Friday, July 06, 2018

More on working in America

Last month I wrote about a chat I had with an Australian who had some first hand knowledge of American work conditions, and how there's good reason for full employment to not result in everyone feeling good about their situation.  (Mind you, they also seems to have lowered their expectations as to what "doing OK" means, too.)   Here's some more grist for that argument:

*  an article at The Guardian noting the high injury rate in American pig meat processing plants:
Records compiled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reveal that, on average, there are at least 17 “severe” incidents a month in US meat plants. These injuries are classified as those involving “hospitalisations, amputations or loss of an eye”.
Amputations happen on average twice a week, according to the data. There were 270 incidents in a 31-month period spanning 2015 to 2017, according to the OSHA figures. Most of the incidents involved the amputation of fingers or fingertips, but there were recordings of lost hands, arms or toes. During the period there were a total of 550 serious injuries which cover 22 of the 50 states so the true total for the USA would be substantially higher.
Obviously, with their love of pork, there must be many who work in this industry, but that still sounds like a high rate of serious accidents.   It would be good to see some international comparisons.  (Except from China - I would assume that their records, if they were ever available, would be appalling.)

*  in the Washington Post,  an article with the self explanatory title:

Is it great to be a worker in the U.S.? Not compared with the rest of the developed world. 

is worth a read.  It's about a lengthy OECD report that does some comparisons.   This is a key finding:
In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system.

Those factors have contributed to the United States having a higher level of income inequality and a larger share of low-income residents than almost any other advanced nation. Only Spain and Greece, whose economies have been ravaged by the euro-zone crisis, have more households earning less than half the nation’s median income — an indicator that unusually large numbers of people either are poor or close to being poor.
It's also interesting to read about how temporary American jobs can be:
Joblessness may be low in the United States and employers may be hungry for new hires, but it’s also strikingly easy to lose a job here. An average of 1 in 5 employees lose or leave their jobs each year, and 23.3 percent of workers ages 15 to 64 had been in their job for a year or less in 2016 — higher than all but a handful of countries in the study.

If people are moving to better jobs, labor-market churn can be a healthy sign. But decade-old OECD research found an unusually large amount of job turnover in the United States is due to firing and layoffs, and Labor Department figures show the rate of layoffs and firings hasn’t changed significantly since the research was conducted.
Now, sure, getting rid of an employee in Australia can be ridiculously difficult, but once again, America sets itself out as ridiculously uninterested in fairness for the worker:
The United States and Mexico are the only countries in the entire study that don't require any advance notice for individual firings. The U.S. ranks at the bottom for employee protection even when mass layoffs are taken into consideration as well, despite the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act's requirement that employers give notice 60 days before major plant closings or layoffs.
So, yeah:  full employment in the US can, understandably, make people not feel as happy as it does in other countries.

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