a recently published book "The Corrosion of Character" by Richard Sennett.
Sennett is one of the world's most distinguished social scientists who lectures at both
the New York University and the London School of Economics. He argues that we should
be paying more attention to the personal consequences of the new economy that is re-shaping
our work. His message is that the modern economy is having entirely unexpected consequences
for the "flexible" worker of the 1990s ... as we adapt to a new work life that stresses
short-term goals, chop-and-change professional paths, decentralised structures, incessant risk and
We present an essential summary of Sennett's ideas as a special feature in this issue of
The Jobs Letter.
Also Voices: on Insecurity and Redefining Work by Ulrich Beck
- STEPHEN LONG ON INSECURITY
In commenting on the issues raised in Sennett's book, Stephen Long of the
Australian Financial Review argues that it is the time dimension of the new economy, rather than the
hi-tech revolution, global economy or free trade, that most directly affects people's
Long: "The transformation of working time stands alongside the rise of the
global economy and the IT revolution as one of the hallmarks of our age. It separates the
generations, placing a gap between the experience of those who worked full-time in one career and
their children, who confront a world where job opportunities are increasingly casual, contingent
"Common standards of time for work and leisure are withering as society adapts to
the needs of the 24-hour economy and demands for labour flexibility. Little more than a third of
the workforce now put in a standard week of 30 - 44 hours performed in daytime in
Australia, while equal proportions work part-time or in excess of standard hours. Workaholism is
becoming compulsory for many Australians, while hundreds of thousands of others languish
without work or churn between casual jobs and unemployment..."
- Stephen Long quotes research, by economists Yvonne Dunlop and Peter
Sheehan, which shows the total number of people working standard hours in Australia grew by just
3.5 per cent between 1978 and 1995. Meanwhile, the number of people working 45-48 hours
a week increased by 80 per cent, the number working 49-59 hours by 142 per cent and
the number working 60 hours or more rose by a massive by 206 per cent.
Source Stephen Long 16 February 1999 "on Work, Time and Other Catastrophes" as guest reporter featured in the February issue of Workers
- FUTURE TRENDS FROM NORTH AND SOUTH
Continuing insecurity is a theme of future employment patterns forecasted in
North & South magazine's special issue this month on "Future Trends".
Staff writer Nicola Legat predicts: more job share, part-time, temporary and contract
work being offered in the next five years, more small-scale companies and more staff working
off-site. Contract-only "portfolio workers" with high skills in specialised areas will also be
Legat: "This underlines what all workers now know there is no guarantee of a job
until retirement. Fear of job loss will persist. Complacency will be terminal for workers who want
to earn a reasonable wage ... In a world where mergers, downsizing and computers snatch
jobs, all workers will have to be relaxed about the prospect of multi-careering and re-careering..."
- One N&S "hot" trend predicted for the year 2005: employment in the prison service.
N&S also predicts a growing trend in people not wanting to work so hard, with
many looking for balance in a life outside of the workplace.
Legat: "Today's late-40 something managers were the university students of the late
60s and early 70s. The hippie hankering to escape which informed their youth has never quite
left them. They conformed, cut their hair, they made their money. Now, privileged as ever,
they will escape again..."
Source North & South magazine July 1999 "Future indicative" by Nicola Legat
- PARENTS OF 1 IN 4 CHILDREN JOBLESS
One in four children in New Zealand have parents that are out-of-work. A Statistics
NZ report says that in 1983, 14% of NZ children were living in families with no parent in
paid work. In 1996 that figure had increased to 23%.
More than 40% of Maori children and 37.9% of Pacific Islands children have no parent
in paid work. By comparison, only 13.8% of European/Pakeha children have no parent in
Two thirds of children in one-parent families have a parent who is unemployed,
compared to 9.6% of children in two-parent families.
Dianne Macaskill, deputy government statistician, says the report shows a diverse
NZ population undergoing big changes. Macaskill: "As tomorrow's adults, the foundation
that children have in life and the opportunities available to them are critical to NZ's future ...
a proper understanding of the lives and characteristics of this group is of importance."
- The report shows that of the 832,100 children under 15 years living in NZ, three out
of five (62.4%) were European, about a quarter (24.5%) were Maori, and 7.6% were Pacific Island.
The report also predicts that children will make up a smaller share of the population in
the future, falling from 23% in 1996 to a predicted 15% in 2051. By then, more than half of all
children will be of Maori or Pacific Island ethnicity.
Source _ The Dominion 23 June 1999 " Parents Of 1 In 4 Children Jobless" by Cathie Bell
- STATISTICS THAT MATTER : TE ATATU
This electorate contains 16,398 households, of
which 38% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax. That 38% is 14% below
the rate for the country as a whole. There are 28,185 adults aged 20-59 in the Te Atatu electorate,
of whom 62% are in paid, full-time work. Another 10% are in part-time work. Unemployment
in the electorate is about equal to the national average. No localities in the Te Atatu
electorate have high levels of deprivation.
( Electorate statistics compiled by Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).
Source _ Judy Reinken, statistics based on 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings
- LABOUR AND INDUSTRY TRAINING
The Labour Party is determined to re-organise industry training in NZ, if it
becomes the government at the end of this year. Labour plans: re-organise the ITOs (Industry
Training Organisations), enable industries to levy themselves to fund them, strengthen the
government's role as a standard-setter of qualifications, and promote group training apprenticeships.
Labour's Steve Maharey acknowledges that the National government has done a
great deal to increase the numbers of people in industry training. At the end of last year
almost 50,000 people had training contracts with employers, more than triple the number in 1993.
The old apprenticeship system only covered 26 trades, but now the breadth of training has
increased with 52 ITOs offering formally-recognised work-based training to an estimated 76%
of the workforce.
- But Maharey told Graeme Speden of The
Independent that the quality of much of the new training is inadequate. Maharey: "A lot of it is not happening where it should, and
we're not getting the kind of quality training that apprenticeship represented..."
Officials in the Education Department agree. In their briefing papers to incoming
Tertiary Education Minister Max Bradford, the officials wrote: "Some ITOs may also lack the
economies of scale to provide the depth and range of services required to manage a high-quality
employment-based training programme..."
- Labour is interested in reducing the number of ITOs, perhaps to as few as 20, in
order to gain such economies of scale. It will also bring in legislation to enable industries to
fund their ITOs by levying themselves, rather than relying on the present system of
voluntary funding. Labour will also strengthen the current system of national unit standards and
qualifications (National has been looking as though it will back away from the "standards
business" and contract it out).
Labour will also support the proposal that ITOs set up group training companies.
The ITOs could employ apprentices, and lease them out to employers. This is seen as a more
flexible option for apprentices in a rapidly changing economy: if the employer found they
were unable to keep the apprentice on ... then the ITO would look for another employer to keep
the training going.
Source _ The Independent 2 June 1999 "It's apprenticeship, Jim, but not as we know it" by Graeme Speden
- FAREWELL TO AUCKLAND UWRC
At the end of this week, the Auckland Unemployed Worker's Rights Centre will
be formally closing its doors. The AUWRC was established in 1983, and has been one of
the longest-surviving independent voices for the unemployed in this country. It has also been
a home for many employment campaigners notably Sue and Bill Bradford.
Sue Bradford says that the decision of send AUWRC into recess has not been an easy
one: "Unemployment continues to rise. When AUWRC was established in 1983 there were just
over 100,000 people out of work in NZ. Today there are over 200,000 people registered
unemployed. But we took the decision to wind down after careful examination of the options we faced,
given the financial and political realities of today..."
Closing the AUWRC will consolidate and support the growth and development of
the three "People's Centres" in Auckland, which often shared personnel and resources between
the two Centres.
Source _ Notice from AUWRC, and phonecall from Sue Bradford
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