* Time for the U.S. to Reskill? What the Survey of Adult Skills Says. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Oct 2013, 110p, free e-book. Basic skills of literacy and numeracy are among the most fundamental attributes of human beings and their civilization. Their contribution to workforce skills have increasingly been recognized as critical to economic success, while evidence of gaps in adult basic skills and the link with economic and social outcomes has also been growing, both at national and international levels. Despite universal basic education in advanced countries, some adults have slipped through the net, leaving them with very weak literacy and numeracy. (See OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, Oct 2013, 456p.) "Low basic skills are more common in the US than on average across countries." One in six US adults have low literacy skills, compared to 1 in 20 in Japan. Nearly 1 in 3 US adults have weak numeracy skills, against a cross country average of 1 in 5. Explanations for the relatively weak US performance include failings in initial schools, lack of improvement over time, and poor skills in certain groups including migrants. There are few signs of improvement: "Today, adults in the US have similar or weaker literacy skills to their counterparts in the mid-1990s, and the average basic skills of young adults are not very different from older persons." One-third of the 36 million low-skilled US adults are immigrants, while 35% of black and 43% of Hispanic adults have low literacy skills, compared with only 10% of whites. However, 63% of low-skilled adults are employed, more than in other countries. Proposed policies: 1) take concerted action to improve basic skills and tackle inequities; 2) strengthen initial schooling for all; 3 ensure effective and accessible education opportunities for young adults, using the strengths of the community college system; 4) link efforts to improve basic skills to employability, recognizing that good jobs open up further learning options; 5) adapt adult learning programs to better respond to the diverse challenges of different groups with different needs. (ADULT SKILLS IN U.S. * WORK AND BASIC SKILLS * EDUCATION)
* Rethinking Workplace Regulation: Beyond the Standard Contract of Employment. Edited by Katherine V.W. Stone (Prof of Law, UCLA) and Harry Arthurs (former Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School and University Prof Emeritus and President Emeritus, York U). NY: Russell Sage Foundation, Feb 2013, 440p, $47.50pb. During the middle third of the 20th century, workers in most industrialized countries secured a substantial measure of job security, whether through legislation, contract, or social practice. This “standard employment contract” became the foundation of an impressive array of rights and entitlements, including social insurance and pensions, protection against unsociable working conditions, and the right to bargain collectively. Recent changes in technology and the global economy, however, have dramatically eroded this traditional form of employment. Employers now value flexibility over stability, and increasingly hire employees for short-term or temporary work. Nineteen scholars from ten countries and half a dozen disciplines present the latest policy experiments across the world that attempt to balance worker security and the new flexible employment paradigm. Includes case studies on new forms of dispute resolution, job training programs, social insurance and collective representation. Topics include 1) legal attempts to update the employment contract (such as efforts in the European Union to “constitutionalize” employment and other contracts to better preserve protective principles for workers and to extend their legal impact); 2) regulatory strategies in labor relations (such as the Dutch version of the ‘flexicurity’ model, which attempts to balance the rise in nonstandard employment with improved social protection by indexing the minimum wage and strengthening rights of access to health insurance, pensions, and training); 3) the power of governments to influence labor market institutions (Australia's innovative legislation tthat holds companies at the top of the supply chain responsible for employment law violations of their subcontractors), etc. (WORK * WORKPLACE REGULATION * WORKER SECURITY)
* Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them (3rd Edition). Bryan E. Robinson (Prof Emeritus, U of North Carolina, Charlotte). NY: New York U Press, Feb 2014, 272p, $18.95pb. A psychotherapist in private practice and author of >35 books, such as Overdoing It: When Work Rules Your Life, notes that Americans love a hard worker. The worker who toils 18-hour days and eats meals on the run between appointments is usually viewed with a combination of respect and awe. For many, this lifestyle leads to family problems, a decline in work productivity, and ultimately to physical and mental collapse. Robinson provides an inside look at workaholism’s impact on those who live and work with work addicts—partners, spouses, children, and colleagues—as well as appropriate techniques for treatment. Originally published in 1998, the book was the first comprehensive portrait of the workaholic. The new edition draws on hundreds of case reports from Robinson's research and years of clinical practice. The agonies of workaholism have grown all the more challenging in a world where the computer, cell phone, and iPhone allow 24-hour access to the office, even on weekends and from vacation spots. (WORK AND HELATH * “WORKAHOLISM”)
* The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It. David Weil (Prof of Economics and Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Boston U School of Management; Co-Director, Transparency Policy Project, Harvard's JFK School of Government). Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, Feb 2014, 392p, $29.95. For much of the 20th century, large companies employing many workers formed the bedrock of the US economy. Today, on the list of big business priorities, sustaining the employer-worker relationship ranks far below building a devoted customer base and delivering value to investors. Large corporations have shed their role as direct employers of the people responsible for their products, in favor of outsourcing work to small companies that compete fiercely with one another. The result has been declining wages, eroding benefits, inadequate health and safety conditions, and ever-widening income inequality. From the perspectives of CEOs and investors, fissuring--splitting off functions that were once managed internally--has been a phenomenally successful business strategy, allowing companies to become more streamlined and drive down costs. But from the perspective of workers, this lucrative strategy has meant stagnation in wages and benefits and a lower standard of living--if they are fortunate enough to have a job at all. (WORK * BUSINESS * CORPORATE FISSURING)
* Handbook of Unethical Work Behavior: Implications for Individual Well-Being. Edited by Robert A. Giacalone (Temple U) and Mark D. Promislo (Rider U). Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2013, 360p, $59.95pb. Unethical behavior in the workplace affects countless people every year. Workers in many organizations are subjected to harmful behaviors such as harassment and discrimination. However, most research and discussion of unethical business behavior has focused solely on its financial and legal effects and not on the health and well-being of the individuals working for the organization. Covers the widest possible range of organizational misbehaviors (age/race/gender discrimination, abuse, bullying, aggression, violence, fraud, and corruption), all with an eye toward the effects on individual and organizational health and well-being. Topics include: revenge, aggression, bullying, and abuse; morality and ethics of workplace revenge; impact of ostracism on well-being in organizations; machiavellianism and well-being in organizational life; organizational justice and cardiovascular health; seeking a compassionate workplace; the virtuous business cycle model; long-term costs of short-term thinking, etc. (WORK * ETHICS * WELL-BEING/HAPPINESS)
* Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies. OECD. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, May 2012, 120p, $37 e-book. Without proper investment in skills, people languish on the margins of society, technological progress does not translate into economic growth, and countries can no longer compete in an increasingly knowledge-based global society. But this "currency" depreciates as the requirements of labor markets evolve and individuals lose the skills they do not use. Skills do not automatically convert into jobs and growth. OECD’s global Skills Strategy helps countries to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their national skills systems, benchmark them internationally, and develop policies that can transform better skills into better jobs, economic growth and social inclusion. It shifts the focus from traditional measures of skills, such as years of initial education and training or qualifications attained, to a much broader perspective that includes the skills people can acquire, use and maintain–and also lose–over a whole lifetime; it also points out that for skills to retain their value, they must be continuously maintained and upgraded throughout life so that people can collaborate, compete and connect in ways that drive economies and societies forward. Topics include developing relevant skills, activating skills supply, putting skills to effective use, and tracking evidence to help design effective policies. (WORK * JOBS * SKILLS POLICIES)
* People Money: The Promise of Regional Currencies. Margrit Kennedy (former Prof, U of Hanover), Bernard Lietaer (research fellow, UC-Berkeley; former Central Bank of Belgium), and John Rogers (co-founder, Wales Institute for Community Currencies, U of Newport). Axminster, Devon, UK: Triarchy Press, July 2012, 200p, $30pb. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, vast number of people have had their livelihoods stripped away, and the future looks bleak for many of them. The growth vs. austerity options under consideration do little to help stabilize the financial sector, which has seen 145 banking crises and 208 monetary crashes in the last 40 years, according to the IMF. The authors show how regional currencies can transform the lives and well-being of local communities, how they can sustain businesses, and how local authorities can participate in their success. Communities are full of underused resources, and regional currencies mobilize these resources without burdening taxpayers, and without risk of financial meltdown. By reinventing money, these currencies value skills, harness volunteers more effectively, support learning and skill-sharing, and meet the demand for care of the elderly. A regional currency should be win-win for all participants, transparent to users, democratically governed, and sustainably financed. The authors provide a framework of five phases for currency designers to work with, as concerns cost recovery, management structure, appropriate governance, marketing strategy, and training needs. [NOTE: Kennedy is author of Free Money (1987; translated into 23 languages) and Occupy Money: Creating an Economy Where Everybody Wins (Oct 2012), and has been instrumental for the start-up of >60 regional currency initiatives in German-speaking parts of Europe. Rogers ran a local exchange system in Wales for 10 years. Lietaer, former general manager of Gaia Hedge Funds, is the author of 15 books on monetary and financial issues, including Money and Sustainability: The Missing Link (Triarchy Press, June 2012), a report from the Club of Rome—EU Chapter to Finance Watch and the World Business Academy), which provides a more detailed analysis of the principles behind alternative currencies.] (ECONOMY * MONEY * REGIONAL CURRENCIES * WORK * SUSTAINABILITY)
* Good Jobs America: Making Work Better for Everyone. Paul Osterman (Prof of Management, MIT) and Beth Shulman (senior fellow, DEMOS; co-chair, Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work). NY: Russell Sage Foundation, Sept 2011, 200p, $24.95pb. America confronts a crisis with two faces. On the one hand, there are not enough jobs to go around. On the other, far too many jobs fall below the standard that most Americans would consider decent work. “A quarter of working adults are trapped in jobs that do not provide living wages, health insurance, or much hope of upward mobility.” Examples from industries ranging from food services and retail to manufacturing and hospitals demonstrate that bad job can be made into good ones. Calls for enacting policies that help employers improve job quality to create better jobs and futures for all. Dispels such myths as policies aimed at improving earnings equality would slow growth or that mobility out of the low-wage market is a chimera, using international and US examples. Since better jobs reduce turnover and improve performance, career ladder programs within firms help create positions employees can aspire to. (WORK: DECENT JOBS * JOBS: GOOD AND BAD)
*Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Systems in the United States, 1970s to 2000s. Arne L. Kallenberg (Distinguished Prof of Sociology, U of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2011, 312p, $37.5. Since the 1970s, precarious employment has been on the rise – paying low wages, offering few benefits, and with virtually no long-term security. By the 1970s, government deregulation, global competition, and the rise of the service sector gained traction, while institutional protections of workers such as unions and minimum-wage legislation weakened. The composition of the labor force changed significantly; the workforce comprised of dual-earner families, women, non-white, and immigrant workers increased. Blacks, Latinos, and immigrants remain concentrated in the most precarious and low-quality jobs. The growth of precarious jobs—already a significant share of the US job market--will continue as the result of economic restructuring and the disappearance of institutional protection for workers. Only government, employers, and labor working together on long-term strategies (e.g. an expanded safety net, stronger legal protections, better training opportunities) can help reverse this trend. (WORK * PRECARIOUS JOBS GROWING)
* OECD Employment Outlook 2011. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Sept 2011, 278p, $78. This annual publication surveys labor market conditions in OECD countries and highlights related policy issues. Topics: 1) the recent economic crisis and the adequacy of income support for the unemployed; 2) social protection and labor markets in emerging economies; 3) earnings volatility (the extent to which individual’s earning fluctuate from year-to-year, and which individuals are most likely to be affected; 4) qualifications mismatch (enabling a better understanding of the role played by education systems, lifelong learning institutions, and labor market policies in ensuring that workers acquire needed skills). In the wake of the global economic crisis, the question of how unemployment benefits and other income support schemes can best cushion income losses during a deep recession is examined. Overall, the number of people unemployed in OECD countries reached a peak of 47.5 million or 8.8% in Oct 2009, but declined to 44.3 million or 8.2% by June 2011 (still some 13.2 million higher than just prior to the crisis. (WORK * UNEMPLOYMENT: OECD OVERVIEW)
* Shared Capitalism at Work: Employee Ownership, Profit and Gain Sharing, and Broad-Based Stock Options. Edited by Douglas L. Kruse (Prof of Mgt and Labor Relations, Rutgers U), Richard B. Freeman (Chair in Economics, Harvard U), and Joseph R. Blasi (Chair, School of Mgt and Labor Relations, Rutgers U). National Bureau of Economic Research (dist by U of Chicago Press), July 2011, 432p, $35pb. Shared capitalism is a system in which workers have become partial owners of their firms and thus, in effect, both employees and stockholders. Profit-sharing arrangements and gain-sharing bonuses, which tie compensation directly to a firm’s performance, also reflect this new attitude toward labor. Analyzes 1) the fraction of firms that participate in shared capitalism programs in the US and abroad, 2) the effect of shared capitalism on firm performance, and 3) the impact of shared capitalism on worker well-being. (WORK * EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP * SHARED CAPITALISM)
* Pensions at a Glance 2011: Retirement-income Systems in OECD and G20 Countries (Fourth Edition). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, March 2011, 348p, $47pb (with free PDF) or $32 (pdf). Pension policy has always involved balancing the adequacy of benefits with their affordability. This balancing act has become harder as a result of the recent economic and financial crisis. It adds to the existing and much greater challenge to pension systems arising from population aging. Many countries have increased pension ages in the face of population aging and longer lives. Some have introduced an automatic link between pensions and life expectancy. Improvements to the incentives to work rather than retire are also a common part of recent pension-reform packages. However, ensuring that there are enough jobs for older workers remains a challenge. More countries are analyzed than in previous editions, including four new members of the OECD: Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia. Where possible, data are also provided for the other major economies in the G20: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Along with data on the European Union’s 27 member states, this brings to 43 the number of economies covered in the report. The theme of this biennial 2011 edition is links between life expectancy and retirement, with discussion of pensionable age and life expectancy 1950-2050, incentives to retire, and helping older workers find and retain jobs. (WORK * ECONOMY * PENSION TRENDS: OECD * RETIREMENT)
* Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers. Ellen E. Schultz (Wall Street Journal). NY: Portfolio (Penguin Group), Sept 2011, 256p, $26.95. An investigative reporter for the WSJ reveals how large companies, benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks have played a huge and hidden role in slashing pensions and health coverage earned by millions of retirees. A little over a decade ago, most companies had more than enough to pay benefits earned by workers. But by exploiting loopholes, ambiguous regulations, and new accounting rules, companies essentially turned their pension plans into tax shelters and profit centers. Employers have exaggerated their retirement burdens while lobbying for government handouts, secretly cutting pensions, tricking employees, and misleading shareholders—while using savings to inflate executive pay and pensions. Employees at all income levels have been slammed. Such games are also being played at smaller companies, non-profits, and public pension plans and retirement systems overseas. (PENSION PLANS SLASHED * WORK * RETIREMENT BENEFITS * BUSINESS * CRIME)
* Off to a Good Start? Jobs for Youth. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Dec 2010, 160p, free pdf at www.oecd-ilibrary.org. Promoting a smooth transition from school to work, and ensuring that youth are given the opportunities to move on in their careers and lives, is of fundamental importance for our economies and societies. Young people have borne much of the brunt of the recent jobs crisis, with the youth unemployment rate approaching 20% in the OECD area, up from 14% in the mid-2000s. The school-to-work transition is more difficult in countries where the dominant transition model is “study first, then work”. The job crisis is likely to leave long-lasting “scarring” effects on some of the current generation of school-leavers, particularly those having low skills or coming from a disadvantaged background. Tackling the youth job crisis requires commitment from all: the youth themselves, the government, social partners, and other key actors (teachers, practitioners, and parents). Policy initiatives in the OECD should seek three key goals: 1) minimize the number of drop-outs, 2) promote the combination of study and work, and 3) offer every youth a second chance to obtain a qualification. This report identifies successful policy measures in OECD countries and discusses structural reforms in education and in the labor market that can facilitate better transition from school to work. (WORK * YOUTH AND JOBS * JOBS FOR YOUTH)
** Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers. A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD, Oct 2010, 105p, free pdf at www.oecd-ilibrary.org. Too many workers leave the labor market permanently due to health problems or disability, and too few people with reduced work capacity remain in employment. This social and economic tragedy is common to nearly all OECD countries. Average health status is improving in OECD countries, yet large numbers of people of working age are leaving the workforce to rely on long-term sickness and disability benefits. The report explores possible factors behind this paradox. A series of major reforms are needed to promote employment of people with health problems, and better incentives for the main actors – workers, employers, doctors, public agencies, and service providers – are crucial. The report also examines policy choices: tightening inflows vs. raising outflows from disability benefit, and promoting job retention vs. new hiring of people with health problems. Questions the need for distinguishing unemployment and disability as two distinctive contingencies. (WORK AND DISABILITY * DISABILITY AND WORK * HEALTH AND WORK)
* OECD Employment Outlook 2010. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Paris: OECD (dist by Brookings Institution Press), Aug 2010/275p/$112. Reviews recent development in the labor market of OECD countries, Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. Assesses the scope and effects of policy responses to the economic crisis. Focuses on policies and institutions that promote a quick return to work and prevent long-term unemployment and that foster skills development. Covers unemployment and part-time employment.
(WORK * OECD OUTLOOKS: EMPLOYMENT * EMPLOYMENT: OECD OUTLOOK)
*A Shameful Business: The Case for Human Rights in the American Workplace. James A. Gross (Prof of Labor Law, Cornell U). Ithaca, NY: ILR Press (dist by Cornell U Press), Feb 2010, 264p, $21.95. Argues that the US market philosophy is incompatible with core principles of human rights; calls for the transformation of the American workplace based on respect for human rights, rather than whatever the economic and regulatory landscape allows. Assesses various aspects of US labor relations—freedom of association, racial discrimination, management rights, workplace safety, and human resources— through the lens of internationally accepted human rights principles. When considered as human rights issues, many “best practices” of management are truly unacceptable.
(WORK * HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE WORKPLACE * WORKPLACE HUMAN RIGHTS)
* World of Work Report 2008: Income Inequalities in the Age of Financial Globalization. Edited by Raymond Torres (director, International Institute for Labor Studies). Geneva: International Labor Org. (dist by Brookings), Feb 2009/180p/$50pb. Income inequalities have been growing significantly within countries over the past two decades; discusses causes of excessive inequalities, whether traditional policies are addressing them adequately, and policy reform. (WORK * INEQUALITY)
* Jobs for Youth: United States 2009. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Dec 2009/194p. Surveys main barriers to employing young people, the adequacy of measures to improve school-to-work transition, improving education outcomes, school accountability, strengthening alternative education, removing demand-side barriers, remedial education and disconnected youth, benefits and reemployment services for youth, challenges facing the tertiary education system, and work-study arrangements. (WORK * YOUTH AND WORK * EDUCATION AND YOUTH JOBS)
* Raising the Global Floor: Dismantling the Myth That We Can’t Afford Good Working Conditions for Everyone. Jody Heymann (Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill U) and Alison Earle (Co-Director, Project on Global Working Families, Harvard School of Public Health). Palo Alto CA: Stanford UP, Dec-09/248p/$35. Adding to new data on rapidly rising job loss are deteriorating working conditions in many countries worldwide affecting ten times as many people, with significant impact on health. This first-ever study of global working conditions argues that good conditions can make countries more competitive—not less. (WORK * HEALTH)
* Human Rights in Labor and Employment Relations: International and Domestic Perspectives. Edited by James A. Gross (Prof of Labor Rights, Cornell U) and Lance Compa (School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell U). Cornell U Press/ILR Press, Aug 2009/236p/$24.95pb. The concept of human rights at work has advanced significantly in the last decade. These essays show how the promotion and protection of human rights at workplaces worldwide posit a new set of value that challenge every orthodoxy in the employment relations field, and even the underlying premises of labor and employment systems. Topics include worker health and safety, child labor, freedom of association, migrant and forced labor, obligations of employers, workplace discrimination, and workers with disabilities.
(WORK AND HUMAN RIGHTS* HUMAN RIGHTS AND WORK)
* Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times. Andrew Ross (Chair, Dept of Social and Cultural Analysis, NYU). New York U Press, April 2009/264p/$27.95. Surveys the new topography of the global workplace, finding an emerging pattern of labor instability on a massive scale, and job insecurity likely to be the new norm. Describes “precarious livelihoods” and contingent employment in developed and developing countries, and assesses the promise of “green jobs”.
(WORK * JOB INSECURITY GROWING)