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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is There an Age Discrimination Epidemic?

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Is There Age Discrimination In Hiring?

By Edith S. Baker
BLS
April 2017

AGE DISCRIMINATION has long been a PART OF THE LANDSCAPE of the U.S. workplace, with countless studies examining the problem over the decades. In AGE DISCRIMINATION AND HIRING OF OLDER WORKERS (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economic Letter, no. 2017-06, February 27, 2017), David Neumark, Ian Burn, and Patrick Button add to the literature on the subject. Their work confirms what many studies have found: age discrimination in the workplace exists, and it is worse for older women than older men. Neumark, Burn, and Buttons research, however, stands out in that its scope is especially comprehensive, covering more than 40,000 job applicants for more than 13,000 job positions in 12 cities spread across 11 states.

The authors begin the discussion by stating this fact: the aging of the U.S. population, together with the lower labor force participation rate of older people (those 65 years and older) compared with that of their younger counterparts (ages 25 to 64 years), is inevitably leading to a sharp rise in the dependency ratio, the ratio of nonworkers to workers in the U.S. population. In other words, fewer and fewer workers will be available to support more and more nonworkers. To remedy this situation, policymakers have attempted to boost the labor supply of older workers. Policies aimed at doing that have centered around reforming the Social Security program: reducing benefits for those who retire as early as age 62 or at any time before reaching full retirement age; increasing the full-retirement age; and taxing Social Security benefits at a lower rate, for both those who continue working while receiving benefits and those who retire and receive benefits (a double-edged sword in that, at the same time that it will induce some older workers to keep working, it will encourage others to retire and receive the lower taxed benefits). But age discrimination in hiring has the potential to thwart all these reforms.

To learn how pervasive this age discrimination is, Neumark, Burn, and Button conducted a “correspondence study” - a study in which they created job applicant profiles that they sent in response to advertisements for positions. They then measured the number of callbacks each age group of otherwise identical applicants” received for a subsequent interview. Positions applied for were administrative assistant and secretary (female applicants), janitor and security guard (male applicants), and retail sales (both genders). Their results confirmed existing research findings.

First, the authors found that, across all the applications, the callback rate for interviews was uniformly lower for older applicants - a finding that they describe as “consistent with age discrimination in hiring.” With regard to specific job positions and specific genders, older (64 to 66 years) female applicants for administrative assistant jobs had a 47-percent lower callback rate than young (29 to 31 years) female applicants and older female applicants for sales jobs had a 36-percent lower callback rate than young female applicants, with the gap being statistically significant in both cases. Similarly, for male applicants for security and janitor jobs, the callback rates for older men were lower than those for young men, but the pattern was “not as consistent or pronounced” as that for the women applying for administrative assistant and sales jobs, and in some cases the gap between young and old was not statistically significant. In the one case in which a direct comparison could be made = sales positions - the 30-percent gap in the callback rates between young and older men was statistically significant, but was still smaller than the 36-percent gap in the rates for young and older women.

In sum, three findings stand out in the study reported in this article. First, the sample of more than 40,000 job applicant profiles offers statistical evidence that there is age discrimination in hiring - discrimination against both women and men. Second, older applicants - those 64 to 66 years of age - experience more age discrimination than middle-age applicants ages 49 to 51. Third, women - especially older women, but even those of middle age - experience more age discrimination in hiring than men do. Although the study did not look at why older women experience the worst degree of age discrimination, the authors suggest that it may be because appearance matters in the low-skilled administrative and sales jobs that they chose to examine and PHYSICAL APPEARANCE is evaluated more harshly for women than for men.

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An Epidemic of Age Discrimination

By Patricia G. Barnes
Aging Today
January 21, 2015

Many of the ills facing older Americans today began years ago, when they were victims of age discrimination in the workplace, resulting in terminations and layoffs, chronic unemployment and, ultimately, a financially impoverished early retirement.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace (2014), I argue that age discrimination is epidemic in America because the law prohibiting age discrimination, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), was weak to begin with, and has been further weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lack of effective legal recourse leaves older workers vulnerable to unfounded and harmful age discrimination, a problem that was greatly exacerbated during the Great Recession.

Almost 50 years ago, Congress based the ADEA on a faulty theory that age discrimination is different from other types of discrimination and that it is, to some extent, justified by inevitable agerelated declines. Congress inserted loopholes into the ADEA and omitted major penalties found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.

The Court then issued rulings that make it far more difficult to win an age discrimination lawsuit. For example, in 2009, it established a higher level of proof in ADEA cases than in lawsuits alleging race or sex discrimination. The Court accords its lowest level of review to laws that discriminate on the basis of age, as opposed to race and sex.

Discrimination Increases with the Great Recession

The Great Recession only served to increase the incidence of age discrimination, causing a damaging ripple effect that led to employers seeking to cut costs to target older workers, who then became
mired in long-term unemployment. Meanwhile, older workers lost investment savings and equity in the housing foreclosure crisis. They then were unable to rebound financially because of rampant age discrimination in hiring.

ACCORDING TO RESEARCH by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts research on unemployment, older workers experienced the greatest percentage increase in the size of their unemployment population from 2007 to 2011; it more than doubled from 1.3 million in 2007 to 3.2 million in 2011.

Evidence of age discrimination can be seen in a 29 percent jump in age discrimination complaints filed in 2008 with the U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENY OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, almost double the increase for other types of discrimination complaints. The EEOC reports there were 24,582 age discrimination complaints filed in 2008, compared to 19,103 in 2007. The EEOC received 21,296 age discrimination complaints in 2013.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Dept. of Labors Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that older workers suffer disproportionately from long-term unemployment (unemployment lasting 27 weeks or more.) NELP reports that more than half of older jobless workers were out of work for at least six months in 2011-2012. AARP’s analysis of non-seasonally adjusted BLS data from February 2014 shows that, on average, workers ages 55 and older were unemployed for 45.6 weeks, compared with 34.7 weeks for workers younger than age 55.

Why is this? Mainstream media commentators often blame jobless older workers for lacking skills, while ignoring evidence of pervasive age discrimination in hiring. Many employers (including the federal governments Pathways Recent Graduate Program) unabashedly advertise for “recent graduates” who are, overwhelmingly, younger than age 40.

So older workers suffer: jobless older workers can’t find jobs or are relegated to poorly paid part-time work. Meanwhile, a 2013 Urban Institute report found that 63 percent of long-term unemployed or underemployed workers in 2011 skipped dental visits, 56 percent put off healthcare and 40 percent did not fill medical prescriptions. Many older adults who have jobs are vulnerable to bullying or mistreatment, realizing if they quit, they face joblessness, loss of health benefits and poverty.

Early Retirement Impoverishes

The governments rosy October 2014, 4.1 percent employment rate for workers age 55 and older ignores the millions of older workers forced into poorly paid part-time or temp work and, finally, into an unwanted and ill-advised early retirement.

Between March 2008 and March 2013, about 1.4 million more Americans opted to draw on Social Security than were expected, according to Matthew Rutledge, an economist with Boston CollegeҒs Center for Retirement Research. At the height of the recession, he says as many as 53,000 extra Americans retired early each month. A 2013 survey by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs found that 33 percent of retired Americans felt they had no choice except to retire, and 54 percent of retirees younger than age 65 felt they had no choice but to retire.

Workers who retire at age 62 suffer a 25 percent cut in their monthly Social Security benefit for the rest of their lives compared to workers who retire at age 66, and a 32 percent decrease when compared to workers who retire at age 70.

Older workers who are systematically stripped of their jobs due to age discrimination CANNOT PREPARE for a financially sound retirement. Research by the Retirement Security Project shows that part-time workers lack sufficient income to contribute to 401(k) retirement plans. Many were forced to spend down whatever savings they had left after the recession. In retirement, they will be unable to cover medical expenses not covered by Medicaid, rising housing costs and other cost-of-living increases. Human toll aside, age discrimination costs society billions in lost productivity, higher medical and social welfare costs and higher Social Security premiums.

To improve the lives of American in their old age, society needs to stop the epidemic of age discrimination in the workplace. Congress should repeal the ADEA and add age as a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act so that older workers receive the same level of protection as other victims of illegal discrimination. And it must heed the warning of experts at the CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY RESEARCH that cutting Social Security spells disaster for millions of older Americans who already are impoverished through no fault of their own.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/29/17 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Deaths Of Despair II

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Just because a person attempts suicide doesn’t mean they want to die. Rather, often they have lost what I call the, “power of hope”.  When faced with a BAD SITUATION that has NO END IN SIGHT, coupled with the helpless feeling that NOTHING YOU CAN DO will make a difference, it’s all too easy to LOSE HOPE. AT SOME POINT suicide for some becomes a viable option, rather than CONTINUNG TO FACE the constant pain and suffering that life has become. If you can give someone who is contemplating suicide merely the glimmer of hope, that is often enough to get them through the rough patch to consider other options.
- White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrocket

This May Be Responsible for the High Suicide Rate Among White, American Men

By Philip Perry
Big Think
July 2, 2017

TODAY, being white and male are the two single greatest risk factors for suicide in the US. That’s according to the authors of: EXPLAINING SUICIDE:  PATTERNS, MOTIVATIONS WHAT NOTES REVEAL. Psychology professor Cheryl Meyer, is among them. She says “hegemonic masculinity is what’s killing these men. They try to live up to a social stereotype no one could measure up to. Not only that, their model doesn’t square with today’s world.

In 2015, two Princeton economists found that the death rate among white, middle-aged men, rather than falling, like with most other groups, was instead rising. The mortality rate for working class white men, between the ages of 45 and 54 had been steadily rising since 1999.

According to suicide prevention expert, Dr. Christine Moutier, white, middle-aged men account for 70% of deaths from suicide each year. Nine-tenths of them are from a lower socioeconomic class. 

“These are being called deaths of despair.” Harvard public policy professor Robert D. Putnam, told the BBC, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health. Veterans are often one of the largest segments within this group. According to a 2014 Veterans Affairs (VA) report, 20 commit suicide each day. 65% of them are age 50 or older.

A larger segment of this group has chosen the slow suicide route. Many are succumbing to things like alcohol liver disease or a drug overdose. So what;s causing this? White men without a college degree have seen their employment prospects dwindle in the last few decades, mostly due to mechanization.

Their mental health has withered as a result. In terms of economics, globalization and income inequality have worsened the problem as well, though most economists agree mechanization is the biggest cause. However, middle-aged black and Hispanic men at the same education level, have also been impacted by these same economic forces. Yet, the suicide rate among these groups hasn’t risen.

Besides ECONOMIC WOES, some experts point to the heightened divorce rate among men in this age-range. Whether married or single, women tend to open up to friends and family about their troubles and build a strong network of support. Whereas men generally don’t. If they open up at all, its usually to their partner. But for the divorced or single, there’s no such outlet.

Hegemonic masculinity, according to Meyer, is the idea that ones machismo must be broadcast constantly, no matter what he is dealing with or how he feels inside. It’s stoicism taken to the nth degree. Several studies have found that hegemonic masculinity is detrimental to mens well-being and health outcomes, including Sabo & Gordon, 1995; Courtenay, 2000; and Lee & Owens, 2002.

Psychotherapist Daphne Rose Kingma is the author of the book, The Men We Never Knew. She said, “Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.” Everyone needs to be vulnerable sometimes, and to have someone to confide in and gain support from. Yet, men are taught to feel ashamed or even guilty for doing so.

The customary outlook on masculinity has been shaken to its core by the realities of today’s labor market. Men were traditionally seen as providers. But today, many women earn more than the men in their lives. American women for the first time are more likely to earn a college degree than men. A ”FEMINIZATION” of the labor market has begun as well, offering far more positions where traditional female-oriented skills are valued.

Caucasian men have enjoyed white hegemony in the US. That’s changing. As the “Browning of America” takes shape, whites will become a minority, projected to take place by 2045. Although this may usher in more social equality, the loss of a given-at-birth superiority will chafe a certain segment of the Caucasian community.

Besides the changing status of white men with no college degree, there’s a problem with how we view masculinity in general. It stands in the way of those who are in trouble, getting the help they need and in fact, it isn’t healthy for men or society as a whole, either. In most cases, men are suffering from an eroded sense of self and identity.

They are trying to fit into a role that’s no longer supported by the real world. One way to overcome this, is to update our definition of masculinity for the 21st century. Another would be to build a more gender neutral society, where everyone is looked upon on an individual basis, despite their gender. Regardless of the path we take, men and society as a whole, must become less rigid regarding It’s outlook on masculinity and somehow adopt a more pluralistic view.

To learn more about the suicide epidemic and you can do about it, click HERE

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DEATHS OF DESPAIR

Posted by Elvis on 08/12/17 •
Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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Friday, August 11, 2017

Unmarried Boomers and Old Age

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No Spouse, No Kids, No Caregiver: How to Prepare to Age Alone
A growing population of elder orphansђ lack a built-in support system.
What to do if you become one.

By Anna Medaris Miller
US News
October 26, 2015

When Carol Marak was in her 30s, she asked herself whose life she wanted: her brother’s the life of a successful and well-traveled businessman ֖ or his wife’s the life of a woman whose career better accommodated raising three children.

The answer was a no-brainer: “My brother was in a position I wanted,” says Marak, now a 64-year-old editor at SeniorCare.com who lives in Waco, Texas. Although she had been married and divorced earlier in life, at that point she had no kids and “made a very conscious decision” to keep it that way, she says.

Plenty of Marak’s peers did the same thing. According to a 2012 STUDY in The Gerontologist, about one-third of 45- to 63-year-olds are single, most of whom never married or are DIVORCED. That’s a whopping 50 percent increase since 1980, the study found. What’s more, about 15 percent of 40- to 44-year-old women had no children in 2012 up from about 10 percent in 1980, U.S. Census data shows. “My career was No. 1 in my life,” says Marak, who worked in the technology industry for years.

But today, Marak and her single, childless contemporaries are facing a repercussion of their decision that never crossed their minds as 30-somethings: “How in the world will we take care of ourselves?” she asks.

Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York, is asking the same thing. In research presented this year at The American Geriatric Society’s annual meeting, Carney and her colleagues found that nearly one-quarter of Americans over age 65 are or may become physically or socially isolated and lack someone like a family member to care for them. Carney calls them “elder orphans.”

“The risk of potentially finding yourself without a support system - because the majority of care provided as we get older is provided by family may be increasing,” she says.

The consequences are profound. According to Carney’s work, older adults who consider themselves lonely are more likely to have trouble completing daily tasks, experience cognitive decline, develop coronary heart disease and even die. Those who are socially isolated are also at risk for medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues and health care access problems.

“You could be at a hospital setting at a time of crisis and could delay your treatment or care, and your wishes may not be respected [if you can’t communicate them],” says Carney, also an associate professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine.

Take “Mr. HB,” a 76-year-old New York man described in Carney’s research as “a prototypical elder orphan.” After attempting suicide, he arrived at a hospital with cuts on his wrist, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition and depression. He lived alone and hadn’t been in contact with any relatives in over a year. His treatment was complicated, the researchers report, in part because he was too delirious to make clear decisions or understand his options. He wound up at a nursing facility with plans to eventually be placed in long-term care.

But growing older without kids or a partner doesn’t mean you’re doomed - just as aging with kids and a partner doesn’t mean all’s clear. “We’re all at risk for becoming isolated and becoming elder orphans,” Carney says. You could outlive your spouse or even your children, find yourself living far from your family or wind up in the caretaker role yourself if a family member gets sick. Keep in mind that 69 percent of Americans will need long-term care, even though only 37 percent think they will, according to SeniorCare dot com

Plus, there’s no way around the natural physical and mental declines that come with age. “Everybody has to prepare to live as independently as possible,” Carney says. Here’s how:

1. Speak up.

Marak wishes she had talked more with her friends and colleagues about her decision not to become a mom early on. That may have given her a jump-start on anticipating various problems and developing solutions to growing older while childless. She advises younger generations to discuss their options openly with friends married and single, men and women ֖ before making a firm decision.

“We discuss our psychological issues with professionals. We discuss our money strategies with financial experts,” Marak says. “Why not talk openly about family concerns and what it means to have or not have children? So many of us go into it with blinders on.”

2. Act early.

How early you start planning for your future health depends partly on your current condition and your genes, says Bert Rahl, director of mental health services at the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. “If your ancestry is that people die early, you have to plan sooner and faster,” he says.

But whether you come from a family of supercentenarians or people who have shorter life spans, it’s never too soon to save for long-term care, whether it’s by investing in a home, putting aside a stash for medical emergencies or “whatever you can do to have a nest egg,” Marak says. “Life is serious, especially when you get old. Don’t get to [a point] when you’re 60 and now you’re having to scramble to catch up.”

Still not motivated? “Everybody wants some control in [their] life,” Rahl says. “If you don’t plan, what you’re choosing to do is cede that control to somebody else - and the likelihood that they’re going to have your best interests at heart is a losing proposition.”

3. Make new friends and keep the old.

Your social connections can help with practical health care needs, like driving you to the doctor when you’re unable. But they also do something powerful: keep you alive, research suggests. In a 2012 study of over 2,100 adults age 50 and older, researchers found that the loneliest older adults were nearly twice as likely to die within six years than the least lonely regardless of their health behaviors or social status.

Connections can also help ward off depression, which affects nearly 20 percent of the 65-and-older population, according the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “One of the things that keeps people from being depressed is to be connected,” Rahl says. “The more social activities you have, the more friends, the more things you can do to keep your body and mind active ֖ that’s the best protection you have against mental illness.”

4. Appoint a proxy.

Who is your most trusted friend or relative? “Identify somebody to help you if you’re in a time of crisis, and revisit that periodically over your life,” Carney suggests. Make sure that person knows your Social Security number, where you keep your insurance card, which medications you take “the whole list of things somebody needs to know if they’re going to help you,” advises Dr. Robert Kane, director of the University of Minnesota֒s Center on Aging.

Before you start losing any cognitive capacities, consider designating that person as your durable power of attorney for health care, or the person who makes health care decisions for you when you’re no longer able.

If no one comes to mind, hire an attorney who specializes in elder care law by asking around for recommendations or searching online for highly rated professionals. Unlike your friends, they have a license to defend and are well-versed in elder care issues. Most of the time, Rahl’s found, “they’re trustworthy and will do a good job for you.”

5. Consider moving.

Marak is on a mission: “to create my life where I’m not transportation-dependent,” she says. She’s looking to move to a more walkable city, perhaps a college town where she’s surrounded by young people and can stay engaged with activities like mentoring. She also hopes her future community is filled with other like-minded older adults who can look out for one another. “I want to set up my life where I’m not living alone and isolated,” she says.

Adjusting your living situation so that you can stay connected to others and get to, say, the grocery store or doctor’s office is the right idea, says Carney, who cares for a group of nuns who live communally and has seen other adults create communities that act like “surrogate families,” she says. “Think: Where do you want to live? What’s most easy? How do you access things? How do you have a support system?”

6. Live well.

Marak is lucky: She’s always loved eating healthy foods and walking - two ways to stay as healthy as possible at all ages. “Some of the foods that we eat are really, really bad for the body,” she says. “That’s one of the major causes of chronic conditions and not exercising.”

Keeping your brain sharp is also critical if you want to be able to make informed decisions about your health care, Rahl says. He suggests doing activities that challenge you 0 math problems if numbers trip you up, or crossword puzzles if words aren’t your forte. “The old adage, ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it,’ is 100 percent correct,” he says.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/11/17 •
Section Personal
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Desperate Men

image: old man needs a job

Although certain types of jobs - such as working in a customer-service CALL CENTER - are more likely to be downers, the working environment tends to have a greater impact on mental health than the job description itself.

...we found that those respondents who were unemployed had significantly poorer mental health than those who were employed. However, the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality.  The current results therefore suggest that employment strategies seeking to promote positive outcomes for unemployed individuals need to also take account of job design and workplace policy.
- No Job Vs Lousy Job

Men at work
The age of austerity has transformed work, but what it means to be a man has not caught up

By Allison J, Pugh
December 15, 2015

When Gary Gilbert lost his job, it was devastating. A tradesman, he had joined his employers company only because he thought it offered a bit more security than endlessly chasing the next gig as a freelance operator, and that he could then provide a better future for his son. The layoff came without warning. “I was crushed,” he recalled. “Oh God. I’ve cried at night about it.”

While the layoff shattered his hopes and, Gary believes, was unwarranted, he refused to blame his employer. “I had no reason to take that job,” he explained. “I thought I was going to make a more stable environment, you know. And I was wrong, you know, but that - that was my fault. I shouldn’t have done it. I never should have let my guard down. I never should have put my livelihood in somebody else"s hands. It was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

Gar’s response is not untypical; recent research shows that Americans are more likely to blame themselves for job insecurity, even when it results from structural changes in the economy. I interviewed 80 people up and down the class ladder, and with varying experiences of job precariousness. I found that we do a lot to keep our strong feelings away from the employer, we shrug our shoulders in resignation, we talk about layoffs as new opportunities for growth, we even convince ourselves we are glad not to keep working there anyway. Most of all, we blame ourselves. And while that blame can be corrosive for both men and women, there is something unique in the scarring that results for men, who often see work as a primary measure of masculinity.

For working-class men, it is something of a crisis. There’s a lot of critical talk about the moral character of working-class men - generally conceived of as those with less than a college degree - and most of it revolves around work, reflecting some latent anxiety about who is shirking and who is carrying. We know they watch more television and do less childcare than working-class women, and are less likely than more affluent men to work long hours. Working-class men themselves value being “hard working” among the qualities they prize the most; for the white working-class men who march in the reserve army of US talk radio, working hard is highly prized, and deeply respected. It forms the bedrock of their outrage at those who, talk-radio culture likes to say, “refuse to work.” (For their part, black men value work but also talk about collective solidarity). Underneath the moral language on both sides is the notion of work as the arbiter of honour in the US.

Yet the landscape of jobs in the US has radically altered the configuration of who does what and for what benefit. In contrast to a few decades ago, a much higher percentage of women and people of colour are in the labour force: about 47 per cent of workers today are women, compared with 38 per cent in 1970, while the 36 per cent of non-white workers is almost double their proportion in 1980. Meanwhile, the proportion of men with full-time jobs has shrunk, from 80 per cent 45 years ago to just 66 per cent. The jobs men do have are also increasingly insecure at first due to shifts in types of work across the economy but, since 1996, likely due to the spread of layoffs as a management tactic.

Work might still be a moral measure then, but the distribution of work is increasingly uneven, with some men working too much and many men working too little, and both ensnared in conditions not entirely of their making. For men at the top, work colonises ever more of the days’ 24 hours, while those at the bottom, such as Gary, can face despair, hopelessness, even as was reported recently 0 declining life expectancy. And mens’ changed relationship to work bears implications for their changed relationships at home.

Masculinity has long been written in men’s relationship to work and, despite the onset of feminism, involved fathering, and the slacker, this is even truer today. In 1979, there was a certain rationality to the link between income and hours: the more you made, the less you worked. The bottom 20 per cent of earners were more likely than the top 20 per cent to work very long hours. By 2006, that relationship had reversed. Now, the more money men make, the more likely they are to put in what are often called killer hours. What is behind the reversal? Why would rich men work longer?

Scholars debate the causes. Some credit the long-hours, premium that professional-managerial class men earn meaning the extra money they get for near-constant availability and work - while others point to pay discrepancies within occupations acting as incentives for increased hours (men want to earn more than the guy in the next cubicle), and still others attribute the trend to anxieties about job insecurity that grew in the 1980s and 90s for white-collar workers.

But these arguments overlook the emotional resonance of work, its profound capacity to tell us something about ourselves. What it signals to men is a form of honourable masculinity, as expressed in the moral code of “work devotion,” demanding an enormous time investment and emotional commitment to the career or employer.

Men of the professional-managerial class are the big winners in this transformation of work. For them,"ёinsecurity" can look like “flexibility,” as they jump from company to company in search of a better match for their skills. Highly educated workers are less likely than blue-collar or low-level service workers to suffer job displacement, and when they do, they experience less of a pay loss.

Still, it is well to remember that even at the top the choices can often be strangely constrained: for most men, their only “choice” is either to work intensely or to get off the train. This all-or-nothing scenario has dramatic implications for men, women and families, impeding many men from being the fathers they want to be, funnelling out of promising careers many women who resist the extreme schedule and, for heterosexual couples, creating families that can explode over mismatched goals and possibilities, or conform to more traditional norms than the couple ever planned.

The transformation of work might have quickened the pace of the treadmill for professional men, but it has thrown other men off of it altogether. In the past 50 years, the number of men working full-time has fallen from 83 per cent to 66 per cent; between the 1970s and the ґ90s, the proportion of jobs lost by prime-age working men almost doubled. The change was even more dramatic for black men, partly because disproportionate numbers of them in the US were employed in the dwindling manufacturing sector, not to mention the disproportionate impact of incarceration policies. 

For those men who do work, pay has stagnated, with the purchasing power of the average hourly wage peaking more than 40 years ago in 1973.  These changes have accompanied the withering of unionised labour’s power, which the latest report puts at just 6.6 per cent of private-sector workers. Today, there are more than one and a half times as many contingent workers’ as there are union members in the US.

What does it mean to prize something to understand it as a primary measure of what it means to live a life of value - when it is becoming scarcer? How do men reconcile themselves to the likelihood of their own failure, particularly men with just a high-school degree, who are unemployed at more than three times the rate of college graduates? If work is what it means to be a man, what do you do when work disappears?

One option is to get angry. When I interviewed laid-off men for my recent book on job insecurity, their anger, or more often a wry bitterness, was impossible to forget. By and large, like Gary the laid-off tradesman, they were not angry at their employers.  At home, however, they sounded a different note. I have a very set opinion of relationships and how females handle them,ґ Gary told me, rather flatly. Itґs what Ive seen consistently throughout my life.Ғ On his third serious relationship, Gary talked about the hurt thatґs been caused to me by a lack of commitment on the part of other people, and he complained that Ғmarriage can be tossed out like a Pepsi can. In the winds of uncertainty, Garyђs anger at women keeps him grounded.

Most Americans might expect very little from their employers as one layoff survivor told me: ҖJust a paycheck and a certain amount of respect, I would say. They might shrug their shoulders about job insecurity as the inevitable cost of doing business in a globalised economy (even though some economists have found that layoffs usually end up costing firms rather than boosting stock prices or productivity). At home, however, workingѢclass men expect more of their intimate partners, and brittle yearning turns those expectations into betrayal if they fall short. Abandoned by both employer and wife, Gary aims his ire at just one of these.

It is wrong, however, to read this anger as simply the outrage of a dethroned king who has lost his prerogative. Working-class men such as Gary long for a time when they had rights to women
s loyalty, deference and caring labour, and when, in their view, they earned that right by virtue of the hard work they themselves contributed. The transformation of work dislodged their ability to put up their share of this bargain, one that netted them benefits, to be sure, but also involved years of their backbreaking labour. It is this morality tale that enables them to count themselves wronged, and lends such intensity to their concerns about those mythical emblems of entitlement: able-bodied people who refuse to work. What they want, they maintain, is the opportunity to work hard for their rightful place, to be a working-class hero.

Perhaps a more powerful response to the transformation of work is to change what counts as honourable masculinity. Some men I spoke with seemed to be pursuing a form of independenceђ. They owed employers as little as they themselves were owed which they maintained was not very much indeed ֖ and, at home, they cultivated a careful freedom, even when their feelings ran strong.

Stanley, an actor who had been laid off from several day jobs, was in the middle of a divorce. Bringing up the common trope of working on a marriageђ, he said that we need to redefine the term. Because the work changes,ђ he said. The work can be in letting go. Thatђs the right thing to do. So, yeah, thats all the work. Because I think bottling it up or denying it, if thatҒs what happens, its not going to work either.Ғ Independence dislodged men from domesticity, but although they sometimes celebrated it as freeing, their accounts often echoed with loneliness.

Others try to reshape masculinity not by shrinking obligation but by redirecting it towards the home. Clark had been laid off repeatedly, and was now struggling to bring in enough money by working part-time in retail and playing in a band on weekends.  He talked a lot about how he was raising his daughter making her home-cooked meals, meeting her at the bus, warning her about social media. ֑I wanted her to have a secure life, where she knew there was somebody there for her, he said.

The news is full of stories of involved fathers doing it differently than their own distant dads. To be sure, stay-at-home moms still outnumber stay-at-home dads by about 100 to one and, while fathers who live with their children have doubled their childcare time, they spend fewer hours with children than do mothers; meanwhile the percentage of non‑resident fathers has increased sharply since 1960, with more than a third of children now living without their dads. Still, many men today are finding purpose and meaning in a close relationship to their children.

When I talked with men who were active caregivers, they would often inveigh against those well-meaning but clumsy comments from others exclaiming over their extraordinary dedication; as Owen described them: ґWell-meaning people making comments like: Oh, gosh. Most men would have walked away.Ӕ Yadda yadda yadda. And that used to make me so mad I used to get offended by that.Œ Characterising what they do as a commendable choice is annoying because it implies that they might not have stepped up to do this refashioned masculine duty. It is precisely that it is not a choice, but instead part of their good character, their honourable soul, that makes active fatherhood an alternative heroic masculinity.

Nonetheless, most working‑class men such as Gary are trapped by a changing economy and an intransigent masculinity. Faced with changes that reduce the options for less-educated men, they have essentially three choices, none of them very likely. They can pursue more education than their family background or their school success has prepared them for. They can find a low-wage job in a high-growth sector, positions that are often considered womens work, such as a certified nursing assistant or retail cashier. Or they can take on more of the domestic labour at home, enabling their partners to take on more work to provide for the household. These are “choices” that either force them to be class pioneers or gender insurgents in their quest for a sustainable heroism; while both are laudable, we can hardly expect them of most men, and yet this is precisely the dilemma that faces men today.

What does it take to turn the anger of despairing men into violence? The grief and antagonism that erupt after every school shooting focus on either a prevailing gun culture or mental health problems, but masculinity is surely an indispensable component. Research has shown that the roots of these paroxysms of violence are in the toxic relationship between ґmasculinity threat Җ a mans individual perception that he cannot live up to the ideals of dominant masculinity - and a cultural betrayal, the sense that men are owed something they are no longer getting.

In the meantime, the code of work devotion is nothing but lucky for employers, part of the moral glue that keeps us all beholden to the job. But if theres a love affair happening with work, it is in large part unrequited. Employers have backed away from the old reciprocity norms, while affluent men labour ceaselessly to prove their mettle, and less advantaged men languish in despair. Is there any way we can respond?

It is worth pointing out that work precariousness is not inescapable; policies that encourage longer-term employment do exist in other countries (and some states). They are of three kinds. The first rewards employers who want to offer stable work, through such ideas as ґshort-time compensation, or the use of unemployment insurance to enable work-sharing instead of layoffs. The second builds stronger relationships between employers and workers, including incentives for workplace training, or an improved accountability framework holding employers responsible even for subcontracted or outsourced labour. The third makes it easier for workers to do their jobs well, such as paid parental leave or measures to improve unpredictable scheduling.

But there’s reason for skepticism about any policies that fall short of those that amplify labour’s voice, which in the US is now quite muted. Other rich countries with higher union density take steps to enable both employer flexibility and worker security, through income supports and retraining. In the US, better enforcement of labour law provisions that protect the right to organise would enable workers to slow down or impede layoffs, or to shape how they happen. A more subtle outcome would nonetheless be just as important: some scholars think that, just like the black church seems to do for black men, unions could remind more white working-class men to prize not just “hard work” but also solidarity and other values. 

While we can tackle the distribution and character of work, it is less clear whether we can dislodge its moral monopoly. Given radical economic shifts, perhaps more men will redefine the honourable, so that dominant masculinity reflects other traits and qualities, perhaps even contributions that more of them can reliably make. Still, we must not underestimate a core attribute about masculinity: it has long involved social norms that are widely understood and upheld but that only a few can actually live up to. Given that history, we cannot assume that the increased scarcity of a decent job will weaken the hold it has over honour, nor lead to masculinity’s remaking. That will require another seismic shift, this time in the cultural landscape.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/10/17 •
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