Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Kathleen Geier discusses the U.S.' culture of overwork and its human toll:
There is abundant evidence that long working hours is incredibly dangerous from a public health perspective. Fatigued or sleep-deprived workers who drive or operate heavy machinery are an obvious menace to public safety, but there are other health costs associated with overwork as well. A 2004 Center for Disease Control report found that excessive overtime was associated with “poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, and increased mortality,” and a 2008 study linked long work hours to depression and anxiety. Studies have also shown a strong association between working long hours and developing coronary heart disease.

In its culture of overwork, the United States is very much an outlier, when compared to other industrially advanced nations. Unlike much of Europe, we don’t mandate paid vacations or make it illegal for employees to work more than forty-eight hours a week. The usual justification for American employers’ massive overtime requirements is that they enhance “productivity,” but evidence actually suggests that the opposite is true.
Americans began agitating for the right to an eight-hour workday over 200 years ago. Countless workers fought and died for that right before it was institutionalized under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. But, sadly, it looks like this is one battle that we all must continue to fight.
- Meanwhile, Lynn Vavreck helps to explain how wealth may lead to a perceived need for more wealth by pointing out how one's definition of "rich" changes at different income levels. The OECD has some suggestions to address the employer-heavy bias in U.S. employment law (h/t to Miles Corak). And Andre Cote comments on the difference a strong child-care system could make in Canada compared to the current alternative:
Let’s think about the downstream implications of not funding child care.

First, there is a big economic impact, as the lack of care tends to reduce the workforce participation rate of mothers with young children. For instance, 77% of mothers with infants work in Québec, compared with 70% in the rest of Canada. Fewer working moms is bad for businesses and for government tax revenues, which fund services…like child care. Some evidence suggests Quebec’s program actually pays for itself.

Second, we forego the educational benefits of providing child care and early learning – especially when targeted at lower-income families. The “human capital” early learning creates – i.e. more able workers later in life – pays dividends by supporting Canada’s productivity and competitiveness.

Third, it has a huge impact on the careers of parents who stay home (again, mostly women). Not only is it demotivating to go back to the office to find that your office-mates have all been promoted ahead of you, but it limits future advancement and earnings potential. For many career-oriented women, it’s a reason to delay having kids, or not to have them at all.
- The CP takes a look at Canadians' views on temporary foreign workers, and finds that the public shares the goal of giving easily-exploited workers the opportunity to build a life in Canada (while recognizing the need to hold employers accountable for abuses).

- Tim Harper discusses how a rigged approval process for the Northern Gateway pipeline did nothing to earn any genuine social license. Frances Russell takes a look at the role British Columbians may play in stopping the Gateway, while Bill Tieleman argues that the 2015 federal election will likely be the decisive factor in determining whether or not it it will ever be built. And PressProgress reminds us why we shouldn't trust the pro-pipeline spinmeisters.

- Finally, Michael Harris writes that Canada's Constitution seems to have earned an increasingly prominent place on the Cons' enemies list.

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