- Lana Payne comments on the importance of the labour movement in ensuring that economic growth translates into benefits for workers:
The findings of a study released this month by the Canadian Centre for Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa-based think-tank, reinforces why there is a “pervasive sense among Canadians” in the so-called middle class that they are not getting ahead.- R.A. Washington notes that laissez-faire economic theory tends to miss the mark in describing reality due to its hand-waving away the significance of the consent of the governed when neoliberal governments implement policies designed to serve the market rather than the citizenry. And Rupert Neate highlights the inevitable result of allowing the populist right to get the upper hand, as a U.S. election decided largely by working-class insecurity figures to only further benefit the extremely wealthy at everybody else's expense.
And the data supports this stagnation of the middle.
The study notes that while Canadians are more productive than ever, those productivity gains are not being shared. Indeed, median real hourly earnings grew by a measly 0.09 per cent a year between 1976 and 2014, while labour productivity grew by 1.12 per cent a year.
Yet workers were promised they would share in those gains if they worked harder, worked longer, worked faster, worked leaner. And so they did that.
The study found the gap in earnings and productivity was because of three key factors: rising inequality (more share going to the top), the rising costs of consumer goods and a decline in workers’ share of the national income while the corporate or capital share is getting bigger and bigger.
The authors, economists James Uguccioni, Andrew Sharpe and Alexander Murray, note that “economic history and economic theory suggest that labour productivity growth should generate rising living standards for workers over time, so the gap between annual labour productivity growth and annual median wage growth is puzzling.”
The authors conclude: “the most plausible explanations for both the ‘hollowing out of the middle’ of the earnings distribution and the decline of labour’s share of income are globalization, technological change and institutional change.”
By institutional change they mean declining unionization. More and more economic research has been noting that the inability of workers to join unions, often because of regressive labour laws, is impacting not just how the economic pie gets shared, but economic growth and rising inequality.
A U.S. study by the Economic Policy Institute found that declining unionization resulted in lower wages for non-union workers. This isn’t a surprise, as unions often lift the floor for everyone.
- Daniela Vincenti reports on a study showing how CETA's environmental provisions are utterly ineffective, while its impact on democratic governance could be massive.
- D.C. Fraser, Pamela Cowan and Erin Petrow report on Brad Wall's decision to make a bad economic situation worse by treating a deficit as an excuse to cut already-suffering core programs in health, education and social services. Ashley Martin writes about the latest study showing that a quarter of Saskatchewan children already live in party even before the Saskatchewan Party takes an axe to existing supports. And the CP and CBC both report on the alarming vacancies in social work positions in northern Saskatchewan.
- Finally, Jonathan Freedland wonders whether the rise of the extreme right can be traced in part to the centre-left showing undue respect across the spectrum which is never reciprocated.