Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The Gig Economy

According to economists Lawrence F. Katz and Alan B. Krueger’s paper titled “The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015″, a study published by Princeton University and the RAND Corporation:
“All of the net employment growth in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015 appears to have occurred in alternative work arrangements.”

When they say “all” that means there’s been zero growth in traditional 9 to 5, 40-hour-per-week jobs in the last 10 years.  The actual number of contingent full-time workers rose from 14.2 million in February 2005 to 23.6 million in November 2015, an increase of 9.4 million. Since total US employment rose by 9.1 million during this period, the number of workers in conventional, full-time positions actually dropped by nearly 400,000.” Temps and contractors accounted for all US job growth since 2005. Over 578,000 good-paying public sector jobs were lost under Obama.

The proportion of contingent workers holding multiple jobs has more than quadrupled over the past 10 years, from 7.3 percent in 2005 to 32 percent in 2015. Nearly one-third of people working with no benefits or job security are holding down an additional part-time or full-time job just to make ends meet. With spending on transportation and food also rising, 2014 became the first year studied by Pew in which median spending on these basic necessities surpassed median income. By 2014, median income had fallen by 13 percent from 2004 levels, while expenditures had increased by 14 percent. Hurrah, for the economic recovery! There’s so much work out there, people can work two, three, or even four jobs a day if they want! The only problem is they still can’t make ends meet because the shitty pay won’t even cover their expenses. “The more I work, the poorer I get.”

US employers have managed to “restructured the labor force”, which means they’ve created a permanent underclass that’s willing to slave-away at demeaning, part-time jobs for mere peanuts without uttering a peep of protest. The capitalist’s claim to have brought economic “recovery” to the unemployed working class means jobless workers have had to abandon all hope of finding gainful full-time employment with accompanying work benefits and resign themselves to a lifetime of scrambling from one job to the next just keep a roof over their heads and the wolves away from the door, in what is now called the “gig” economy. There is no recovery. It’s an invention built on the ruined lives of people who have been forced to take all-manner of servile, low-paying, part-time, service-sector jobs just to keep food on the table. In the gig economy, workers aren’t exploited by a ruthless corporate machine that deliberately slows growth to intensify unemployment and put pressure on wages.

The bottom line is a  large percentage of the working population can’t find decent-paying jobs with benefits and retirement because the employing class figured they could use the financial crisis to dismantle whatever gains labor has made in last century while reducing workers’ wages to something on a par with a peasant stitching blue jeans in a windowless Hanoi sweatshop. That’s the objective, isn’t it, making sure that everyone everywhere is exploited equally? The capitalists raked in record profits while American workers saw their incomes drop, their wages freeze, and their prospects for upward mobility decimated.

Is it that different in Japan? Hell, no.  Part-time, temporary and other non-regular workers who typically make less than half the average pay has jumped 70 percent from 1997 to 19.7 million today — 38 percent of the labor force. The data show that Japan’s poverty rate is the sixth-worst among the 34 OECD countries while child poverty in working, single-parent households is by far the worst at over 50 percent, making Japan the only country where having a job does not reduce the poverty rate for that group. Casual and part-time employees number nearly 20 million, almost 40% of the current Japanese workforce. Casualisation is contributing to a less egalitarian society. At the moment, millions of young casual workers still live at home, rent-free, with mum and dad, whose generation drove Japan’s post-war boom. Once that generation passes, she adds, underlying poverty will become more evident. Sound familiar? In the United States, the media has airbrushed the concept into a cheerful-sounding moniker called “the gig economy.” It deliberately gives the impression workers merely dabble in various occupations like a a carefree musician who makes his living strumming his guitar at the local honkytonk. What utter hogwash. There is no “gig” economy. The ruling elite and their political flunkey friends are waging a vicious class war against people whose only aim is to make a decent living so they can provide for themselves and their families and avoid spending their waning years in a makeshift tent under the freeway overpass.

Ivy League-educated economists and government advisors, all the economic whizzkids and Nobel Prize-winning gurus are all just suffering from some odd strain of collective amnesia. Just like it is in Europe, just like it is in Japan, just like everywhere else in the world where the global capitalist class have extended their corporate tentacles, ruling elites are not satisfied with imposing slave wages alone but shift more of the cost of government operations onto the backs of the people who can least afford it.

Freely adapted from here with thanks. 

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