August 11, 2004

· Sociology

Two good things from Mark Schmitt (but you wouldn’t expect anything less, right?). There’s an American Prospect Piece by him about the long-term effects of the congressional reforms of the 1950s and ‘60s, and a post about jobs with no sick leave:

According to the brilliant analysts at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, sixty-six million workers, or 54% of the workforce, does not get a single paid sick day after a full year on the job.

That statistic, I think, is one of the best indicators of the two classes of the labor market, and how the divide is not so much about wages and income as about benefits and security. And those of us on the relatively secure side of the divide cannot really understand how different life is in a world where you don’t have any paid sick leave. I might think I understand what it is to earn low wages—$10,500/year, in my first job—but I’ve never had a job that didn’t offer sick days. Can’t even imagine it.

Jacob Hacker has a sort of preview of his next book in The New Republic, and I think he is most clearly saying the big thing that needs to be said about the economy: That the principal problem, the big thing that has changed, is not the number of jobs, the rate of growth, or income inequality. It’s the shift in risk from the government and corporations onto individuals. … [B]ut while some of us have been able to exchange the security of the past for greater economic opportunity, a majority of workers are absorbing more risk without accompanying reward.

We’ve mentioned this phenomenon before at CT, as has Daniel in some older posts about pension schemes.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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