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Life and Death Inequality


Although people are living longer almost everywhere, life-expectancy figures in the US tell a more complicated story. Rich Americans can expect to live significantly longer than poor Americans, owing to disturbing levels of inequality not only of income and wealth, but also of access to basic health care.

REYKJAVÍK – Just as some of us live longer than others, countries have different average life expectancies. At the bottom of the scale is Swaziland, the only country in the world where a newborn still cannot expect to reach age 50. And at the top is Hong Kong, where a newborn can expect to live to age 84.

In 1960, the world’s countries could be divided into two groups, based on mortality. Countries in one group had low average life expectancy, from 28 years in Mali to just under 50 years in El Salvador. And countries in the second, much less populous group enjoyed higher average life expectancy – up to 73 years in Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Since then, Hong Kong has surpassed this North European group, as have Japan (84 years), Italy (83), Spain (83), and Switzerland (83). Today, the people of Hong Kong can expect their children to live 17 years longer than in 1960. Japanese newborns can expect to live 16 years longer; and newborn Icelanders can expect to live ten years longer.

Much of this increase in life expectancy around the world is a result of declining child mortality. And the increase has been more marked for women, who tend to live an average of three years longer than men. In Iceland, for example, the average life expectancy for men and women is 81 and 84, respectively.

But life expectancy can also vary significantly within countries, between rich and poor. According to a new study by two MIT researchers, the wealthiest 1% of American men tend to live almost 15 years longer than the poorest 1%; and the wealthiest 1% of American women can expect to live ten years longer than their poorer counterparts.

Moreover, this gap widened over time. In just the last 15 years, the average life expectancy of the wealthiest 5% of Americans has increased by two years for men, and three years for women. Over the same period, the average life expectancy of the poorest 5% Americans has increased by just three months for men, and hardly at all for women.

Like recent reports about many Americans’ deteriorating health, this difference in life expectancy seems to reflect not just income and wealth inequality, but also unequal access to health care. And yet US President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans seem intent on depriving 23 million more Americans of health insurance by repealing and replacing the 2010 Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

If they succeed, life expectancy in the United States would most likely continue to decline, relative to other developed countries. Between 1960 and today, for example, average life expectancy in the US increased from 70 to 79 years, whereas in Italy it increased from 69 to 83 years. While the average American lived one year longer than the average Italian in 1960, the average Italian now lives four years longer than the average American.

Average US life expectancy has increased more slowly than in Europe partly because many white middle-aged Americans have, since 1999, been living shorter lives, owing to lifestyle-related diseases, opioid overdoses, and suicides. In fact, since 1981, opioid overdoses alone have taken almost as many lives as HIV/AIDS.

It is extremely rare for any large cohort in a modern society to suffer such a decline in life expectancy. The only other time it has happened in recent decades was in Russia after the collapse of communism, and in Africa after the outbreak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Rising inequality, then, is not just a question of income, wealth, and power; it is, literally, a matter of life and death. This may explain why inequality has shot to the top of the political agenda in the US and Europe in recent years. In his 2016 Democratic primary campaign, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, condemned America’s rising inequality and actually came closer to being elected president than many had expected. And Trump – like the “Leave” campaign in the United Kingdom – was embraced by many voters who feel left behind.

Despite being founded in 1945, the International Monetary Fund only recently began to pay ample attention to the distribution of income and wealth in its member countries. Having now realized that inequality can hinder economic growth, the IMF has begun to discuss the inequality-growth relationship with several of its members.

Some observers have disparaged the IMF for this new approach, and argue that increased inequality simply reflects what people have voted for. But those who claim that inequality is something to be desired are akin to those who argue that unemployment is always voluntary, as some economists still insist.

In fact, when inequality rises, democracy suffers, which is why the demotion of the US in one prominent ranking of the world’s democracies is not particularly surprising. Most people do not want to be unemployed, or be left behind, or have his or her life cut short. It only looks that way to those who frame the choices voters make.


Thorvaldur Gylfason is Professor of Economics, University of Iceland.


By: Thorvaldur Gylfason
Date: October 5, 2017
Source: Project Syndicate

Posted in Health, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

In the Caribbean, colonialism and inequality mean hurricanes hit harder


Hurricane Maria, the 15th tropical depression this season, is now battering the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the region.

The devastation in Dominica is “mind-boggling,” wrote the country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Facebook just after midnight on September 19. The next day, in Puerto Rico, NPR reported via member station WRTU in San Juan that “Most of the island is without power…or water.”

Among the Caribbean islands impacted by both deadly storms are Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Tortola and Barbuda.

In this region, disaster damages are frequently amplified by needlessly protracted and incomplete recoveries. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rolled roughshod through the Caribbean with wind speeds of 160 mph. The region’s economy took more than three years to recover. Grenada’s surplus of US$17 million became a deficit of $54 million, thanks to decreased revenue and the outlays for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Nor were the effects of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 limited to killing some 150,000 people. United Nations peacekeepers sent in to help left the country grappling, to this day, with a fatal cholera outbreak.

These are not isolated instances of random bad luck. As University of the West Indies geographers who study risk perception and political ecology, we recognize the deep, human-induced roots of climate change, inequality and the underdevelopment of former colonies – all of which increase the Caribbean’s vulnerability to disaster.

Risk, vulnerability and poverty

Disaster risk is a function of both a place’s physical hazard exposure – that is, how directly it is threatened by disaster – and its social vulnerability, specifically, how resilient it is.

Across most Caribbean islands, hazard exposure is about the same, but research shows that poverty and social inequality drastically magnify the severity of disasters.

Haiti, where eight out of every 10 people live on less than $4 a day, offers an example of how capitalism, gender and history converge to compound storm damage.

The country is among the Western Hemisphere’s poorest in large part because of imperialism. After Haitians successfully overthrew their European enslavers in 1804, global powers economically stifled the island. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. first militarily occupied Haiti, and then followed a policy of intervention that continues to have lasting effects on its governance.

International interference and the resulting weak institutions, in turn, impeded development, poverty reduction and empowerment efforts.

In such a context, disasters aggravate a country’s numerous existing social vulnerabilities. Take gender, for example. Mental health professionals offering support to victims after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake found that an extraordinarily high number of displaced women – up to 75 percent – had experienced sexual violence. This prior trauma exacerbated the women’s post-disaster stress responses.

Geography and gender

Inequality and underdevelopment are perhaps less marked in the rest of the Caribbean, but from Antigua and Barbuda to St. Kitts and Nevis, socioeconomic problems are now complicating both disaster preparedness and response.

Across the region, people spend most of their income on daily essentials like food, clean water, shelter and medicine, with little left over for greeting Irma and Maria with lifesaving hurricane-resilient roofs, storm shutters, solar generators and first aid kits.

For the poor, emergency radios and satellite telephones that could warn of impending disasters are largely unaffordable, as is homeowners’ insurance to hasten recovery.

Poorer Caribbean residents also tend to live in the most disaster-prone areas because housing is cheaper on unstable deforested hillsides and eroding riverbanks. This exponentially increases the danger they face. The low construction quality of these dwellings offers less protection during storms while, post-disaster, emergency vehicles may not be able to access these areas.

Caribbean women will also continue to be at particular risk well after Maria passes. In a region where gender roles remain quite rigid, women are typically tasked with childcare, harvesting, cooking, cleaning, washing and the like.

Even in post-disaster settings, women are expected to perform household labor. So when water supplies are contaminated (with sewage, E. coli, salmonella, cholera, yellow fever, and hepatitis A, among others), women are disproportionately exposed to illness.

The work of nourishing the spirits and bodies of others when food and water shortages occur is also thrust onto women, even though they generally have less access to income and credit than men.

No place for politics

Politics, too, play a role in how the Caribbean is faring during this tumultuous hurricane season. Longtime colonial rule isn’t the only reason Caribbean societies and ecosystems are now so vulnerable.

Many contemporary governments in the region are, arguably, also doing their part to make life generally worse for marginalized communities. In Trinidad and Tobago, divestment in public education has hurt working-class university students, youth from low-income communities and older adults who were previously eligible for financial aid.

In oil-rich Guyana, dependency upon fossil fuels has invited an eager ExxonMobil in for a round of drilling, despite its track record for extracting, polluting and taking profits largely elsewhere. And, from Jamaica to Belize, widespread corruption and land rights violations have severed relationships of trust between people and the states that are, in theory, supposed to protect them.

When storms threaten, such policies and practices intensify the Caribbean’s societal and ecological risks.

Irma and Maria are surely not the last extreme disasters that will strike the region. To survive and flourish in this dangerous new normal, Caribbean countries would do well to look to the heart of these issues, rethinking the concept of risk and mindfully engaging with factors like poverty, gender and climate change.

In practice, this means identifying their most vulnerable communities and working to improve their day-to-day well-being – not just their survival in a storm.

The Caribbean’s own Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), from the island of Martinique, recognized these complexities in his book, “The Wretched of the Earth.”

Fanon asserted that democracy and the political education of the masses, across all post-colonial geographies, is a “historical necessity.” Presciently, he also noted that “the soil needs researching, as well as the subsoil, the rivers, and why not the sun.”

As the Caribbean looks for solutions to the damage and suffering brought on by both nature’s revolt and social inequality, Fanon’s words seem like a good place to start.



By: Levi Gahman and Gabrielle Thongs
Date: September 20, 2017
Source: The Conversation

Posted in Latest Post, Natural Disasters, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Does higher education contribute to rising inequality?


There has been an enormous increase in economic inequality in most Western countries over the past 30 years or so. In the United Kingdom the share of income taken by the top 1% has more than doubled (to 12%); in the United States it has more than tripled. Inequalities of wealth are even greater.

What has happened to personal and household incomes has been paralleled by what has happened to functional incomes. In Britain the share of gross domestic product or GDP accounted for by wages has fallen from just over 60% in 1975 to just under 50% in 2015 (the comparable US percentages are 57% and 53%). It is widely recognised that, after climate change, increased inequality is the greatest challenge now facing the Western world.

In the past, some degree of economic inequality has been justified on the basis that it provides the necessary incentives to work, study and invest. But work by international economists shows that high levels of inequality are actually detrimental to economic growth and innovation, one of the main reasons for this being the increasing gap between what different families can invest in education and training (leading in turn to more variable levels of educational attainment).

Higher levels of inequality also lead to higher levels of debt which in turn lead to greater economic instability. There is also damage to social cohesion, social mobility and social justice. But perhaps the greatest damage is to democratic politics, as the interests and views of a wealthy minority dominate the agendas of the main political parties and the media. This can already be seen clearly in the US and is beginning to happen in the UK as well.

The inequality crisis

There are many different explanations for the growth in inequality. So-called ‘market’ theories emphasise underlying structural developments such as globalisation, skill-biased technological change and financialisation (the increasingly important role played by finance in the modern economy).

By contrast, ‘institutional’ theories draw attention to the policies and decisions of individual countries and governments, and especially the neoliberal reforms of deregulation and privatisation associated with President Ronald Reagan and Mrs Margaret Thatcher.

In my new book, The Inequality Crisis: The facts and what we can do about it, I argue that increasing inequality is partly the result of these underlying structural developments and partly the result of the neoliberal reforms that exacerbated their detriments or at least enabled them. So if we are really serious about reducing or checking inequality, our starting point has to be revisiting and reversing these reforms, perhaps beginning with the labour and capital markets.

HE’s role in combating inequality

So where does higher education stand in all this?

Historically, higher education has been seen as one of the main engines of social mobility. This has indeed been one of the main reasons why higher education has attracted large amounts of both public and private investment.

But there is no denying the fact that in both Britain and America social mobility has actually been falling over the same period that higher education has been expanding.

In fact, the post-80s expansion of higher education may actually have contributed to the growth of inequality as a huge gap has opened up between people with and without college degrees.

This gap can be seen in the continuing difference in financial rewards between graduates with degrees and high school graduates, the ‘graduate premium’; in the growing geographical separation of communities with and without large concentrations of graduates, which is becoming an important issue in its own right; and in the differences in attitudes towards ‘popular reform’ in the Brexit and US presidential election votes, where it seems clear that the best indicator of whether someone will vote for a populist, anti-establishment candidate is whether they have high-school qualifications or above.

Does this mean that there is nothing higher education can do to improve matters?

There are actually three sets of things we can do.

First, we should analyse the phenomenon of rising inequality (and not just in the advanced Western societies) so that society generally can have a better understanding of its extent, causes and consequences.

In spite of the current ridiculous animus against ‘experts’ there is no substitute for this activity and no one else can undertake it.

We can show how these neoliberal policies of marketisation are creating in higher education exactly the same effects as in the larger society, with greater and greater inequalities between the institutions and the constituencies they serve as well as a wide range of other costs and detriments.

Second, we should distance ourselves from the commercial league tables and guides that use material from the rankings; we should explain the methodological problems and limitations of those rankings, the UK’s National Student Survey, (so-called) Key Information Set, and wretched Teaching Excellence Framework, and other similar devices; we should show how we use our resources to provide the best possible education for our students and how our investment in research and scholarship contributes to this and other societal goals; and we should limit our expenditure on attention-grabbing activities like marketing, advertising and branding, preferably through sector-wide agreements controlling such activities.

Finally, we should re-examine and if necessary re-direct the curriculum we offer our students. We should reject the idea that higher education is essentially a preparation for the labour market. Instead, we should be attending to the development in each student of the personal values and characteristics that will in turn produce a new generation of citizens committed to producing a fairer, happier, and more productive society.

Professor Roger Brown is the former vice-chancellor of Southampton Solent University, UK. This is based on a presentation he is giving at a seminar being held jointly by the Society for Research into Higher Education and the Centre for Higher Education Studies at the UCL Institute of Education, UK, on 4 October 2017. His book, The Inequality Crisis: The facts and what we can do about it, is published by Policy Press


By: Roger Brown
Date: September 29, 2017 Issue No.: 476
Source: University World News

Posted in Education, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Singapore’s approach to addressing socio-economic inequality has ‘served it well’: Indranee


Singapore targets its subsidies and assistance to those who need it more, says Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah

SINGAPORE: The approach taken by Singapore to addressing socio-economic inequality has served it well so far, said Senior Minister of State for Finance Indranee Rajah on Monday (Oct 2), noting that even as income gaps widen elsewhere, inequality here has been kept in check.

Speaking in Parliament, she said Singapore’s Gini coefficient has moderated over the last five years. “Our people have also seen good income growth, with the lower-income seeing their real per capita household income grow by close to 20 per cent over the last five years.”

The Gini coefficient is a measure of income inequality.

She was responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who had asked if the Finance Ministry would regularly review the Government’s commitment to socio-economic inequality, and publish the results of such reviews. He had cited recent findings from a study by Oxfam and Development Finance International that ranked Singapore eighty-sixth in the world in this regard.

Ms Indranee noted that the rankings were based on the absolute amount of social spending, with the assumption that the higher the level of spending, the better the situation will be, regardless of whether the spending leads to effective outcomes.

“The authors have acknowledged the limitations of their study in representing the different circumstances of individual countries,” she said. “This is the case for Singapore, where we target our subsidies and assistance to those who are more needy.”

“This focused approach to reducing inequality enables us to keep our tax burden low while ensuring our social expenditure is prudent, fair and progressive.”

She also outlined the Government’s various support schemes for Singaporeans at different life stages, noting that more support goes to the disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

“All these schemes add up to a system that is highly progressive,” she said. “All in all, low-income households receive almost S$4 of benefits for every dollar of tax paid, while the middle-income households receive almost S$2 for every dollar of tax paid.”

In response to a supplementary question from Mr Perera, Ms Indranee also stressed that every year in the Budget, Singapore reviews what it can do better. “It is part of each ministry’s duty and responsibility to see where the gaps are,” she said.

This is published in the Singapore Public Sector Outcomes Review (SPOR) report every two years, she added. Socio-economic indicators and outcomes are also published every year in the Key Household Income Trends report by the Department of Statistics.

“In other words, this is not something we do every five to 10 years,” she said. “It is part and parcel of the day-to-day work of the ministries.”

“Occasionally, we may have bigger reviews, but it is really something that is done each and every day of the ministries’ work.”


By: Lianne Chia
Date: October 2, 2017
Source: Channel NewsAsia

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

How inequality became the big issue troubling the world’s top economists


Every three years, all Nobel Prize winners in economics are invited to gather in the tranquil setting of the German island of Lindau to meet a selection of bright young economists and discuss the state of their profession. But this year such tranquility was challenged by worrying political developments across the globe. Perhaps unexpectedly, one of the central themes of the meeting became what to do about inequality.

While not all laureates would go as far as Jean Tirole, the 2014 Nobel Prize winner, who said that economic inequality itself is a form of “market failure”, it is clear that the political and social effects of growing inequality are drawing increasing attention from those at the top of the economics profession.

In a panel discussion on inequality, James Heckman, the 2000 Nobel laureate, pointed out that inequality had grown faster in the US and the UK than other Western democracies. Heckman said that changes to the tax system that favoured the rich had to be a key part of the explanation. He was also worried about the decline in social mobility, particularly for those on low pay.

Heckman also pointed out that the low income of many single-parent families, whose numbers have increased sharply over the last few decades, had also increased inequality. He argued strongly for wage subsidies to boost the income of the working poor, and increased subsidies for childcare to help more single parents enter the labour market.

Towards a Universal Basic Income

Peter Diamond and Sir Christopher Pissarides, who shared the Nobel Prize in 2010 for their work on labour markets, both told me that they now favoured a universal basic income(UBI), which would give a minimum basic income to all citizens regardless of their economic status. Pissarides argued that the rapid spread of robots and AI is a threat to large numbers of less-skilled jobs. Without some government intervention, this will widen inequality, he believes. He would support UBI as long as it was carefully calibrated to be below the minimum wage to avoid disrupting the labour market.

Diamond told me that the growing inequality in the US was now as issue that had to be faced. In a recent paper, he demonstrated just how much the US was an outlier across a wide range of measures of inequality, including income, wealth, poverty and social mobility.

Diamond believes that the debate on inequality can help focus discussion on policy failures: from the lack of investment in education, research and infrastructure, to the failure to compensate those who bore the cost of globalisation through job losses in heavy industry. He also argues that direct transfers, including introducing child benefit to everyone who has children and a UBI, would help tackle poverty. While he does not think that the goal of policy should necessarily be focused on redistributing wealth, he believes that the economic challenges in the US require a higher level of government spending, and therefore higher taxation on the better off.

Both Diamond and Pissarides are prepared to consider higher taxes on wealth as part of the policy mix. Focusing on the US, Diamond favours a substantial increase in inheritance tax. From a UK perspective, Pissarides argues for some increased taxation of housing. He is in favour of taxing the capital gains from the sales of houses, rather than (at present) only taxing housing when it is inherited. He believes this could also have a beneficial effect on house prices, which are becoming unaffordable for many young people.

The paradox of global inequality

While much of the meeting focused on inequality in rich countries, the question of inequality in developing countries was not ignored. Eric Maskin, the 2007 Nobel laureate for his work on mechanism design, pointed out the paradox that while global inequality between countries was narrowing, due to the rapid economic growth of China and India, it was “deeply troubling” that inequality within developing countries was increasing.

Maskin suggested that this was in contradiction to the widely held economics theory of comparative advantage. This is the idea, put forward by economist David Ricardo in the 19th century, that the wages of unskilled workers in poorer countries rise as they enter global markets. Maskin suggested that this no longer holds as we now have an integrated global labour market – not a national one – with global supply chains and communications networks enabling companies to ignore national boundaries.

One of the purposes of the Lindau meeting is to encourage younger economists to think radically about what new areas of research they should focus on. It may be that these discussions will inspire the next generation to develop new policies to tackle the challenge of poverty and inequality.
Economics has often been characterised as the “dismal science” for its failure to engage with real-life issues or prevent crises like the 2008-09 global financial crisis. If this new approach takes hold, this could radically change.


By            :               Steve Schifferes (Professor of Financial Journalism, City, University of London)

Date         :               August 29, 2017

Source     :               The Conversation


Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Cure health inequality by reducing income inequality


The relationship between health and social context includes a range of factors influencing overall well-being. Social status, class, lifestyle, education, and environment primarily shape these factors. Age, gender, race, and ethnicity are structural variables of equal importance to health outcomes. Health is being facilitated or inhibited by the socioeconomic, cultural, and political backgrounds, in which one is born and raised.

In the last few decades, we have seen growing income inequality between the poor and rich. Since the 1980’s, the United States of America has seen a shift in wealth from the middle class towards the wealthiest people and transnational companies. The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much as the bottom 90 percent. Firebaugh and Beck argued economic growth would automatically benefit the masses, which in hindsight seems questionable.

As health outcomes and life expectation closely liaise to within-country income inequality, policy should aim at finding appropriate actions to address this phenomenon. The global financial crisis and the political reflex in countering this event with austerity measures has led to a widening income gap, of which the results are prone to curtail overall health.

Wilkinson and Pickett found health issues to be strongly correlated to income inequality within a country. To support this finding, they used two different measurement tools. The first index, applied to Western countries, was a ratio of the 20 percent top incomes in relation to the 20 percent of the bottom earners. For different states within the USA they used a second index, the Gini-index, which adopts a different methodology. Where ‘Gini = 0’ represents perfect equality (same income for everyone) and ‘Gini = 1’ is total inequality (if all income goes to one person). The outcome of these results showed that the widening income gap led to an increase of different health issues related to mental disorders, life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity and teenage births. Societal problems that correlated to income inequality included: lower levels of trust, less educational performance, more homicides, higher imprisonment rates and a lack of social mobility. Some authors found Wilkinson and Pickett’s dismissal of poverty in relation to health outcomes incorrect as they did not measure it. On the other hand, research by Beckfield and Bambra confirmed the correlation between life expectancy and health stating that the lagging welfare state in the USA led to an average loss of 3.77 quality life years in comparison to other OECD countries. The USA has an income gap of 8:1 (the average biggest earners have 8 times the wage of those at the other end of the spectrum) leading to a life expectancy of 78.7 years, which is in contrast with Japan reaching an average of 83.0 years with an income gap of 4:1. The same age dependent relation has been found in Scandinavian countries having similar income gaps as Japan.

Wilkinson and Pickett found health issues to be strongly correlated to income inequality within a country. To support this finding, they used two different measurement tools. The first index, applied to Western countries, was a ratio of the 20 percent top incomes in relation to the 20 percent of the bottom earners. For different states within the USA they used a second index, the Gini-index, which adopts a different methodology. Where ‘Gini = 0’ represents perfect equality (same income for everyone) and ‘Gini = 1’ is total inequality (if all income goes to one person). The outcome of these results showed that the widening income gap led to an increase of different health issues related to mental disorders, life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity and teenage births. Societal problems that correlated to income inequality included: lower levels of trust, less educational performance, more homicides, higher imprisonment rates and a lack of social mobility. Some authors found Wilkinson and Pickett’s dismissal of poverty in relation to health outcomes incorrect as they did not measure it. On the other hand, research by Beckfield and Bambra confirmed the correlation between life expectancy and health stating that the lagging welfare state in the USA led to an average loss of 3.77 quality life years in comparison to other OECD countries. The USA has an income gap of 8:1 (the average biggest earners have 8 times the wage of those at the other end of the spectrum) leading to a life expectancy of 78.7 years, which is in contrast with Japan reaching an average of 83.0 years with an income gap of 4:1. The same age dependent relation has been found in Scandinavian countries having similar income gaps as Japan.

Goda and Torres Garcia looked at the rise of global inequality and confirmed previous results by stating that within-country inequality is responsible for 70 percent of the global inequality, suggesting 30% is due to in-between country inequality.

Taking national and local figures into account for the UK, the Office for National Statistics observed a life expectancy for new-born baby boys to be 83.3 years in the Kensington and Chelsea area. Meanwhile, the life expectancy for the same cohort in Blackpool is merely 74.7 years. Nationwide, the female life expectancy is 86.6 years in Purbeck and the lowest in Glasgow City with an expectancy of 78.5 years. The authors conclude that inequality has increased over the last two decades despite improvements in these local areas.

We may assume a strong relation between income inequality and health outcomes on a global scale as Dorling in recent research concludes there are overarching arguments. Dorling (2007) confirmed a strong relation between income inequality and negative health outcomes on a global scale after an observational study performed in 126 countries.

The academic world has provided alternatives to deal with the widening gap between poor and rich. Reformed minimum wages, living wages, basic income or a global ‘fair tax’ and redistribution are only a few austerity counter-proposals to ensure overall well-being by reaching or transcending the poverty line. Minimum wages have proven insufficient and a basic income is still globally debated. An international fair tax may even prove more challenging as this requires global political support.

Minimum wages and living wages have the same aim; raising income for the least fortunate to reduce the impact of a growing income gap. A minimum wage is defined as a minimum market valued income, imposed by law and paid by employers. A living wage is a locally liaised and negotiated pay rate that a fulltime employee needs for a household of four to reach the poverty line. For the latter, societal context is important, as living in a metropolitan area is more expensive than living in the countryside. The Basic Income Earth Network defines basic income as “a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means, test or work requirement”.

A locally implemented living wage project in the UK, facilitated by the General and Municipal Boilermakers Union in 400 councils, has proven to be successful in reducing (health) inequalities as well as being beneficial for government tax income. Awareness within the community influenced policy in a way that living wages became accepted as a benchmark for society. In this regard, a living wage clearly will contribute to individual well-being and social cohesion – both factors improve health within communities.

Proposals for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) are slowly reaching the minds of global policymakers, but this process will take more time in achieving broader support. In developing a short-term response tackling inequality, a living wage appears to be a possible solution for developed countries yet remains a huge challenge for developing countries.

Emerging new technologies will demand economical strategies that are able to cope with less job certainty and keeping up with growing demands in healthcare.

A redistribution of capital, as proposed by Thomas Piketty in his book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, in combination with a UBI may prove to be the best strategy in the long-run to counter income-related health inequalities on a global scale. We must urge politicians to finally face transnational companies and the top one percent in order to obtain a globally acceptable taxation rate.

Sam Brokken hails from Belgium and lives near the city of Leuven. He studied physiotherapy, sports physical therapy and manual therapy practicing these areas for years in private practices within local communities. He lectures in musculoskeletal disorders in relation to manual handling and ergonomics for healthcare service providers.
He is currently engaged in postgraduate work at the Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen – Scotland) within the MSc Public Health and Health Promotion course.


By : Sam Brokken

Date : August 30, 2017

Source : Basic Income Earth Network

Cure health inequality by reducing income inequality

Posted in Health, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Rising inequality a ticking timebomb in Indonesia


Unveiling Indonesia’s 2018 budget in his State of the Nation address last month, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo emphasised the importance of ensuring economic equality and social justice for the people. The president is concerned about the progress of poverty reduction and increasing income disparity despite various government efforts to tackle these problems.

Rising inequality is seen as a “time bomb” which weakens social cohesion and makes the country more prone to social unrest. According to a survey by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) in March this year, the number of poor people has increased.

There are 27.7 million poor (defined as those with per capita expenditure of less than S$37 per month) in Indonesia, an increase of 6,900 people from the number in September last year. Moreover, inequality has been relatively unchanged despite many subsidies (eg electricity, housing, healthcare) and social assistance programmes (eg scholarships, cash transfers, village funds, rice for the poor, low-interest credit for Small and Medium Enterprises) provided to the poor in order to reduce income disparity.

The Gini ratio, which is a measure of income inequality (zero represents perfect equality and one represents complete inequality), is still high and has not changed much from 0.394 in September last year to 0.393 in March this year.

To his credit, Mr Widodo has managed to bring down the ratio from 0.41 when he first became the President to 0.397 in March last year.

During his election campaign, Mr Widodo had promised to reduce the poverty rate to 7-8 per cent by 2019 (it is now 10.6 per cent) and to reduce inequality, targeting a Gini ratio of 0.36 by the end of 2019. In view of this, his focus has shifted from achieving higher growth to lower but more sustainable and inclusive growth.

The proposed budget reflects the government’s efforts to improve social equality, as the spending on poverty alleviation and social assistance programmes will be increased by 28 per cent to 293 trillion rupiah (S$30.3 billion), or around 13 per cent of total spending.

Mr Widodo’s move is clearly aimed at building public support leading up to the 2019 general and presidential elections. According to a nationwide survey commissioned by Iseas — Yusof Ishak Institute, less than half of Indonesians agreed that the Jokowi Administration had improved conditions for the poor in comparison to the previous administration under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY).

This suggests that there are doubts about the success of Mr Widodo’s poverty eradication programmes so far.

The survey also revealed two other areas of concern among Indonesians — lack of ease in finding jobs and rising costs of living.

Indeed, a study by Sarah Dong and Chris Manning published in the Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies found that total employment growth in the first two years of the Jokowi Administration was slower than it was during the period under SBY. This is partly because of slower economic growth and structural changes in the economy. The latter affects the share of employment in different sectors.

To tackle this issue, under the proposed 2018 budget, the government has increased spending allocation for relevant ministries — such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Manpower and the Ministry of Industry — to support vocational education and training, a national apprenticeship programme, a skill development fund and a job-matching programme.

However, most of the programmes were meant to address technical skill shortages and mismatches, while lacking a holistic view that addresses systemic problems. For instance, due to technological advancement, more investments are flowing into capital-intensive sectors rather than labour-intensive ones. This means the labour market needs more highly skilled labour, which cannot be sufficiently supplied locally without substantial retraining and upgrading of skills.

As for the public unhappiness that costs have gone up, this is partly due to the removal of fuel and electricity subsidies over the last few years.

In particular, the government’s removal of electricity subsidies from January to July this year has affected around 19 million households, including not only the middle-income but also the poor. Given this, the government must find measures to minimise the inflationary-effect of the electricity tariff adjustment, including by controlling the price of volatile food and transportation fares.

To be sure, the survey shows that the majority of respondents are optimistic about Indonesia’s economy.

Most expect the economic conditions in the country to improve in a year, and more importantly, most expect their households’ economic conditions to be better too.

This finding demonstrates strong public perception that Mr Widodo’s handling of the economy will bring real benefits, not only for the economy in general, but more specifically for individual households. However, public perception may change quickly if the outcome of the implementation of key economic and social programmes (infrastructure, connectivity, energy, social assistance, etc) does not match people’s expectations.

For effective implementation, the government must work seriously to remove long-standing bureaucratic constraints that delay the process of budget disbursement.

What is also important is the country’s capacity to collect tax, as tax revenue realisation has reached only around 82-83 per cent of the target in the last two years. Weak tax revenue limits the government’s fiscal strength and its ability to meet big spending commitments. This increases the risk that some of the key infrastructure, poverty alleviation, and social assistance programmes may be scaled down or even put on hold, thus undermining the Indonesian government’s effort to improve social equity.


Dr Siwage Dharma Negara is Fellow and Assistant Coordinator of Indonesia Studies Programme at ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Its Indonesia National Survey Project findings was released at a public seminar on September 7.


By            :               Siwage Sharma Negara

Date         :               September 4, 2017

Source     :               Today Online


Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

How African Scholarship Can Reduce African Unemployment


BRIGHTON – With two thirds of Africa’s population under 25 years of age, the continent’s youth may be its biggest competitive advantage. After all, countries’ long-term economic prospects are typically linked to the availability of a young, mobile labor force. A recent report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation concluded that ten of the world’s 25 fastest-growing economies between 2004 and 2014 were in Africa. And yet, with many millions of young people unemployed in 2015, and many more underemployed, Africa has so far failed to reach its full potential.

The continent’s youth-employment challenge persists for many reasons. For starters, youth-focused policies and interventions are limited across the region. Programs that do exist lack adequate coordination, and often fail to incorporate lessons and feedback. Employment strategies have also tended to be largely theory-based; while well meaning, they can fail to deliver results when put into practice.

But in our view, an additional, often overlooked weakness is an academic environment that limits contributions from Africa’s youngest scholars – students just finishing their PhDs – who may in fact hold the keys to putting the continent to work. Experience shows that young African doctoral students produce research that is crucial to addressing the continent’s development challenges. And yet, far too often, these young minds lack the training, access, and support they need to bring their ideas from the field to the policymaking arena.

That is why we have joined a global initiative to provide young African researchers an opportunity to engage in policy-oriented solutions, through research collaboration and publishing opportunities. Launched in 2016 by The MasterCard Foundation and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom, the Matasa Fellows Network aims to bring together the continent’s young academic talent to help solve Africa’s youth employment challenge.

Because that challenge is closely connected to other issues – like migration, conflict, rural development, and gender – policymakers must cast a wide net when considering solutions. Our fellows’ research on these issues poses vital questions to governments and development funders about how to design solutions and implement them in ways that ensure accountability.

The first cohort of fellows, who recently published their findings in the IDS Bulletin, included ten African doctoral students working in the social sciences. With coaching and mentorship from IDS staff, the fellows fine-tuned their ideas through peer mentorship and worked to generate policy ideas through interactions with government officials and NGOs professionals.

The fellows’ output so far has been remarkable: policy briefs on a diverse range of topics, including youth unemployment in Ghana, livestock production in Kenya, and regional strategies for improving youth-led entrepreneurship. The inaugural Matasa fellows also studied the political dimensions of youth employment and policy processes in Ethiopia; the social and cultural concerns underpinning employment choices across the continent; how mentorship affects entrepreneurship; and how young Africans view illicit industries, like gambling and sex work.

Some of the fellows’ research has generated remarkable results –all the more so for being counterintuitive. For example, Kampala-based researcher Nicholas Kilimani’s survey of employment strategies found that, contrary to commonly held assumptions, youth unemployment rates actually rise proportional to educational attainment. Solving the employment crisis will therefore require creative thinking, Kilimani argues. “The youth employment challenge requires policy action beyond basic education and labor markets,” he writes, “into areas such as credit markets, infrastructure, business regulation, and rural development.”

The work of Maurice Sikenyi, who studied Kenya’s Youth Enterprise Development Fund, a government-run microfinancing initiative, is equally innovative. Using primary interviews and secondary data, the University of Minnesota scholar concluded that the fund’s reach and impact was being weakened by corruption, vague eligibility criteria, long wait times for loan processing, and an underappreciation of the risks young people take when starting their own business. His paper explores how the development program could be strengthened through greater attention to accountability measures and a renewed focus on mentorship.

Africa can turn the corner on youth employment. To do so, however, African decision-makers need to engage more deeply with the continent’s youngest, brightest researchers – who often are uniquely positioned to lend key insights – and build new nodes of academic connectivity between the continent’s research, policy, and practice.


Seife Ayele is a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

Samir Khan is Senior Manager of Research and Policy Communications at The MasterCard Foundation.

Jim Sumberg is a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.


By : Seife Ayele, Samir Khan and Jim Sumberg

Date : September 4, 2017

Source : Project Syndicate


Posted in Education, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

To Understand Rising Inequality, Consider the Janitors at Two Top Companies, Then and Now


ROCHESTER — Gail Evans and Marta Ramos have one thing in common: They have each cleaned offices for one of the most innovative, profitable and all-around successful companies in the United States.

For Ms. Evans, that meant being a janitor in Building 326 at Eastman Kodak’s campus in Rochester in the early 1980s. For Ms. Ramos, that means cleaning at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., in the present day.

In the 35 years between their jobs as janitors, corporations across America have flocked to a new management theory: Focus on core competence and outsource the rest. The approach has made companies more nimble and more productive, and delivered huge profits for shareholders. It has also fueled inequality and helps explain why many working-class Americans are struggling even in an ostensibly healthy economy.

The $16.60 per hour Ms. Ramos earns as a janitor at Apple works out to about the same in inflation-adjusted terms as what Ms. Evans earned 35 years ago. But that’s where the similarities end.

Ms. Evans was a full-time employee of Kodak. She received more than four weeks of paid vacation per year, reimbursement of some tuition costs to go to college part time, and a bonus payment every March. When the facility she cleaned was shut down, the company found another job for her: cutting film.

Ms. Ramos is an employee of a contractor that Apple uses to keep its facilities clean. She hasn’t taken a vacation in years, because she can’t afford the lost wages. Going back to school is similarly out of reach. There are certainly no bonuses, nor even a remote possibility of being transferred to some other role at Apple.

Yet the biggest difference between their two experiences is in the opportunities they created. A manager learned that Ms. Evans was taking computer classes while she was working as a janitor and asked her to teach some other employees how to use spreadsheet software to track inventory. When she eventually finished her college degree in 1987, she was promoted to a professional-track job in information technology.

Less than a decade later, Ms. Evans was chief technology officer of the whole company, and she has had a long career since as a senior executive at other top companies. Ms. Ramos sees the only advancement possibility as becoming a team leader keeping tabs on a few other janitors, which pays an extra 50 cents an hour.

They both spent a lot of time cleaning floors. The difference is, for Ms. Ramos, that work is also a ceiling.

Kodak 1987 vs. Apple 2017

Eastman Kodak was one of the technological giants of the 20th century, a dominant seller of film, cameras and other products. It made its founders unfathomably wealthy and created thousands of high-income jobs for executives, engineers and other white-collar professionals. The same is true of Apple today.

But Kodak also created enough working-class jobs to help create two generations of middle-class wealth in Rochester. The Harvard economist Larry Summers has often pointed at this difference, arguing that it helps explain rising inequality and declining social mobility.

“Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs,” Mr. Summers wrote in 2014. “While Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations” at Apple.

Ms. Evans’s pathway was unusual: Few low-level workers, even in the heyday of postwar American industry, ever made it to the executive ranks of big companies. But when Kodak and similar companies were in their prime, tens of thousands of machine operators, warehouse workers, clerical assistants and the like could count on steady work and good benefits that are much rarer today.

When Apple was seeking permission to build its new headquarters, its consultants projected the company would have 23,400 employees, with an average salary comfortably in the six figures. Thirty years ago, Kodak employed about 60,000 people in Rochester, with average pay and benefits companywide worth $79,000 in today’s dollars.

Part of the wild success of the Silicon Valley giants of today — and what makes their stocks so appealing to investors — has come from their ability to attain huge revenue and profits with relatively few workers.

Apple, Alphabet (parent of Google) and Facebook generated $333 billion of revenue combined last year with 205,000 employees worldwide. In 1993, three of the most successful, technologically oriented companies based in the Northeast — Kodak, IBM and AT&T — needed more than three times as many employees, 675,000, to generate 27 percent less in inflation-adjusted revenue.

The 10 most valuable tech companies have 1.5 million employees, according to calculations by Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute, compared with 2.2 million employed by the 10 biggest industrial companies in 1979. Mr. Mandel, however, notes that today’s tech industry is adding jobs much faster than the industrial companies, which took many decades to reach that scale.

Many of the professional jobs from those companies in the 1980s and ’90s have close parallels today. The high-paying positions setting corporate strategy, developing experimental technologies and shaping marketing campaigns would look similar in either era.

But a generation ago, big companies also more often directly employed people who installed products, moved goods around warehouses, worked as security guards and performed many of the other jobs needed to get products into the hands of consumers.

In part, fewer of these kinds of workers are needed in an era when software plays such a big role. The lines of code that make an iPhone’s camera work can be created once, then instantly transmitted across the globe, whereas each roll of film had to be manufactured and physically shipped. And companies face brutal global competition; if they don’t keep their work force lean, they risk losing to a competitor that does.

But major companies have also chosen to bifurcate their work force, contracting out much of the labor that goes into their products to other companies, which compete by lowering costs. It’s not just janitors and security guards. In Silicon Valley, the people who test operating systems for bugs, review social media posts that may violate guidelines, and screen thousands of job applications are unlikely to receive a paycheck directly from the company they are ultimately working for.

And the phenomenon stretches far beyond Silicon Valley, where companies like Apple are just a particularly extreme example of achieving huge business success with a relatively small employee count. The Federal Express delivery person who brings you a package may well be an independent contractor; many of the people who help banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan service mortgage loans and collect delinquent payments work for contractors; and if you call your employer’s computer help desk, there’s a good chance it will be picked up by someone in another state, or country.

Apple emphasizes that its products generate many jobs beyond those who receive a paycheck from the company directly. The company estimates 1.5 million people work in the “app economy,” building and maintaining the mobile applications used on Apple products. Apple stores in 44 states tend to offer more generous pay and benefits than is standard in the retail industry. And it is growing quickly, including far from its California headquarters, such as with 6,000 jobs in Austin, Tex., at an average salary of $77,000 a year, and many more indirectly through what it says is $50 billion in annual spending to suppliers in the United States.

“We’re responsible for creating over two million jobs in the U.S., across all 50 states,” said an Apple spokesman, “ranging from construction, customer care, retail and engineering to app development, manufacturing, operations and trucking. All Apple employees, whether full time or part time, are eligible for benefits and stock grants. We’re also fortunate to have skilled contractors that contribute to our products and services daily, along with over 9,000 suppliers in every state.”

Perhaps the biggest indictment of the more paternalistic approach taken by an earlier generation of corporate behemoths is that, Kodak, despite having been an early innovator in digital photography, is a shell of its former self. After a bankruptcy and many years of layoffs, the company now has only 2,700 employees in the United States and 6,100 worldwide.

But it is also clear that, across a range of job functions, industries and countries, the shift to a contracting economy has put downward pressure on compensation. Pay for janitors fell by 4 to 7 percent, and for security guards by 8 to 24 percent, in American companies that outsourced, Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University found in a 2010 paper.

These pay cuts appear to be fueling overall inequality. J. Adam Cobb of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Ken-Hou Lin at the University of Texas found that the drop in big companies’ practice of paying relatively high wages to their low- and mid-level workers could have accounted for 20 percent of the wage inequality increase from 1989 to 2014.

The same forces that explain the difference between 1980s Kodak and today’s Apple have big implications not just for every blue-collar employee who punches a timecard, but also for white-collar professionals who swipe a badge.

Forklifts vs. 3D Maps

Phil Harnden was coming out of the Navy in 1970 when he applied for a job at Kodak, and soon was operating a forklift in a warehouse. He made $3 an hour, equivalent to $20 an hour today adjusted for inflation. That is roughly what an entry-level contracting job testing software pays.

The difference between the two gigs, aside from the absence of heavy machinery in Apple’s sleek offices, is the sense of permanence. Mr. Harnden put in 16 years operating forklifts before he left in 1986 to move to Florida. When he returned 10 years later, he was quickly rehired and even kept his seniority benefits.

In interviews, tech industry contractors in Silicon Valley describe a culture of transience. They can end up commuting to a different office park that houses a new company every few months; in many cases 18 months is the maximum a contractor is allowed to spend at one company.

“I would rather have stability,” said Christopher Kohl, 29, who has worked as a contractor at several Silicon Valley companies, including a stint doing quality assurance on Apple Maps. “It’s stressful to find a new job every 12 to 18 months.”

For Silicon Valley’s contracting class, there are reminders large and small of their second-class status. Contractors generally do not receive the stock options that have made some midlevel Silicon Valley workers wealthy over the years, nor the generous paid time off for vacation, illness or the birth of a child. The health insurance plans tend to be stingier than those that the tech giants they serve provide for their direct employees.

The smaller reminders can be just as telling. One former Apple contractor recalled spending months testing a new version of Apple’s operating system. To celebrate the release, the Apple employees they’d worked closely with on the project were invited to a splashy party in San Francisco, while the contractors had beers among themselves in a neighborhood pub.

The compensation these white-collar contractors receive puts them squarely in the middle rungs of workers in the United States, and the most skilled can make six figures (though that doesn’t go far in the hyper-expensive Bay Area housing market). Apple, based on its consultants’ report, expected to be indirectly responsible for nearly 18,000 jobs in Santa Clara County by now at an average pay of about $56,000 a year.

There are some advantages. If they work for one of the companies like Apple or Google that feature a subsidized, high-quality cafeteria, contractors can enjoy the food. They can tell their friends that they work at one of the world’s most admired companies, and enjoy predictable, regular hours. Once in a while, a contractor will be hired into a staff position.

“It’s not evil,” said Pradeep Chauhan, managing partner of OnContracting, a site to help people find tech contracting positions. “They have a job and they’re getting paid. But it’s not ideal. The problem with contracting is, you could walk in one day and they could say, ‘You don’t need to come in tomorrow.’ There is no obligation from the companies.”

And that is the ultimate contrast with the middle-skill, middle-wage jobs of earlier generations of titans — a sense of permanence, of sharing in the long-term success of the company.

“There were times I wasn’t happy with the place,” Mr. Harnden said of his Kodak years. “But it was a great company to work for and gave me a good living for a long time.”

Transmissions vs. Staplers

When an automaker needs a supplier of transmissions for its cars, it doesn’t just hold an auction and buy from the lowest bidder. It enters a long-term relationship with the supplier it believes will provide the best quality and price over time. The company’s very future is at stake — nobody wants to buy a car that can’t reliably shift into first gear.

But when that same automaker needs some staplers for the office supply cabinet, it is more likely to seek out the lowest price it can get, pretty much indifferent to the identity of the seller.

Labor exists on a similar continuum.

The right product engineer or marketing executive can mean the difference between success or failure, and companies tend to hire such people as full-time employees and as part of a long-term relationship — something like the transmission supplier. What has changed in the last generation is that companies today view more and more of the labor it takes to produce their goods and services as akin to staplers: something to be procured at the time and place needed for the lowest price possible.

There is plenty of logic behind the idea that companies should focus on their core competence and outsource the rest. By this logic, Apple executives should focus on building great phones and computers, not hiring and overseeing janitors. And companies should outsource work when the need for staff is lumpy, such as for software companies that may need dozens of quality-assurance testers ahead of a major release but not once the product is out.

There’s no inherent reason that work done through a contractor should involve lower compensation than the same work done under direct employment. Sometimes it goes in the other direction; when a company hires a law firm, it is basically contracting out legal work, yet lawyers at a firm tend to be paid better than in-house counsel.

But as more companies have outsourced more functions over more time, a strong body of evidence is emerging that it’s not just about efficiency. It seems to be a way for big companies to reduce compensation costs.

Firms in the United States are legally required to offer the same health insurance options and 401(k) match to all employees — meaning if those programs are made extra generous to attract top engineers, a company that doesn’t outsource will have to pay them for everyone.

More broadly, there are a whole set of social pressures and worries about morale that encourage companies to be more generous with pay and benefits for employees who are on the same payroll.

“There was an overriding concern about equity,” said Mr. Cobb, the Wharton professor. “Firms would try to set pay so that the gap between the security guard or administrative assistant and senior V.P. wasn’t as great as you might expect, essentially by paying lower- and middle-skill workers more than they were probably worth on the market.”

Linda DiStefano applied for a secretarial job at Kodak during Easter week of her senior year in high school in 1968, and was hired to start immediately after her graduation for $87.50 a week, today’s equivalent of $32,000 a year. She put in four decades at the company, first as a secretary, then helped administer corporate travel and other projects.

“I helped put on the dinners for the board of directors, which in retrospect someone of my grade shouldn’t have been doing,” she said. “But I had a series of managers who trusted me.”

It bought her a house off Lake Avenue, a new car every few years and occasional long-distance trips to Motown reunion concerts. When her department was abolished in 2008, the travel bookings contracted out, she was making $20 an hour. The best job she could find was as a pharmacy technician at a grocery store for $8.50 an hour.

Rochester vs. Cupertino

As you drive around Rochester, the role of Eastman Kodak in the city is evident everywhere, in the Kodak Tower that looms over the center of town, in the Eastman Theater on Main Street, and in the hulking buildings and empty parking lots of the manufacturing center known as Kodak Park.

In reading the company’s old annual reports, you get a sense that its executives thought of the jobs created and the wages paid as a source of pride and achievement. On the first page of most years’ annual reports was an accounting of how many employees the company had in the United States and worldwide, and the total pay and benefits they received.

Apple, with a spaceship-like campus about to open, looms large over Cupertino in its own way, accounting for something like 40 percent of the jobs in the city, and investing $70 million in local environmental and infrastructure upgrades. It is no middle-class enclave; the median home price is $1.9 million.

“We definitely feel a sense of pride to be the home of Apple,” said Savita Vaidhyanathan, the mayor of Cupertino. “But they consider themselves a global company, not necessarily a Cupertino company.” She said she has never met Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive. “We would have a hard time getting an audience with anybody beyond upper-middle management,” she said.

Ms. Ramos, the Apple janitor, lives down the road in San Jose. She pays $2,300 monthly for a two-bedroom apartment where she and her four children live. Before overtime and taxes, her $16.60 an hour works out to $34,520 a year. Her rent alone is $27,600 a year, leaving less than $600 a month once the rent is paid. Overtime, in addition to the wages from one of her teenage children who works part time at a grocery store, helps make the math work, though always tenuously.

She works from 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. On days when one of the other cleaners doesn’t show up, she may get a few extra hours, which is great for the overtime pay, but it means even less sleep before it is time to take her children to school.

A 60-cent-an-hour raise this year negotiated by her union, the SEIU United Service Workers West, helped. Kodak in its prime was not unionized, though in that era when organized labor was more powerful over all, managers deliberately kept wages high to try to prevent the company’s workers from forming one.

There is little chance for building connections at Apple. “Everyone is doing their own thing and has their own assignment, and we don’t see each other outside of work,” said Ms. Ramos in Spanish.

Ms. Evans, who was a Kodak janitor in the early 1980s before her rise to executive there and at other leading firms like Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, recalls a different experience.

“One thing about Eastman Kodak is they believed in their people,” said Ms. Evans, now chief information officer at Mercer, the human resources consulting giant. “It was like a family. You always had someone willing to help open a door if you demonstrated that you were willing to commit to growing your skills and become an asset that was valuable for the company.”

The shift is profound. “I look at the big tech companies, and they practice a 21st-century form of welfare capitalism, with foosball tables and free sushi and all that,” Rick Wartzman, senior adviser at the Drucker Institute and author of “The End of Loyalty,” said. “But it’s for a relatively few folks. It’s great if you’re a software engineer. If you’re educated, you’re in command.”

But in the 21st-century economy, many millions of workers find themselves excluded from that select group. Rather than being treated as assets that companies seek to invest in, they have become costs to be minimized.


Correction: September 3, 2017 
An earlier version of this article misstated a difference between Apple today and Kodak decades ago. Apple, like Kodak, has created tens of thousands of working-class jobs; it has not failed to do so. .


By : Neil Irwin

Date : September 3, 2017

Source : The New York Times

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Campus study links noise pollution to social inequalities


Like air pollutants and exposure to hazardous waste, noise pollution is not distributed evenly, a new study led by campus researchers found. The study is the first to assess social inequalities, such as racial disparities, in noise pollution across the United States.

The research, published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal July 25, was supported by the National Cancer Institute, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Hewlett and Kellogg Foundations.

“We were concerned about noise pollution, in particular, because Europe has a lot of studies and health effects related to noise pollution,” Joan Casey, lead author of the study and postdoctoral scholar at the campus Department of Public Health, said. “There’s basically none of those types of studies here in United States.”

The study concluded that communities characterized by lower socioeconomic status and communities of color are more likely to be exposed to noise pollution. It also concluded that more racially segregated metropolitan regions experience higher rates of noise pollution.

Researchers received huge volumes of data collected by the National Park Service — more than 1.5 million hours of noise level data in more than 200,000 neighborhoods — Casey said.

Transportation, aircraft and commercial activity are the main producers of noise, according to Daniel Mennitt, a research scientist at Colorado State University. Noise has a detrimental effect on housing values, Mennitt explained, and people who can afford it will purchase homes in quieter areas. The study also found a correlation in renter populations and noise pollution.

“People renting apartments or homes are living in louder areas than are of people who owned homes, (this) speaks to the setup of the community,” Casey said.

In previous studies, noise pollution has been linked to health disparities, including hearing loss, hypertension, sleep deprivation, cognitive and behavioral problems in children and diabetes. Casey explained, however, that very few of these studies have been completed in the United States, which makes it difficult to implement new U.S. policies.

In 1981, the Environmental Protection Agency cited up to 145.5 million Americans experiencing noise levels that exceed the adequate margin of safety. The EPA, which conducted extensive studies in noise control in the 1970s, was given less funding in the 1980s, according to Mennitt. After its defunding, less attention was given to levels of noise pollution.

Casey hopes her study will “jumpstart interest” for other United States-based researchers to take noise pollution on in their own research.

She added that if people were more aware of the detrimental effects of noise pollution, preventative measures could be made, such as using quiet technology including double-paned windows, sound-proofing and noise machines.

Causes of air pollution are often causes of noise pollution, including trucks and factories, according to Susan Moffat, project director of the Global Urban Humanities Initiative and lecturer in the campus Department of City and Regional Planning. Providing affordable housing away from freeways and industrial areas might help mitigate the issue, she said in an email.

“We’ve known a long time about racial disparities in public health,” Moffat continued in an email.  “This information on disparities in exposure to noise is not surprising, but it’s disheartening.”


Date : July 31, 2017
By : Alicia Kim
Source : The Daily Californian

Campus study links noise pollution to social inequalities

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment
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