Bird’s Eye: As unemployment climbs (50% among under 25s in Spain*), so do does anxiety and fear (and crime, etc). And this is true across Western countries…the German solution is one I hadn’t seen explored (share less work among everyone). Doonesbury helps clarify the issue, in a succinct 4 panels.
* Job Insecurity: It’s the Disease of the 21st Century — And It’s Killing the US AlterNet
But the global recession has blown the numbers experiencing persistent job insecurity through the roof. In the U.S., the stress of three years of unemployment over 8 percent – the longest stretch at that level since the Great Depression – has rocketed our anxieties to new heights, even among traditionally secure workers. In Europe, where employees have enjoyed more protections, workers are feeling increasingly stressed, often trapped in low-wage and temporary employment with few benefits. Even in Germany, this trend of part-time “mini-jobs” is wiping away the old image of Europe as a worker-friendly land of happy, full-time employment.
…It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Our capitalist endeavor was supposed to make us safe from the vagaries of weather conditions and arbitrary events that harassed our ancestors. But somehow we’ve ended up more worried than ever. Anxiety disorders now plague 18 percent of the U.S. adult population –- a whopping 40 million people. Only half that number is affected by mood disorders. The drug alprazolam — familiar by its brand name, Xanax — was prescribed 46.3 million times in 2010, making it that year’s bestselling psychiatric drug. Prozac, the happiness-and-optimism pill, has been pushed aside by a medication meant to just help you get through the day without collapsing in a puddle of anxiety.
* Millions Of Working Families One Push From Penury The Guardian
Almost 7 million working-age adults are living in extreme financial stress, one small push from penury, despite being in employment and largely independent of state support, according to the most comprehensive study yet of the finances of employed households, commissioned by the Guardian.
Unlike the “squeezed middle”, these 3.6m British households have little or no savings, nor equity in their homes, and struggle at the end of each month to feed themselves and their children adequately. They say they are unable to cope on their current incomes and have no assets to fall back on, leaving them vulnerable to something as simple as an unexpectedly large fuel bill.
* Why Americans Should Work Less – The Way Germans Do Dean Baker The Guardian
There is nothing natural about the length of the average work week or work year and there are, in fact, large variations across countries. The average worker in Germany and the Netherlands puts in 20% fewer hours in a year than the average worker in the United States. This means that if the US adopted Germany’s work patterns tomorrow, it would immediately eliminate unemployment.
Of course, it is unrealistic to imagine such large changes occurring overnight, but governments can certainly attempt to encourage employers to shorten workweeks and increase vacation and other paid time-off. In fact, this is the real secret of Germany’s post-crisis recovery. Germany’s growth has been no better than growth in the United States since the start of the downturn, yet its unemployment rate has fallen by 2.0 percentage points – while unemployment in the United States has risen by almost 4.0 percentage points. The difference is that Germany encourages firms to reduce work hours rather than lay off workers.
* Doonesbury: The Chinese Dream