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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.102

    30 June, 1998

    Insecurity and the corrosion of character. Richard Sennett on the personal consequences of work in the new economy.

    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 work force".

    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"

    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 teamwork.

    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

    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 emotional lives.

    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 and short-term.

    "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 Online (

    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 in demand.

    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

    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 paid work.

    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

    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

    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

    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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