You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Inequality’ tag.

Some of the claims put forth in the controversial book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societal Almost Always Do Better are being verified in the United States; rising inequality is shortening the lifespan of its population.  on writing on Counterpunch illustrates the effects of inequality in the US.

“The inequality of life expectancy,” as economist Gabriel Zucman puts it, “is exploding in the U.S.”

The new GAO numbers ought to surprise no one. Over recent decades, a steady stream of studies have shown consistent links between rising inequality and shorter lifespans.

The trends we see in the United States reflect similar dynamics worldwide, wherever income and wealth are concentrating. The more unequal a society becomes, the less healthy the society.

On the other hand, the nations with the narrowest gaps between rich and poor turn out to have the longest lifespans.

And the people living shorter lives don’t just include poorer people. Middle-income people in deeply unequal societies live shorter lives than middle-income people in more equal societies.

What can explain how inequality makes this deadly impact? We don’t know for sure. But many epidemiologists — scientists who study the health of populations — point to the greater levels of stress in deeply unequal societies. That stress wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to a wide variety of medical maladies.”

wmd     I’m currently reading a book called Weapons of Math Destruction, inside Cathy O’Neil details how ‘Big Data’ (via the use of opaque algorithms) is increasing inequality and threatening democracy in the industrialized world.

About half-way done and the sad word of the day that I’ve learned from the book is this –

This untidy word in question is “Clopening” and is defined as this:  When an employee works late on night to close down the store or cafe and then returns a few hours later, opening it again.  It makes logistical sense for a company, but leads to sleep deprived workers and crazy schedules.

Oh, and another term – “Churn” – the negative costs associated with hiring for and training a new person in a position.  Churn speaks directly to the company’s bottom line and thus is a large input factor into many HR related algorithms.

Terminology aside, let’s take a look at the central idea of the chapter called ‘Sweating Bullets”:

“Scheduling software can be seen as an extension of the just-in-time economy.  But instead of lawn mower blades or cell phone screens showing up right on cue, it’s people who badly need money.  And because the need money so desperately, the companies can bend their lives to the dictates of a mathematical model.

[…]

The trouble, from the employee’s perspective, is an oversupply of low-wage labour.  People are hungry for work, which is why so many of them cling to jobs that pay barely eight dollars per hour.  This oversupply, along with the scarcity of labour unions, leaves works practically with no bargaining power.  This means the big retailers and restaurants can twist workers’ lives to ever-more-absurd schedules without suffering excessive churn.  They make more money while their workers’ lives grow hellish.  And because these optimization programs are everywhere, the workers know all too well that changing jobs isn’t likely to improve their lot.  Taken together, these dynamics provide corporations with something close to a captive workforce. 

    I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I consider scheduling software one of the more appalling WMD’s (weapons of math destruction).  It’s massive, as we’ve discussed, and it takes advantage of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.  What’s more, it is entirely opaque.  Workers often don’t have a clue about when they’ll be called to work.  They are summoned by an arbitrary program. 

   Scheduling software also creates a poisonous feedback loop.  Consider Jannette Navarro.  Her haphazard scheduling made it impossible for her to returnprecariate to school, which dampened her employment prospects and kept her in the oversupplied pool of low-wage workers.  The long and irregular hours also make it hard for workers to organize or to protest for better conditions.  Instead, they face heightened anxiety and sleep deprivation, which causes dramatic mood swings and is responsible for an estimated 13% of highway deaths.  Worse yet, since the software is designed to save companies money, it often limits workers’ hours to fewer than thirty per week, so that they are not eligible for company health insurance.  And with their chaotic schedules, most find it impossible to make time for a second job.  It’s almost as if the software were designed expressly to punish low-wage workers and keep them down. 

    The software also condemns a large percentage of our children to grow up without routines.  They experience their mother bleary eyed at breakfast, or hurrying out the door without dinner, or arguing with her mother about who can take care of them on Sunday morning.  This chaotic life affects children deeply.  According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, an advocacy group, “Young children and adolescents of parents working unpredictable schedules or outside daytime working hours are more likely to have inferior cognition and behavioural outcomes.”

  -Cathy O’Neil.  Weapons of Math Destruction p. 128 – 129

    I look at the grossly unfair conditions these people are facing and can see the self-perpetuating cycles that are being established.  I thank the many heavens that I have a profession that keeps me out of this particularly cruel circle of horror.  Unionized, and organized through my work, through my collectively bargained contracts I can count on stable work hours and a reasonable compensation.  This condition of relative comfort seems far out of reach for so many people who are no less deserving than I – a stable means to live an raise a family are not unreasonable demands to make- but the Precariate’s humble demands are dismissed and ground down with the help of these WMD that perpetuate, codify, and bring to fruition the crippling inequality in our societies.

The push for unionization must always be kept at the forefront of any progressive movement, because left to their own machinations, corporations will exploit people and society for their own selfish ends.

 

1st-chart

A reminder, that the more egalitarian a society is, the better off it is for both the poor *and* the rich.

Perceptions are so important when dealing with societies problems.  How Canada’s wealth is perceived to be divided and how it actually is obscures the need for greater measures to insure wealth equality in our nation.

Check out the full report here(pdf).

Tell me again about those so called charitable rich people…?  Onwards brothers and sisters to the class war.  This vid is pretty much everything I’ve said on the blog and what I rail against a on regular basis.  Go Ted Talks Go.

Inequality is going to kick our ass if we don’t take measures to rectify the imbalances in your societies.   The topic of this video is interesting; the presenter not so much.  I recommend watching the video if you have a keen interest in how our world is working, but do not expect to be actively ‘entertained’. :)

 

This just popped into my reader.  It deserves to be shared and discussed.

For your quick hit of sociological fact, look no further.  Inequality is bad for societies and also bad for families.  In other breaking news global warming is a “go”, religious is still deceiving people and women are still being systematically discriminated against.

Enjoy the video. :)

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