Guys, don’t despair when she earns more that you.

The male ego is attached to being the chief breadwinner. It’s a fictitious remnant of the cave man’s role as hunter and provider. The stereotype was perpetuated when men returned from World War II and replaced women in industrial jobs.

  image: Mother Nature Network

With the decline of industrial jobs in North America, and with more women getting a post-secondary education, women are positioned to move into professional jobs. Over the past four decades, full time jobs have increased for women while decreasing for men.

Not just men who have lost industrial jobs worry. Alan, 40, is a successful accountant and his wife, a doctor, earns more than him. At first, Alan was embarrassed by his wife’s breadwinner status. “It was a male ego thing,” he told Levo.com. “There was just something about it that made me feel inadequate. I knew it was illogical.” After simmering for years, the issue came to a head and the couple sat down and talked about the toll that wage imbalance was taking on Alan’s self-esteem. “She helped me gain perspective. There are so many more important things to worry about in life than who makes more money.”

Wage inequity weighs heavily on wives, too. Alyson Byrne and Julian Barling investigated the toll it takes on relationships in their study published in Organization Science. “You have to imagine that a lot of these women, particularly in senior executive or high-status roles, are very smart and very ambitious. We know from management studies that they’ve had to work that much harder and face that many more barriers,” says Dr. Byrne.

Byrne and Barling studied 200 high-achieving businesswomen in Canada in relationships where 44 per cent of husbands made less than they did. Many wives reported a personal loss of status when responding to statements such as “My spouse’s job impedes my future career success;” “I am embarrassed when my spouse accompanies me to work events;” “My spouse’s work makes me look bad.”

This “status leakage” manifested itself in marital dissatisfaction and instability. However, stress was reduced in relationships where the husband was willing to provide an increased roll in child care and household chores.

Frank discussions between partners are critical in reducing martial stress. Men need to lay their own insecurities bare. “The whole time,” said Alan, “I thought I was doing a pretty good job of hiding my feelings, but it turns out she knew and was internalizing my resentment into guilt. That about broke my heart.”

Left to fester, wage disparity can be toxic unless dealt with openly. Unemployed men become confused about their role. They become more violent and controlling. Drug and alcohol abuse increase; so do suicide rates.

Wives need to be frank, as well. Dr. Byrne found that wives are not angry or disgusted, but that they feel a sense of loss. “They are just feeling loss or wishing that they [husbands] were at a similar level to their own, but it creates these long-term impacts on their marriages.”

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I was going to write a column about Omar Khadr’s award of $10.5 million by the Canadian government but I don’t have much more to say than I did in my column, nine years ago, in the Kamloops Daily News.

 

Unmasking Uber and Facebook

Let’s stop pretending that Uber is just along for the ride in the gig economy and that Facebook is just a technology company.

gig

At first glance, the gig economy seems great: a way for individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit to improve themselves. The reality is that it’s a race to the bottom. For many workers, it’s all they have. They string together a number of insecure, low paying, temporary jobs to try to keep the wolf from the door.

Mortgage companies are reluctant to lend to those without secure work. Gig workers have trouble saving for retirement; they have no sick or maternity leave; no health care plans. Workers are easily abused because of the one-to-one relationship with employers.

It’s easy to become complacent if you have a reliable income. Someone like me, for example. On my visit Los Angeles last year I used Uber. I marveled at the technology that allowed me watch the car’s progress from blocks away on my tablet. I was impressed by the courteous driver and his new, clean car and the low fare.

But those of us with reliable incomes should worry as full-time positions are eroded by the gig economy.

Uber professes to be just an app that connects drivers with passengers; a dubious claim says Carl Mortished:

“That was Uber’s wizard scheme: to make money from millions of taxi journeys without actually employing a single driver or even being part of the transaction. It was about making money from the gig economy without doing a single gig (Globe and Mail, November 4, 2016).”

Judges in England found Uber’s claim that it was not an employer to be unbelievable. Drivers have no control over choice of customers, fares, and routes traveled. They are subject to a rating system that amounts to a disciplinary procedure. Judges ruled that drivers were entitled to minimum wages and paid holidays.

Facebook harbors its own pretensions. At an event in Rome last year, an audience member asked founder Mark Zuckerberg if Facebook was an “editor in the media?” He replied that Facebook does not produce content but merely “exists to give the tools to give you the tools to curate and have the experience to connect to the world that you want.” Mortished disagrees:

“What Mr. Zuckerberg says is untrue. Facebook is editing and making content. Facebook is paying millions of dollars to celebrities and other media organizations to make videos for Facebook Live.”

Facebook edits its website: banning, deleting and restricting content that doesn’t fit their rules. They ran into a storm of protest when editors deleted the famous Vietnam War photo of naked girl fleeing an American napalm attack.

Facebook should grow up. It’s no longer the college photo-sharing web site it once was. Facebook would prefer not to be classified as a publisher because it would find itself in the messy business of being responsible for content that might be offensive, defamatory, or potentially criminal.

I’m not against Uber. Properly implemented, it could improve taxi service and provide fair working conditions for drivers. I like Facebook. It keeps me in touch with friends and family. But let’s avoid the charade, Mr. Zuckerberg, of the exact nature of the business that you’re in.

Conservatives can increase chances by decreasing happiness

The antics of some Conservative leadership hopefuls are pathetic. Chris Alexander at a rally bobs his head in rhythm to the chants “lock her up” in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, tone deaf to the toxic implications; Kellie Leitch calls for immigrants to be tested for “Canadian Values” even though no such test exists and if it did, she would probably fail.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

Trump-style populism into will not succeed because Canadians are not ripe for such politics –we need more inequality and the resultant unhappiness for this approach to work.

Inequality creates a sense of injustice and anger that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Nattavudh Powdthavee researched the effects of inequality for the Harvard Business Review (January, 2016). They found that anger and stress increased in countries where the richest 1 per cent controlled the greatest share of wealth.

“In societies where the richest hold most of the country’s income, people were more likely to report feeling ‘stressed,’ ‘worried,’ or ‘angry’ on the day before the survey.”

Angry politicians appeal to angry voters. Trump’s anger is what propelled him into power; that’s why his racist and misogynistic views were largely overlooked. He was as mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it any more.

It’s not just anger that is affected. As anger went up, life satisfaction went down.

“We examined data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that the more income is concentrated in the hands of a few, the more likely individuals are to report lower levels of life satisfaction and more negative daily emotional experiences.”

Life satisfaction exacerbates unemployment. For every 1 per cent increase in the share of income of the top 1 per cent, unemployment rises by 1.4 per cent. There are a couple of factors involved –exporting jobs to areas of cheap labour increases profits; unhappy workers tend to be less productive, take longer sick leaves, and quit their jobs.

At the other end of the scale, greater wealth also creates unhappiness. Nobel laureates Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton calculated that day-to-day happiness peaks at an income of $75,000 a year, after which it plateaus. Inequality creates unhappiness at both ends of the wealth spectrum.

Canada is the sixth most happy country in the world according to the World Happiness Report behind the Scandinavian countries but ahead of the U.S. at thirteenth. Can you guess how these counties rank in equality? Right, the Scandinavian countries are the most equal followed by Canada and then the U.S.

Inequality is rising fastest in the U.S. where the top 1 per cent increased their wealth from 8 per cent of total wealth to 19 per cent in just thirty years (Scientific American, September, 2016).

Equality and satisfaction of life can be increased, and anger reduced, through fair taxes and benefits to the poor: like minimum wages, child care, job security, employment insurance, and an affordable education.

Conservative leadership hopefuls can increase their chances by increasing inequality and decreasing the happiness of Canadians by lowering taxes, increasing tuition, resisting wage hikes, and reducing job security.

A good economy

A good economy will feature work rather than growth for growth sake. Some progressives think that negligible growth is inevitable, perhaps even desirable. Too much growth, so the argument goes, consumes too much of the Earth’s resources. It doesn’t have to be that way says Economist Jim Stanford.

“I disagree on all counts. I do not think that slow growth is natural, inevitable or desirable. I do not think that stagnation and recession will fix environmental problems; more likely, they will make things worse (CCPA Monitor, May/June, 2016).”

New jobs can be created when a nation decides to.

New jobs can be created when a nation decides to.

There are many ways to create growth. One is through capitalism and the unsustainable plunder of the Earth’s resources which focuses on fat dividends for investors.

Another is through work. It’s not like there is a shortage of things to be done, much of it in the service sector: better care for seniors, health care, child care, education, and the arts. Many more jobs wait in green technologies; building and repairing roads and bridges, schools and cultural facilities, public transit. Jobs will continue in areas such information technology and as energy extraction (we won’t stop using fossil fuels tomorrow).

Increased service sector jobs are a novel concept when seen through the lens of Neoliberalism where growth is seen as a function of profit. And it’s a mistake to think that growth is even their primary motive. Greed is. Capitalism is organized to reinforce the wealth and power of a few.

Neoliberalism does not encourage growth. To reduce input costs, wages are driven down. Workers are disempowered through de-unionization and precarious work. “These are all anti-growth policies,” says Stanford.

A measure of growth is the Gross Domestic Product: the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country. In order to keep up with the growth of population and productivity, the GDP should grow by about two per cent annually says Stanford. Any slower and unemployment increases.

The growth of jobs in the service sector may sound a bit fanciful because of resistance from capitalists. Try as they might, they haven’t managed to squeeze much profit out of health care and education.

It’s not fanciful when you remember that we did it once before. Canada and other Western nations pulled themselves up by the bootstraps during the Second World War by creating jobs that met a national objective, not corporate profits.

Unemployment disappeared within months. Untapped sources of labour were drawn into the workplace, particularly women. The bloom of job growth lasted decades with a reduction in poverty and improvement of life expectancy.

Who’s going to pay for it? During the war, money was never a constraint in spite of the hard times of the Great Depression. With modern credit, raising capital is easier than ever. Private financial institutions create money out of thin air whenever it suits their profit-driven motives, as I discussed in my column of December, 2015 How to make money.

Governments can similarly create money, as they did when they saved banks and industry after the Great Recession of 2008. The only thing stopping the growth of service sector jobs is the government’s fear that they will offend the sensibilities of corporations.

Annual income by stealth

If a guaranteed annual income is such a good idea, why hasn’t it happened yet? It’s supported by both the right and left ends of the political spectrum. The right-wing likes it because it reduces government bureaucracy by combining a number of programs into one. The left-wing supports it because, unlike the trickle-down theory, it really does lift all boats.

tax

My own opinions have ranged from elation to despair. In my column for the Kamloops Daily News in 2000, I wrote glowingly of it. This year, I titled my column “Why an annual income won’t work” and some readers thought I was being too negative.

Sixteen years after the first column, I now think it’s a good idea poorly marketed. If Canadians can’t buy the idea because it suggests money for nothing, then it should be sold as an income-tax-implemented annual income, ITIAN (my acronym).

Andrew Jackson, professor at Carlton University and advisor to the Broadbent Institute, also likes ITIAN but acknowledges past failures:

“This could be an important step forward, but incremental reform toward an income-tested guarantee for working-age Canadians delivered through the tax system will be the best path as opposed to more visionary ‘big bang’ solutions.”

Instead of a big bang annual income, apply it incrementally by stealth –through the income tax system.

Remind Canadians that seniors already have an annual income in the form of the Guaranteed Income Supplement to Old Age Security. It comes close to pushing seniors above the poverty line. Ease Canadians into it with child benefits.

“And pending improvements to income-tested child benefits promised by the Trudeau government will deliver a maximum transfer which comes close to the cost of raising children and will significantly reduce child poverty,” says Professor Jackson in the Globe and Mail.

Another area in which ITIAN can be applied is the plight of the working poor. Some Canadians are working hard, often at more than one job, and still they live below the poverty line. Additionally, some working-age persons have no or limited employment income. Before they collect social assistance, they have to exhaust almost all assets. Even then, they can only earn so much before pay is clawed back.

Old attitudes linger. At the heart of such meanness is the idea that the poor are deservedly so: they wouldn’t be poor if their poverty wasn’t warranted (insert usual labels here – good-for-nothing, lazy, drunken, native, bad parents, worthless).

Another problem that ITIAN must address is the shrinking eligibility for Employment Insurance benefits. While the Trudeau government has increased benefits in the wake of the collapse of fossil fuel markets, the increases have been unevenly applied and depend on where you live, not a basic living wage.

A solution already exists called the Working Income Tax Benefit. In its 2013 report, the House of Commons human resources committee recommended an increase to WITB to supplement the incomes of low earners who are not eligible for social assistance and who do not usually qualify for much if any for Employment Insurance benefits due to current rules and low and unstable earnings.

Hope springs eternal. ITIAN may be just the trick to make this decades-old dream happen.

More driver surveillance, less customer satisfaction

Why didn’t the delivery guy just hand me my parcel instead of leaving a note on my door saying it couldn’t be delivered and I would have to pick it up? I was home; it would have been so easy. It was so annoying to think that the carrier (who I won’t name but wasn’t Canada Post) was right there, at my door, and took my package away.

Man having a parcel delivered

Ester Kaplan had the same problem and decided to get to the bottom of it. “I began to notice something frustrating about my UPS deliveries,” she explains is Harper’s magazine, “They never arrived. When I wasn’t home, I’d leave a note asking for packages to be left at the laundromat on the corner. I’d get an attempted-delivery note instead. The same thing sometimes happened even when I was home—I’d find an attempted-delivery note, but no one had rung my doorbell.”

UPS uses a monitoring system called telematics which transmits data from the truck and handheld devices. More than 200 sensors track everything from backup speeds to stop times to seat-belt use. When a driver scans a package for delivery, the system records the time and location; it records when a customer signs for the package. Most of this information flows back to a supervisor in real time.

I didn’t realize there was so much driver surveillance. One good thing about parcel delivery, I thought, is that at least someone isn’t always looking over your shoulder. But with this level of monitoring, someone is. Worse, they only see part of the picture, not whether a bridge under repair or if the roads are icy.

At first, telematics was only used to monitor safe driving practices such a seat belt use. Now it’s all about fuel-savings, reductions in maintenance, and efficiencies in labour.

With more shoppers buying online, suppliers like Amazon are competing with each other to get their merchandise to the door as soon as possible. That puts pressure on carriers to deliver more stuff with the same staff.

Kaplan followed one driver around. He told her that supervisors would announce, “Hey, your stop count is going up by ten.” Daily UPS package deliveries grew by 1.4 million between 2009 and 2013 in the U.S., while employees shrank by 22,000.

Sure, telematics is working but at what human cost? Drivers are putting in long days and getting injured. They know how to pick packages safely but, in a rush, they end up with back and shoulder injuries.

Drivers leave stickers on doors without delivering parcels because it cuts time. Telematics, clever as it might be, can’t determine whether a customer is actually home or not.

Until drones start delivering parcels (I’m not holding my breath), it’s only going to get worse. I’m going to find online retailers that use parcel companies that don’t run their drivers ragged even if I have to pay a bit more.

Meanwhile, you beleaguered carriers, don’t deliver my parcel. I’ll understand. Slap the sticker on door and run if it makes your life easier. Eventually, online marketers will figure out that customer service is worth treating you right.

Share country’s prosperity with guaranteed annual income

Prime Minister Chretien has assembled a top-level committee to investigate the idea of a basic income, also called a guaranteed annual income.  He says its not necessarily on his government’s agenda, but it should be.  The idea has been supported by other Liberals,  Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson for one, and by economist Milton Friedman.

basic-income-poster-600x450

Basic income would be universal — paid to every Canadian man, woman and child.  It would replace welfare, child benefits, employment insurance, Old Age Security.  In fact, Old Age Security is already a kind of basic income — paid to every retired person regardless of means.  A basic income would be a more efficient and equitable means of distributing Canada’s wealth.

A basic income should be part of an overhaul of Canada’s social compact.  Our current system of welfare and employment insurance is sadly out of date.  It worked fifty years ago, after World War II when employment patterns were relatively stable. Our old social compact was designed for a time when unemployed were few and those on welfare were low.

Back then, homeless people were unheard of.  Now, poverty is increasing at an alarming rate — especially for single mothers, for which the poverty rate is 50 per cent.  We step over the homeless in our streets as if they have always been there. The squeeze is on everyone.  Natural gas is going up, and wages are going down.

The government of Canada now ensures that millions of Canadians are unemployed as a matter of policy.  The policy is called the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment.    It works like this.  As soon as unemployment drops too low, the government takes this as sign that inflation is increasing.  The Bank of Canada increases interest rates to tighten the money supply, which then increases unemployment to what they consider “normal”.

A basic income would ensure that unemployed Canadians receive an income regardless of whether they meet the high qualifications of employment insurance or not.  A basic income could actually stimulate the economy through increased spending by millions of low income Canadians on basic goods and services.

Redistribution of wealth is not un-Canadian.   As it is, the rich provinces of B.C., Alberta and Ontario give to poorer provinces.  A basic income would be similar except that it would transfer money directly to individuals.

A basic income would not be taken away because a person worked, which would encourage the poor and unemployed to better themselves. Welfare and employment insurance discourages employment.

With a basic income, parents who stay at home with children (mostly mothers) would receive compensation for their work.  So would those who care for aging parents (mostly women).  With an aging population, a basic income could be a lifesaver.

A basic income would be federally administered, which is both its strength and weakness.  The problem with welfare is that its administered by the provinces.  When the feds find it expedient, they cut transfer payments to the provinces for welfare and let them take the flack.

With a federally administered basic income, the federal government would immediately come under attack if they tried to mess with the plan.   Much in the way that they were attacked when they tried to cut other federal programs such as Old Age Security, the Canada Pension Plan, and employment insurance in the Maritimes.  They quickly backed off.

The problem with federal administration of a new program is political.  The provinces want to have control over spending.  Also, after the last federal election, the country is divided into distinct political regions: West, Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes.   No political region wants to grant any power to the federal government, regardless of how beneficial a program  might be.

Another problem is one of perception, many Canadians consider a basic income as undeserved, since it is not earned by the sweat of their brow.  But investors in stocks who receive dividends are not bothered.  Nor is a landowner who possesses natural resources on his or her property.  They happily sell the resources and enjoy the profit.

Well, all Canadians own the resources of Canada.  A basic income is a dividend owed to everyone.   Prime Minister Chretien recently said “The fact is that our prosperity is not shared by all”.  He should listen to his  heart and not the bean-counters tugging at his sleeve.