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Friday, August 30, 2013

Gilded Age 100 Years Later

Wealth distribution in US rivals a modern day Gilded Age
In 2013 wealth inequality at record levels. 72 percent of wealth in US held by 5 percent of the population.

By mybudget360
August 30, 2013

Americans continue to live through a modern day Gilded Age. 

Wealth INEQUALITY is at its HIGHEST LEVELS since the Great Depression, when names like Mellon and Morgan plastered the headlines.  Yet this time around, the availability of debt provides the illusion that the playing field is even.  Americans are massively in debt and when we look at actual wealth, we find that many have very little to their name.  In fact, millions of young Americans are in a negative net worth situation thanks to their student debt.  Wealth inequality has reached record levels because the system is now operating under a dysfunctional corporate and banking welfare structure.  The public is forced to deal with compressed wages, weak benefits, and basically what we know as economic austerity.  While this is happening, big banks use the Fed to their advantage and even when they lose, they win.  This is how 72 percent of all the wealth in the US is held in the hands of 5 percent of the population (with 42 percent of this in the hands of 1 percent).

Top 1 percent share of income

You would think that the Great Recession would impact this distribution but it has only accelerated it:

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In regards to income, the top 1 percent are now earning 20 percent of all US income.  This is the same level that was experienced in 1920. Compare this to about 10 to 13 percent between 1948 through the 1980s when the US had the biggest booming middle class.  It should come as no surprise that the middle class has suffered mightily during this “recovery” even as the stock market hovers near record levels.

A variety of measures beyond income share are also showing this growing in economic disparity.

Gini Ratio

The Gini Ratio highlights income disparity in a country.  The US is seeing generational highs when it comes to looking at this measure:

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As you will notice, the recession did push this ratio lower (more income equality) but that has now washed away.  Income inequality in the US is now at record levels.  Again, we would have to go back to the Gilded Age and the days prior to the Great Depression to find this kind of income and wealth disparity.  People realize that there will always be income disparity in a free market but not to these unbalanced levels.

Even one of the places where most Americans keep their wealth, housing is now being sucked away from big banks leveraging easy money from the Fed.

Stocks and real estate

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Most Americans own their home.  When we say own, we mean with a mortgage but this is where most Americans gain their wealth.  However, the recent rise in real estate values is being driven by investor demand.  This is how you can have a big drop in homeownership while investors buy up nearly half of all real estate in 2013.  Is this positive?  What appears to be happening is more and more asset classes are being funneled into the hands of a very few.  This helps to explain why incomes are down for most and how we now seem to have a permanently large group of Americans on food stamps (something like 1 out of 6).

A massive amount of this wealth aggregation to the top has happened over the last few decades.

Where is wealth growing?

The bottom 80 percent have been punished in the last generation (even the bottom 90 percent have not done so well in context):

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The top 5 percent has captured over 74 percent of all wealth growth.  This tied in with all the other data demonstrates how uneven this wealth distribution has become.  And dont think many of these top winners are doing things that are good for the economy.  Many are hedge fund leaders that have actually placed bets on the failure of Americans and made money on complicated derivatives that helped destabilize the system.  Instead of being ғjob creators these people are job destroyers yet are rewarded by the system.  Austerity for the masses and corporate welfare up to the top.  Many are starting to realize they are living in a new Gilded Age controlled by student debt, massive healthcare bills, and hidden inflation that eats away at their paychecks.

SOURCE

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Gilded Age

During the “Gilded Age,” every man was a potential Andrew Carnegie, and Americans who achieved wealth celebrated it as never before. In New York, the opera, the theatre, and lavish parties consumed the ruling class’ leisure hours. Sherry’s Restaurant hosted formal horseback dinners for the New York Riding Club. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish once threw a dinner party to honor her dog who arrived sporting a $15,000 diamond collar.

While the rich wore diamonds, many wore rags. In 1890, 11 million of the nation’s 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line. Rural Americans and new immigrants crowded into urban areas. Tenements spread across city landscapes, teeming with crime and filth. Americans had sewing machines, phonographs, skyscrapers, and even electric lights, yet most people labored in the shadow of poverty.

To those who worked in Carnegie’s mills and in the nation’s factories and sweatshops, the lives of the millionaires seemed immodest indeed. An economist in 1879 noted “a widespread feeling of unrest and brooding revolution.” Violent strikes and riots wracked the nation through the turn of the century. The middle class whispered fearfully of “carnivals of revenge.”

For immediate relief, the urban poor often turned to political machines. During the first years of the Gilded Age, Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall provided more services to the poor than any city government before it, although far more money went into Tweed’s own pocket. Corruption extended to the highest levels of government. During Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency, the president and his cabinet were implicated in the Credit Mobilier, the Gold Conspiracy, the Whiskey Ring, and the notorious Salary Grab.

Europeans were aghast. America may have had money and factories, they felt, but it lacked sophistication. When French prime minister Georges Clemenceau visited, he said the nation had gone from a stage of barbarism to one of decadence—without achieving any civilization between the two.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/30/13 •
Section Dying America
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coercion

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The More a Society Coerces Its People, the Greater the Chance of Mental Illness
Miserable marriages, unhappy families and severe emotional and behavioral problems all have a root cause.

By Bruce Levine
August 26, 2013

Throughout history, societies have existed with far less coercion than ours. While these societies have had far fewer consumer goods and less of what modernity calls efficiency,Ӕ they also have had far less mental illness. This reality has been buried, not surprisingly, by uncritical champions of modernity and mainstream psychiatry. Coercionthe use of physical, legal, chemical, psychological, financial, and other forces to gain complianceחis intrinsic to our societys employment, schooling and parenting. However, coercion results in fear and resentment, which fuel miserable marriages, unhappy families, and what we call mental illness.

Societies with Little Coercion and Little Mental Illness

Shortly after returning from the horrors of World War I and before they wrote Mutiny on the Bounty (1932), Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall were given a commission by Harpersmagazine to writenonfiction travel articles about life in the South Pacific. Their reports about the islands of Paumoto, Society and the Hervey group were first serialized in Harper’s and then published in the book: Faery Lands of the South Seas (1921). Nordhoff and Hall were struck by how little coercion occurred in these island cultures compared to their own society, and they were enchanted by the children such noncoercive parenting produced:

There is a fascination in watching these youngsters, brought up without clothes and without restraint. . . . Once they are weaned from their mothers’ breasts - which often does not occur until they have reached an age of two and a half or three - the children of the islands are left practically to shift for themselves; there is food in the house, a place to sleep, and a scrap of clothing if the weather be coolthat is the extent of parental responsibility. The child eats when it pleases, sleeps when and where it will, amuses itself with no other resources than its own. As it grows older certain light duties are expected of it - gathering fruit, lending a hand in fishing, cleaning the ground about the housebut the command to work is casually given and casually obeyed. Punishment is scarcely known. . . . [Yet] the brown youngster flourishes with astonishingly little friction - sweet tempered, cheerful, never bored, and seldom quarrelsome.

For many indigenous peoples, even the majority rule most Americans call democracy is problematically coercive, as it results in the minority feeling resentful. Roland Chrisjohn, a member of the Iroquois tribe and the author of The Circle Game, points out that for his people, it is deemed valuable to spend whatever time necessary to achieve consensus so as to prevent such resentment. By the standards of Western civilization, this is highly inefficient.

“Achieving consensus could take forever!” exclaimed an attendee of a talk Chrisjohn gave. Chrisjohn responded, “What else is there more important to do?:

Among indigenous societies, there are many accounts of a lack of mental illness, a minimum of coercion, and wisdom that coercion creates resentment which fractures relationships. The 1916 bookThe Institutional Care of the Insane of the United States and Canada reports, ԓDr. Lillybridge of Virginia, who was employed by the government to superintend the removal of Cherokee Indians in 1827-’89, and who saw more than 20,000 Indians and inquired much about their diseases, informs us he never saw or heard of a case of insanity among them.

Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, in his 1980 book Schizophrenia and Civilization, states, “Schizophrenia appears to be a disease of civilization.” In 1973, Torrey conducted research in New Guinea, which he called “an unusually good country in which to do epidemiologic research because census records for even most remote villages are remarkably good.” Examining these records, he found, “There was over a twentyfold difference in schizophrenia prevalence among districts; those with a higher prevalence were, in general, those with the most contact with Western civilization.” In reviewing other’s research, Torrey concluded:

“Between 1828 and 1960, almost all observers who looked for psychosis or schizophrenia in technologically undeveloped areas of the world agreed that it was uncommon. . . . The striking feature. . . is the remarkable consensus that insanity (in the early studies) and schizophrenia (in later studies) were comparatively uncommon prior to contact with European-American civilization. . . . But around 1950 an interesting thing happened. . . the idea became current in psychiatric literature that schizophrenia occurs in about the same prevalence in all cultures and is not a disease of civilization.”

Yet Torrey is an advocate of the idea that severe mental illness is due to biological factors and not social ones, and he is responsible for helping build the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) into a powerful political force. How does Torrey square his ideas that mental illness is due to biological factors with his own research showing severe mental illness is highly associated with European-American civilization? For Torrey, Viruses in particular should be suspect as possible agents.

Torrey’s suspected biochemical virus agents have never been found. So why has he not considered the toxic effects of coercion? Torrey is a strong advocate of coercive treatments, including forced medication. Perhaps his blindness to the ill effects of coercion compels him - even after discovering the strong relationship between European-American civilization and severe mental illness - to proclaim that mental illness could not be caused by social factors.

While Torrey researched records in New Guinea, Jared Diamond has actually worked with the New Guinea people for nearly a half century, spending extended periods of time with different groups, including hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea (and other small-scale societies) whose parenting creates an abundance of nurturance and a minimum of coercion.

Diamond, in From the World Until Yesterday(2012), reports how laissez-faire parenting is דnot unusual by the standards of the worlds hunter-gatherer societies, many of which consider young children to be autonomous individuals whose desires should not be thwarted.Ҕ Diamond concludes that by our societys attempt to control children for what we believe is their own good, we discourage those traits we admire:

“Other Westerners and I are struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, not only as adults but already as children. We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children. These are qualities that most of us admire, and would like to see in our own children, but we discourage development of those qualities by ranking and grading our children and constantly telling them what to do.”

Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Coercion

Once, when doctors actually listened at length to their patients about their lives, it was obvious to many of them that coercion played a significant role in their misery. But most physicians, including psychiatrists, have stopped delving into their patients’ lives. In 2011, the New York Times reported, A 2005 government survey found that “11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients.” The article points out that psychiatrists can make far more money primarily providing MEDICATION MANAGEMENT, in which they only check symptoms and adjust medication.

Since the 1980s, biochemical psychiatry in partnership WITH BIG PHARMA has come to dominate psychiatry, and they have successfully buried truths about coercion that were once obvious to professionals who actually listened at great length to their patients - obvious, for example, to Sigmund Freud (Civilization and Its Discontents, 1929) and R.D. Laing (The Politics of Experience, 1967). This is not to say that Freudגs psychoanalysis and Laings existential approach have always been therapeutic. However, doctors who focus only on symptoms and prescribing medication will miss the obvious reality of how a variety of societal coercions can result in a cascade of family coercions, resentments and emotional and behavioral problems.

Modernity is replete with institutional coercions not present in most indigenous cultures. This is especially true with respect to schooling and employment, which most Americans, according to recent polls, FIND ALIENATING, disengaging and no fun. As I reported in July, a Gallup poll released in January 2013 reported that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become, and by high school, only 40% reported being engaged. Critics of schooling from Henry David Thoreau and Paul Goodman to John Holt and John Taylor Gatto have understood that coercive and unengaging schooling is necessary to ensure that young people more readily accept coercive and unengaging employment. As I reported in the same article, a June 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Americans HATE THEIR JOBS or have checked out of them.

Unengaging employment and schooling require all kinds of coercions for participation, and human beings pay a psychological price for this. In nearly three decades of clinical practice, I have found that coercion is often the source of SUFFERING.

Here’s one situation I’ve seen hundreds of times. An intelligent child or teenager has been underachieving in standard school, and has begun to have emotional and/or behavioral problems. The child often feels coerced by standard schooling to pay attention to that which is boring, to do homework that has no value they can see, and to stay inside a building that feels sterile and suffocating. Depending on the child’s temperament, this coercion results in different outcomesnone of them good.

Some of these kids get depressed and anxious. They worry that their lack of attention and interest will result in dire life consequences. They believe authorities’ admonitions that if they do poorly in school, they will be flipping burgers for the rest of their lives. It is increasingly routine for doctors to medicate these anxious and depressed kids with antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs.

Other inattentive kids are unworried. They don’t take seriously either their schooling or admonitions from authorities, and they feel justified in resisting coercion. Their rebellion is routinely labeled by mental health professionals as “acting out,” and they are diagnosed with “oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.” Their parents often attempt punishments, which rarely work to break these kids’ resistance. Parents become frustrated and resentful that their child is causing them stress. The child feels this parental frustration and resentment, and often experiences it as parental dislike. And so these kids stop liking their parents, stop caring about their parents feelings, and seek peers whom they believe do like them, even if these peers are engaged in criminal behaviors.

In all societies, there are coercions to behave in culturally agreed upon ways. For example, in many indigenous cultures, there is peer pressure to be courageous and honest. However, in modernity, we have institutional coercions that compel us to behave in ways that we do not respect or value. Parents, afraid their children will lack credentials necessary for employment, routinely coerce their children to comply with coercive schooling that was unpleasant for these parents as children. And though 70% of us hate or are disengaged from our jobs, we are coerced by the fear of poverty and homelessness to seek and maintain employment.

In our society, we are taught that accepting institutional coercion is required for survival. We discover a variety of ways - including drugs and alcohol - to deny resentment. We spend much energy denying the lethal effects of coercion on relationships. And, unlike many indigenous cultures, we spend little energy creating a society with a minimal amount of coercion.

Accepting coercion as a fact of life, we often have little restraint in coercing others when given the opportunity. This opportunity can present itself when we find ourselves above others in an employment hierarchy and feel the safety of power, or after we have seduced our mate by being as noncoercive as possible and feel the safety of marriage. Marriages and other relationships go south in a hurry when one person becomes a coercive control freak; resentment quickly occurs in the other person, who then uses counter-coercive measures.

We can coerce with physical intimidation, constant criticism and a variety of other means. Such coercions result in resentment, which is a poison that kills relationships and creates severe emotional problems. The Interactional Nature of Depression (1999), edited by psychologists Thomas Joiner and James Coyne, documents with hundreds of studies the interpersonal nature of depression. In one study of unhappily married women who were diagnosed with depression, 60 percent of them believed their unhappy marriage was the primary cause of their depression. In another study, the best single predictor of depression relapse was found to be the response to a single item:

How critical is your spouse of you?

In the 1970s, prior to the domination of the biopsychiatry-Big Pharma partnership, many mental health professionals took seriously the impact of coercion and resentful relationships on mental health. And in a cultural climate more favorable than our current one for critical reflection of society, authors such as Erich Fromm, who addressed the relationship between society and mental health, were taken seriously even within popular culture.

But then psychiatry went to bed with Big Pharma and its Big Money. Their partnership has helped bury the commonsense reality that an extremely coercive society creates enormous fear and resentment, which results in miserable marriages, unhappy families and severe emotional and behavioral problems.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/28/13 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Long-Term Unemployed Unprecedented

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When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance.
- The Poorly Attended Hearing on One of the Economy’s Toughest Problems - April 24, 2013

If unemployment insurance is making people not want to work, then the labor market should look worse for those with benefits than for those without. It doesn’t. As Ghayad shows, there’s no reason to think reducing unemployment insurance now will reduce unemployment: the labor market is just as broken for people who aren’t collecting benefits as it for people who are. It’s time to stop blaming—and punishing—the victims of our bad economy. The unemployed aren’t lazy. But the policymakers who have given up trying to help them are.
- Don’t Blame Unemployment Insurance for Our Jobs Crisis

for the last forty years the short-term unemployed have been a declining, and the long-term unemployed an increasing, percentage of all unemployed. Most importantly for the purposes of this article, the persistence of unemployment is closely related to the disappearance of middle-pay jobs. The result has been that low paying jobs comprise an increasingly large percentage of all jobs....In both the natural and the social sciences new insights are often the fruit of perspicuous categorization. Its a certain type of job that is disappearing but the categories low skill, high skill, manual , cognitive, high paying, low paying fail to uncover the systemic mechanisms generating increasing labor market polarization. What is important is that it is routine jobs that are vanishing. These are jobs involving tasks consisting of a specific set of activities accomplished by workers following well defined instructions and procedures. These are not merely manual or “blue collar” jobs in production and maintenance like mechanics, machinery diagnostics, machine operators and tenders, meat processors, cement masons, dress makers, fabricators and assemblers. Routine occupations also involve “cognitive” activities in sales and “office and administrative support” such as secretaries, retail salespersons, some workers in law offices, bank tellers, travel agents, mail clerks and data entry keyers.
- Recession, Depression or Jobless Recovery? Long-Term Unemployment under “Neoliberal Capitalism”

Number of Long-Term Unemployed ‘Unprecedented’ Under Obama
Almost 5 million workers now classified as long-term unemployed

By Bill McMorris
Free Beacon
August 21, 2013

The economy has seen an “unprecedented” number of LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED under the Obama administration, according to a liberal think tank, and economists say plans pursued by Democrats in Washington are unlikely to curb the problem.

Nearly 5 million workers are classified as long-term unemployed, while 900,000 more have stopped looking for work altogether, according to a new series of REPORTS [local copy] by the URBAN INSTITUTE.

Three percent of the labor force has been out of work for more than six months, an improvement of only one percentage point since unemployment spiked in October 2009, according to the STUDY [local copy].

“That long-term unemployment would rise during a recession is not at all surprising, but the extent of the increase and its persistently high level since the start of the recovery are both troubling and unprecedented,” the report states. The U.S. economy is now well into its fourth year of recovery, the unemployment rate is below 8 percent, yet the long-term share of unemployment is still near 40 percent.”

The center-left think tank said that those startling figures are UNLIKELY TO CHANGE unless the United States can achieve dramatic job growth, rather than the middling TWO PERCENT OVERLL ECONOMIC GROWTH figures the Obama administration has averaged.

While the think tank stresses that many of the causes of long-term unemployment are outside of the control of the government, it outlined a number of policies that could help alleviate long-term unemployment, including reforming unemployment insurance to subsidize wage decreases and hour reductions and increasing workforce training subsidies at the local level, rather than a ONE SIZE FITS ALL FEDERAL APPROACH.

Michael R. Strain, a labor economist with the American Enterprise Institute, said the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION has FAILED to lead in the effort to solve the crisis of long-term unemployment.

“There are plenty of solutions that could be supported by Republicans and Democrats, but we’ve FAILED TO FIND SOMEONE to champion them - most of the blame lies with President Obama because he sets the agenda in Washington,” Strain said.

He agreed with the Urban Institute that unemployment benefits could be better utilized by using them to subsidize workers who take lower-paying jobs following layoffs. Getting back in the job market quickly, even at a lower salary, can prevent workers from suffering long-term damage to their earning potential as well as ensure that they do not FALL FURTHER BEHIND in the skills gap.

However, the debate over Americas record-high spending on unemployment has FOCUSED ON HOW LONG WORKERS RECEIVE BENEFITS, rather than how to spend that money effectively.

Many of the long-term unemployed come from the manufacturing and construction industries. Minorities and those with less education are the most likely to be out of work for long periods of time, according to the Urban Institute.

Job seekers are also stuck in regions that have failed to produce new jobs. Strain said that these workers could be assisted using unemployment benefits to help them relocate to areas that have wider access to jobs, rather than repeating a cycle of poverty in cities like Detroit.

“Let’s allow firms to pay workers whatever they can, supplement those earning with subsidies; let’s open those workers up to new skills and new lines of work and new locations to cope with manufacturings decline,” Strain said.

DEMOCRATS have focused on playing politics with hot-button political issues such as the MINIMUM WAGE and top tier tax rates to paint Republicans as the party of the elite and wealthy.”

The MINIMUM WAGE is an area where Democrats are pursuing good politics using bad policy, according to Strain. It raises the cost of hiring young and inexperienced workers - those hit hardest by the recession.

“Raising the minimum wage is a debate to have during boom times when theres money to spread around,” Strain said. “Raising the minimum wage now is a bad idea; the government should be reducing the rigidity of the labor market rather than making it harder and more expensive to hire workers.”

He sees politics at play.

“Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have been explicit in saying that the minimum wage is being used as a midterm election issue and President Obama is helping them achieve that,” Strain said.

SOURCE

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27 Weeks And Counting

The Urban Institute
August 2013

Four years after the end of the Great Recession, long-term unemployment remains at record high levels. As of June 2013, 4.2 million peoplea staggering 36.7 percent of the unemployed - have been out of work for longer than six months.

In 2010, the long-term share of the unemployed peaked at 45 percent, far higher than at any point since the Great Depression. Even at the depths of the 1980s recession, the long-time share of the unemployed was only about 25 percent.

That long-term joblessness remains so high and has persisted for so long “suggests that there is something different about this recession and recovery,” said Gregory Acs, director of the Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center.

“There’s a lot of aversion to hiring. That in and of itself is creating longer-term problems because more and more of the labor force has been estranged from the world of work....History teaches us that they will carry the scars of that long-term unemployment for a while.”

Sharon McGregor, 43, who puts off doctor visits because she has no health insurance. Shoun Brock, 44, who worries that employers can’t see past the long gap in his work history. Allison Johnson, 26, who is trying to get a foothold in the job market. Pauline Richter, 72, who feels forced into retirement after being out of work for two years. They’ve all been job searching for months, in some cases years, wondering if they’ll get another chance or if they’ve been PERMANENTLY SHUT OUT of the JOB MARKET.

“This is like a nightmare,” McGregor said. “You wonder if you are ever going to work again....As far as retirement goes, I have nothing. And I don’t see, at this point, how I am going to catch up.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines long-term unemployment as being out of work for 27 weeks (more than six months) and actively searching for a job. This category doesn’t include people who are underemployed, such as freelance or part-time workers searching for full-time jobs.

Getting a better handle on who the long-term unemployed are can offer insights into the obstacles they face and how public policy can address those barriers. Urban Institute researcher Josh Mitchell compared the long-term unemployed with newly unemployed workers (those out of work for less than five weeks), employed workers, and discouraged workers (those who have given up searching) in 2012.

Mitchell found that long-term unemployment particularly affects minorities and vulnerable populations. Blacks make up a disproportionate share of long-term unemployed workers (22.6 percent) and discouraged workers (25.9 percent). Long-term unemployed workers are much more likely to be poor than employed workers (34.1 percent versus 6.9 percent). And with poverty comes a host of potential work barriers, including unreliable transportation, out-of-reach child care costs, and poor health.

Disabilities also can hold workers back: 6.5 percent of the long-term unemployed have a disability that limits their ability to work, compared with 1.8 percent of employed workers. Unmarried workers, who are less likely to have a second person’s income to fall back on, are disproportionately likely to be long-term unemployed.

The long-term unemployed tend to be less educated than employed workers (18.1 percent are high school dropouts vs. 9.0 percent of those with jobs) but are somewhat more educated than newly unemployed and discouraged workers. “This suggests that increasing the education and skills of the long-term unemployed could help them find new jobs,” Mitchell writes.

Mitchell also compared characteristics of the long-term unemployed in 2007, 2009, and 2012: before, during, and after the recession. He found that the long-term unemployed in 2012 were somewhat more educated than the long-term unemployed in 2007. Blacks made up a smaller share of the long-term unemployed in 2012 than in 2007, while Hispanics made up a greater share. And a smaller fraction of the long-term unemployed are single and childless now than before the recession.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES?

After being laid off, Pauline Richter searched diligently for work. She combed through job boards, sent out dozens of rsums, and reached out to her network of contacts looking for leads. She lives in Skokie, Illinois, and had worked in Chicago as the director of an older adult mental health program for nearly 24 years, managing a $1 million budget. She has two master’s degrees. But after a year and a half passed without an offer in her field, she began applying for part-time jobs at Costco and the Container Store.

“I used to be a really good contributor to the economy,” Richter said. “I have 40 years of knowledge in my field that nobody is using. ...[Now] I can’t even get a job as a cashier.”

She knows employers see her age as a barrier. She was 70 when she lost her job, but had been hoping to work for another five years to build up her retirement savings. In December, Richter’s unemployment benefits are set to expire.

“I worry about everything. I have no idea how realistic it is,” she said. “I’m not destitute, but some of the things that I had wanted to do after all my years of work, I simply can’t do.”

Richter is financially stable, but many long-term unemployed workers struggle to get by. During the Great Recession, family incomes for most of the long-term unemployed fell 40 percent or more.

And loss of income isn’t the only consequence of unemployment. Being out of work for a long time can lead to permanently lower wages and career setbacks, worse mental and physical health, and higher mortality rates. Workers’ skills may erode while they’re out of a job, and they may begin to lose touch with the business contacts that could help them find work.

Then there’s the stigma of being unemployed, which gets worse the longer someone is out of a job. “When people see that you haven’t been working for a while, they feel as though...you are lazy,” said Shoun Brock. “I see it in their faces when I go on the interview.”

Brock hasn’t had a permanent job in two years, though he worked briefly about seven months ago. Research has shown that employers are less likely to hire applicants who have been out of work for a long time. The chance of being called for a job interview falls by 45 percent as unemployment lengthens from one to eight months.2

“The longer you’re out, the harder it is to get back in,” Acs said. “As the economy recovers, as people are getting jobs, there’s more of a tendency to say “Oh, if you’re not working, there’s something wrong with you.’”

To get by, jobless workers have borrowed money from friends, spent down savings, and missed mortgage or rent payments.3 Many have gone without needed health care: in 2011, 63 percent of long-term unemployed or underemployed workers skipped dental visits, 56 percent put off health care, and 40 percent did not fill their prescriptions.4 In each case, roughly half as many full-time employed workers reported cutting back on health costs.

The consequences of long-term unemployment aren’t contained; they can spill over into families and can harm whole communities. Kids whose parents are unemployed for a long time tend to perform worse in school than their peers with employed parents. It’s not entirely clear why, but family stress, lack of health insurance, and reduced income may all play a role.

High rates of long-term unemployment in one community can strain public services and lower the tax base. And less tax revenue can mean fewer resources for public school, police, and other services. Communities with a high concentration of long-term unemployed workers tend to have higher rates of crime and violence.

Long-term unemployment may get overlooked as the economy recovers, but the long reach of its consequences will be hard to ignore

WHY IS LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT SO HIGH?

Why have so many people been unemployed for so long? What’s different this time? Is the rapid pace of technology leaving behind workers whose skills don’t match employers’ needs? Did the housing collapse keep unemployed workers from moving to areas with more jobs? Or are too-generous unemployment benefits to blame?

According to Acs, who examined several possible explanations, none of these is the primary driving force behind the rise in long-term unemployment. Measurements of industrial and occupational skills mismatch have returned to pre-recession levels, while persistent joblessness remains high. The housing collapse may have affected how much people moved around during the recession, but it had little impact on unemployment.

As for unemployment benefits, research suggests that benefit expansions (from the standard 26 weeks to 99 weeks in some states) likely account for less than a quarter of the increase in the length of unemployment.5 In fact, unemployment benefits may have kept more recipients in the labor force, actively searching for jobs as required, rather than giving up.

And while long-term unemployment can be self-perpetuatingas workers’ skills erode and long stretches of unemployment stigmatize applicantsחthis was already the case before the recession.

So why is long-term unemployment so high? Because the recession was so devastating and the recovery too weak. The changing nature of jobs and other explanations may have made matters worse, but sluggish economic growth is the real culprit. Employers are hiring, but too slowly to make up for the tremendous job losses during the recession.

A real concern here, Acs said, is that what could have been a temporary problemwhere people laid off during a recession are rehired when the economy improvesחis becoming a permanent problem. People can be out of work for so long that employers perceive them as “un-hireable,” leaving them shut out of the workforce even as jobs return.

RELATED RESEARCH

A full assessment of the health of the labor market should consider several indicators, including the unemployment rate, the job creation rate, the labor force participation rate and others.

A real concern here, Acs said, is that what could have been a temporary problemwhere people laid off during a recession are rehired when the economy improvesחis becoming a permanent problem. People can be out of work for so long that employers perceive them as “un-hireable,” leaving them shut out of the workforce even as jobs return.

HOW CAN WE HELP?

In June, 15 students graduated from STRIVE DC’s four-week customer service training course. The Washington, DC, nonprofit offers training, job placement assistance, and supportive services for the unemployed. Staff and many of the graduates said that the recession has made competition in the job market worse, so that even low-wage jobs require more and more qualifications.

“It’s hard, but at the same time, I’m trying,” said Michael Jackson, 19, one of STRIVE DC’s graduates. “I pray that I make it, but I understand it’s not easy....I’m not the only one that’s filling out applications for that job.”

While strong economic growth is the most effective way to put people back to work, there’s no guarantee that employers will fill new jobs with long-term unemployed workers. Beyond economic growth, there are policies that can help workers find jobs, keep workers from becoming unemployed for long spells, and help families dealing with the consequences of long-term unemployment. Acs examined several approaches.

Workforce development programs generally benefit workers with little education and experience. To really help the long-term unemployed, training should reflect the needs of local employers. Another key to success is offering credentialssuch as STRIVE DC’s customer training certifications. “We need to seriously take on the idea of lifetime learning,” Acs said.

Meanwhile, large-scale public works programs can temporarily stop long-term spells of unemployment, helping workers retain their skills and develop new ones.

“A lot of the problems associated with unemployment come at the start of unemployment,” Acs said. “So keeping people in their jobs and helping them make job-to-job transitions would help us out in the future.”

To keep long-term unemployment from growing, policies can help vulnerable workers stay in jobs and help the recently unemployed find new ones quickly. Potential strategies include expanding short-time compensation programs, which provide partial unemployment benefits to workers who’ve had their hours cut. This could encourage employers to cut workers’ hours rather than have layoffs - and part-time work still allows people to stay connected to their professional networks and avoid the stigma of unemployment. Also, job search assistance targeted to newly unemployed workers may speed their return to work.

Changes to unemployment insurance requirements could help more low-income workers make ends meet after a job loss. Low-wage workers often don’t have a long enough work history to qualify for unemployment benefits, but they are among the most in need of a safety net. Acs also recommends disability insurance reforms that would allow people to move on and off the program more easily, rather than discouraging them from returning to work when they can.

While policymakers debate which levers to pull, Pauline Richter and other long-term unemployed workers continue to look for jobs. After two years of searching, Richter says she’s disheartend but hasn’t given up just yet. “I just found another networking link,” she said, “and some more job possibilities are coming in, so we’ll see.”

SOURCE

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Long-Term Unemployment Crisis Is Historically Terrible (CHART)

Huffington Post
August 20, 2013

The Great Recession ended in 2009, but Americans across the country are still grappling with its fallout.

NEARLY 40 PERCENT of Americas unemployed have been jobless for 27 weeks or more, according to a new report from the non-partisan Brookings Institution. The share of jobless who are long-term unemployed hit its peak at the end of the Great Recession, but still remains historically high, as the Brookings chart below indicates:

2013-08-20-long-term-unemployment.jpg

As the chart shows, the number of long-term unemployed as a share of the unemployed—and labor force overall—was higher during the Great Recession and the period immediately following it than at any point since the end of World War II.

The 4.7 million Americans still struggling with long-term joblessness could face the threat of a lifetime drop in wages and poorer health for their children, according to Brookings. Being out of work for 9 months or more also can decrease interview requests by up to 20 percent for those applying to low- or medium-skilled jobs, according to a recent study.

And by causing a large-scale decay of skills in the workforce, the high levels of long-term unemployment could be bad news for the economy as well, according to economists cited by the International Business Times.

SOURCE

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Its Not The Fault Of The Long-Term Unemployed That They Can’t Find Jobs

By Bryce Covert
Think Progress
August 26, 2013

More than four million people have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, putting them in the category of the long-term unemployed, and they make up nearly 40 percent of all people who are out of work but seeking a new job. Why cant they seem to get hired? New data shows that they look a lot like other unemployed workers except that they tend to be older, a bit more racially diverse, and actually have more education, which implies that they probably just need a better job market.

The data show that there is little difference when it comes to gender, type of job they previously held, and any health impairments among different groups of unemployed workers and small variations on race. Hispanics are about as likely to be unemployed for more than 27 weeks, less than five weeks, to be employed, or to have given up looking for a job altogether - the four groups that the study looks at. Black workers, on the other hand, make up about a quarter of the long-term unemployed and the discouraged, compared to just 15 percent of the newly unemployed and 10.5 percent of those with a job.

In terms of education, 18 percent of the long-term unemployed don’t have a high school degree, compared to a quarter of those who have been unemployed for five weeks or less or those who are unemployed but have given up looking for a job. The employed, however, are much more likely to have more education, as just 9 percent didn’t graduate from high school.

Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is that those who have been looking for a job for more than six months are typically much older than those who just lost their jobs. About 15 percent of the long-term unemployed are ages 56 to 65, but just 8 percent of those who have been out of work for under five weeks are that age. The newly unemployed, by contrast, are much younger: more than 40 percent are ages 16 to 25. The struggle for older workers to reenter the job market may be a sign of age discrimination.

In general, however, the report notes that given how similar the long-term unemployed look to all other workers, what they really need is an improved job market and policies that would lower the unemployment rate overall.

Indeed, the longer someone stays unemployed the harder it is to reenter the workforce. Being unemployed for longer than nine months is the EQUIVALENT OF LOOSING FOUR YEARS OF EXPERIENCE in the eyes of a potential employer. Those who are out of work for six months or longer will find that they get FEWER CALLS back for an interview than those who are currently employed but don’t have the right experience. Some workers report being told outright that a potential employer ISN’T INTERESTED in those who have been out of a job for a while.

Yet they can’t necessarily expect to get unemployment benefits while they job hunt. Those who exhaust the state-level benefits that tap out around 26 weeks could see federal support shrink thanks to sequestration. Some states COULD DROP the federal program altogether, which has already happened in NORTH CAROLINA. Those who do get checks will see them reduced by at least 15 percent, with deeper cuts in some states.

SOURCE

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Were the face of food stamps
When my husband lost his job, we landed in the 47 percent—and learned how cruel other people’s judgment can be

Abby Henson
Salon
October 12, 2012

Last winter I ran into a friend pushing his two youngest children in a stroller. When I asked how he was doing, he told me he’d recently lost his job. I walked away thinking, Thank God that’s not us. Fast-forward seven months and now we’re the family people walk away from with a sigh of relief.

One day this summer, my husband came home early from work with the news he’d lost his job. Since then, we’ve gone through all the stages of grief, with a few additions of our own. Ive gone into what I’ve dubbed “Mama Bear mode,” wanting to do everything with my husband and our two small children, maybe because I just dont want to face anyone alone. “How are you doing?” is a hard question to answer in the rush of school pickup. So I keep my mate and cubs close, or we hibernate at home, trying to avoid scrutiny.

But even Mama Bears can get caught off-guard. A couple of weeks ago, I was out with my running group, and we got to talking about Romney’s now infamous 47 percent. A heated back and forth ensued about federal assistance and those who abuse it, with a few anecdotes tossed in for good measure. Abby, you know you’ve seen the woman at Safeway using her food stamps and then hopping in her Mercedes, one woman said.

Well, no, I actually had not seen that particular woman before. At least not until last month. But I do know that a man - my husband- was using food assistance at a Wegman’s and then driving away in our 13-year-old Subaru with 170,000 miles on it. Does that change the story? Should we sell our car and get a make and model more befitting of someone receiving federal assistance? Or maybe there is a grocery store designated solely for food assistance users? This is all new to me.

Wounded and embarrassed, I came home rattled from the run. The discussion had hit a nerve, and I brooded over our situation for days.

Collecting unemployment? Well, that I could stomach. After all, I’d worked before I was a stay-at-home mom, and I’d paid into the system. And my husband? He lost his job despite years of positive performance evaluations.

Sign up for medical assistance? Sure. COBRA payments would devour our monthly budget and after my son was hospitalized with a respiratory infection, I could rationalize getting help for the sake of my children.

But food assistance? That unraveled me. Completely. What would my running group say if they knew the truth about our situation now?

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/25/13 •
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Obama And Education

saint-obama.jpg

Obama links college affordability to middle-class prosperity in weekly address

Bu Susan Gardner
Daily Kos
August 24, 2013

Students and families and taxpayers cannot just keep subsidizing college costs that keep going up and up. Not when the average student now graduates more than $26,000 in debt.

We cannot price the middle class out of a college education. Thats why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education.

President Barack Obama continued his past week’s pitch of selling college affordability in this morning’s weekly address, outlining reform proposals to help shore up the struggling middle class.

The three main pillars of the president’s proposed changes are:

New college ratings on “opportunity,” i.e., value and affordability for a wide range of incomes.

“Innovating” through competition, i.e., testing out new types of learning (online, “course credit for competence, not just hours spent in classroom.").

A new loan repayment program: “Pay-As-You-Earn, which caps your loan payments at 10 percent of what you make.”

“These reforms wont be popular with everybody,” the president acknowledged, perhaps thinking of the student loan industry. “But the path we’re on now is unsustainable for our students and our economy.” He closed his address with a a solid mantra worth keeping in mind as Democrats try to move forward to relieve the student debt burden:

Higher education shouldnt be a luxury, or a roll of the dice; itҒs an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Remarks of President Barack Obama

The White House Weekly Address
August 24, 2013

Hi, everybody. Over the past month, Ive been visiting towns across America, talking about what our country needs to do to secure a better bargain for the middle class.

This week, I met with high school and college students in New York and Pennsylvania to discuss the surest path to the middle class - some form of higher education.

But at a moment when a higher education has never been more important, its also never been more expensive. That’s why, over the past four years, weve helped make college more affordable for millions of students and families with grants and loans that go farther from before.

But students and families and taxpayers cannot just keep subsidizing college costs that keep going up and up. Not when the average student now graduates more than $26,000 in debt.

We cannot price the middle class out of a college education. That’s why I proposed major new reforms to make college more affordable and make it easier for folks to pay for their education.

First, were going to start rating colleges based on opportunity - are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed, and on outcomes their value to students and parents.  In time, we’ll use those ratings to make sure that the colleges that keep their tuition down are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up.

Second, were going to jumpstart competition between colleges over innovations that help more students graduate in less time, at less cost, while maintaining quality. A number of schools are already testing new approaches, like putting more courses online or basing course credit on competence, not just hours spent in the classroom.

And third, we’re going to help more students responsibly manage their debt, by making more of them eligible for a loan repayment program called Pay-As-You-Earn, which caps your loan payments at 10 percent of what you make. And well reach out directly to students to make sure they know that this program exists.

These reforms won’t be popular with everybody. But the path were on now is unsustainable for our students and our economy.

Higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, or a roll of the dice; its an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

SOURCE

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Our President Plans to “Rate” Colleges

By Jim Yardley
Patriot Dreams
August 24, 2013

When I glanced at the first story I read about President Obama’s PLANS to “rate” colleges, my first thought was “Hey, what’s he doing?  It isn’t March.  The NCAA Tournament is months away!”

As it turns out, the whole thing was just Obama being Obama.  As usual, he spoke in vague generalities.  As always, the metrics to be used in evaluating these institutions of higher learning were obviously subjective, and subject to “nudging” as needed to produce a desired (read: politically favorable) result.

Couching the idea in inevitably unclear terms, the president uses the “carrot and stick” approach to addressing the rising costs of college educations.

Lindsey M. Burke, writing in National Review Online, notes:

A big part of the president’s plan includes creating a college-rating system - a federal scorecard - to evaluate colleges on measures such as graduation rates, the number of low-income students served (i.e., the percentage of Pell Grant recipients), graduate earnings, and affordability.

So Obama’s big idea is to create a rating system.  And what exactly is this rating system supposed to rate?

Graduation rates?  There are more than a few studies that indicate that admissions tinged with affirmative action goals set up many minority students for failure when they are admitted to universities with high-pressure, high-performance expectations.  There are also factors for failing to complete a college course of study that have little or nothing to do with the quality of university, or its instructors.  Doubt that?  Bill Gates never finished college.  How would Obama’s rating system classify him?

How about the number of low-income students served?  Is the number of students receiving Pell Grants truly a good indicator?  What about students who are being partially subsidized by joining the ROTC, or are having a significant portion of their tuition covered by their employer?  Or is this provision just an extension of the NSA’s efforts to pry ever more intimately into our private lives?  If only Pell Grants are considered, might not colleges demand copies of not only a student’s Federal Income Tax returns, but their parents’ as well, just to show the Washington bureaucrats tallying up the scorecard that they really do serve low-income students?

Perhaps the suggestion of tallying up graduate earnings is the key to delivering an objective assessment of the real worth of a post-secondary school.  Of course, if a student graduates from Harvard, doesn’t that distort that metric compared to a school like Slippery Rock Teachers College, located somewhere in Smalltown, USA?  SRTC might produce the next Einstein, but will he be hired at a salary equivalent to that of a dunce whose daddy donated a building to the old Alma Mater?  Another question that would need to be defined would be at what point, post-graduation, this earnings number is to be determined.  Are we going to use the honor system, like with ObamaCare subsidies?  If graduates refuse to respond to the universities’ questionnaires, will their degrees be revoked?  Will they have to code the school from which they graduated on their annual 1040 tax form?  What if a person got a B.S. from one school, an M.S. from another, and a Ph.D. from a third, which was outside the United States, like Oxford or Cambridge?  Should those who never went to college also code the high school they attended?  That would make identifying “failing schools” a bit easier for the bureaucrats.

And what about the Department of Propaganda—I mean, Department of Education?  Will they start insisting on examining the core curriculum for “sensitivity,” “diversity,” and “political correctness”?  Will colleges, to get a good rating, be forced to require certain courses?  Could a college catalog in a very few years outline a mandatory course of study for any major that includes courses in “Gender Studies,” “Islamic History and the Impact of Islam on the U.S. Space Program,” or “The Idiotically Obvious Danger of Global Warming”?

Think that could never happen?  Well, did you ever think that kids would be taught how to put a condom on a banana in a classroom?

Claims coming from the administration that this proposal has anything to do with reducing the cost of college educations, both to the student and the government, should be seen for what they are, which is a distraction from the real goal.  Once a government can qualitatively evaluate private enterprises (which most colleges and universities are), then it begins to control those enterprises.

The only government function that has ever worked exactly as intended, and was simultaneously effective in doing so, is the military.  That has worked quite well whenever it has been assigned a task.  Of course, one must always remember what the job description of the military is, and has been over the centuries, regardless of the nation, race, or religious persuasion of that military: to kill people and break things.  (Yes, every government program ends up breaking things, but they aren’t usually designed to do that intentionally.)

This idea from our current president needs to be strangled in the crib.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/24/13 •
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Another Faux Shortage To Support Offshoring And H1-B Visas

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With worker retirements looming, IT starts to prepare for a workforce exodus
IT workers who want to work part time may see an uptick in lucrative part-time consulting positions

By Fred O’Connor
IDG News Service
August 21, 2013

With 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030, the IT industry is among those that must plan how its workforce will be impacted when these employees eventually retire.

While the tech industry emphasizes the new, legacy system skills are still valued since some companies run critical systems on dated technologies. Even when firms migrate to current IT, workers with older skills are needed to help with the transition and IT professionals who love their industry may want to keeping working after 65, but not necessarily full time.

Companies keen on retaining veteran workers, and their knowledge, are initiating retirement conversations early to increase the likelihood that these employees will stay on in some capacity after they stop working full time, said Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president at IT staffing firm Modis.

Businesses need to develop a structured plan that explains to employees “how do we retain you because you’re so valuable but at the same time give you the flexibility you need,” he said.

“This flexibility can take the form of contract work, which allows employees to stay engaged with IT while allowing them to create their schedule,” Ripaldi said.

“The thing about technologists is they love what they do,” he said. “They’re constantly driven by newer technologies. So that means that they want to stay involved somehow. They just may not want to stay involved full time.”

The CONTRACTOR ratio, already high in tech, will CONTINUE to INCREASE as companies allow retiring staff to work part-time hours or hire them for SHORT-TERM projects, said Ripaldi. Mentoring programs will also expand as these contractors impart legacy system information to younger employees who will be expected to link the new technologies they use to the older applications they’re learning.

“If there’s an upgrade, if there is a new technology, it will be more effective if they understand how the legacy technology works and how their end users were using it,” he said.

The benefits of new technologies may drive companies to phase out legacy systems and replace them with modern platforms, another situation where retirees could serve as consultants to help with the transition, said John Engates, CTO of cloud hosting company Rackspace.

“For some of these baby boomer retirees there maybe an opportunity to start their own consultancy in helping companies get off these older systems and modernize.”

Transitioning from legacy platforms to the cloud, for instance, requires “a whole chain of people, some of who really know the legacy, some who know the modern and people in the middle to help with this transformation,” he said.

For retirees who prefer to stick with the technologies they worked on during their careers, they too will have consulting opportunities, said Engates. Many companies still depend on older systems—and the skills required to maintain them—to run their businesses.

“It’s interesting how we have a handful of really important systems that have held on,” he said. “The mainframe tends to be the one we all point to but I’m sure there’s others out there. We hear about applications that still run on what we call legacy from our standpoint, like an old Windows NT server or an old 1995 machine.”

While these companies are wed to legacy systems, they don’t want to deal with the economic and labor issues tied to maintaining older technologies. Instead, they’ll outsource upkeep to consultants, who may land lucrative contracts if there is enough market demand for their skills.

“It’s probably going to be cost prohibitive or just so hard to find that one guy that knows that technology who’s willing to work on one or two legacy systems,” Engates said."Your demand goes way up if you’re a consultant that’s managing hundreds of mainframes. They’re still out there.”

At companies that have modernized their systems as technology evolved, retirement may not be as much of an issue since employees learned new skills when the IT changed, avoiding the challenge of transferring knowledge between staffers.

“You need to be proactive on optimizing your ecosystem,” said Verizon Enterprise Solutions CIO Ajay Waghray. “And that forces the retirement of multiple processes and systems that tend to have created that long living complexity that creates all the challenges.”

Last year Waghray retired approximately 160 systems and has so far retired 60 in 2103.

“Even before this whole cloud orientation became a buzz we were already applying those techniques to stay lean and agile,” he said.

Verizon is also proactive in maintaining “a pretty good [employee] progression map, particularly in managerial roles,” helping the company plan for future employment needs, some of which maybe caused by retirement, Waghray said.

“We tend to know if we have a certain group of people that we have a need for, be it retiring or otherwise,” he said.

To fill employment needs, Verizon uses mentoring programs, college recruiting, telecommuting, job sharing and part-time positions.

As for the possibility of retired employees returning as consultants, the demand isn’t there now at Verizon.

“I haven’t really heard the need to say will you come back,” Waghray said. “We might have that in the future but we’ve not seen that.”

At Intel, which is in the early stages of exploring the impact of employee retirements, flexibility extends to helping workers take positions outside the company at nonprofits.

Last year the chip maker launched the Intel Encore Career Fellowship, a pilot program that gives near-retirement employees a $25,000 stipend and allows them to spend one year applying their skills to new positions with social value. The program is part of a greater effort by nonprofit Encore.org that aims to help retirees use their skills in second careers with social purpose.

“We don’t have the need yet to say with enormous numbers departing how do we retain some skills, how do we retain some of the institutional knowledge,” said Julie Wirt, the company’s global retirement design manager. “We’re just starting now to sit down and think about how we’re going to approach that. In five years we’ll be in a different situation.”

As employees near retirement they question whether to update their skills or consider other ways to use their IT backgrounds.

“At a certain point they say ‘It’s probably time for me to reskill again. Do I want to do that or do I want to think about something new as I’m kind of on the brink of retirement,’” said Wirt.

The Encore program paired Ken Wolff, a 23-year Intel employee with Music for Minors, which provides music education programs to elementary school children in the San Francisco Bay area. At the nonprofit, Wolff, who retired from the company in June of last year, works on projects that combine his tech background and love for music. He studied early music at a European conservatory and holds a master’s degree in church music.

Wolff’s first project took him a year to complete, working five or six half days each week, and involved putting hundreds of music and training documents online, he wrote in an email. He continues to volunteer at Music for Minor and his current project involves shooting training lessons for teachers and posting them online.

“Most of my IT work doesn’t directly apply but the basic orientation makes solving software tool challenges a lot easier,” wrote Wolff, 60. His background helped when converting sheet music into digital files using high-end scoring software, he wrote. Additionally, shooting and editing video is easier with a technical background and having website development skills helps when posting material online.

Intel is using the fellowship program to understand how to discuss retirement with employees and their needs. Additionally, the program helps people who lack clear retirement plans start thinking about what they may want to do next.

“Many employees [at Intel] want to stay engaged in some manner past normal retirement, but they’re looking to do that in a different way,” said Writ.

Jose Alvarado planned to work part-time work as an instructor or IT professional after he left Hewlett-Packard where he worked as a senior software engineer, he said in an email.

Through the Encore program, which HP participates in, and his own efforts, Alvarado is volunteering in both those roles. Alvarado recently began volunteering for 20 hours per week at the Homeless Prenatal Project, which provides poor and homeless San Francisco families with resources to improve their lives. In September he will start teaching a data networks course at the University of the People, a nonprofit that offers free academic courses online.

In both roles, Alvarado draws on his enterprise IT career, which spanned nearly 23 years at HP. His background in data networks as a software engineer has proved useful at HPP and UofP, he wrote. HPP has a medium-size computer network and uses cloud services. “I am also learning quite a lot as a member of the HPP Technology Team. Additionally, I have used my knowledge in network security to perform vulnerability testing on HPP public internet interfaces.”

His transition into volunteer work has been gratifying.

“The idea of a second act for the greater good just sounded perfect for me after leaving HP,” he wrote. “I see my fellowship as both an interesting/stimulating part-time job and an excellent opportunity to help HPP’s wonderful mission.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/23/13 •
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