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Posts Tagged ‘young workers’

Jobs Crisis Spreads to Young Workers Worldwide

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Credit: Joe Kekeris

Young workers in the euro zone have been among the hardest hit by the global economic crisis, and now even those in regions like East Asia, where economies have remained strong through the recession, are struggling to get jobs, a new International Labor Organization (ILO) report shows (click chart to enlarge).

As the euro area crisis continues in its second year, the impacts are spreading further, slowing down economies from East Asia to Latin America. Other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, that had expected faster improvements in their youth labor markets will now take longer to revert to levels seen prior to the global financial crisis.

As a result, young workers in Europe (ages 15 to 24) are turning to part-time employment and increasingly finding work in the informal sector (jobs not taxed by the government or included in the gross domestic product [GDP]). Some 17 percent of young European workers are in the informal sector, compared with 7 percent for prime age workers. The report also points out there is a vast disparity among European countries: Youth unemployment rates range from more than 50 percent in Spain and Greece to less than 10 percent in Germany and Switzerland.

In the United States, nearly 24 percent of young workers between ages 16 and 19 are unemployed. The employment picture also is bleak for young workers with college degrees. Only half of those who graduated between 2006 and 2011 have full-time jobs. More than half are saddled with college debt (the median amount is $20,000) that is shaping their life choices. For example, more than one-quarter live with their parents, and more than half get help from their families to meet basic needs.

The ILO is calling for countries to provide employment or training guarantees for targeted groups of young people, citing estimates that such programs cost less than half a percent of GDP among European countries.

Check out the ILO’s full report.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on September 6, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

What Younger Generations Think about Social Security- Maybe Not What You Thought

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Jesci“We are in the midst of the most dangerous threat to Social Security I have seen in my lifetime,” exclaimed Ross Eisenbrey, Vice President for the Economic Policy Institute during opening remarks last Wednesday for a panel discussion on young people and Social Security. As discussions got underway it became apparent that while Social Security may be threatened, the youth of America thought it was one of the most important benefits the government provided and Social Security would stay strong as long as politics allowed it.

Celinda Lake, one of the panel members from Lake Research Partners, shared her findings with the audience explaining younger generations were fearful of the economy because of the recent economic crisis, and therefore, opposed any cuts to Social Security, even with the growing deficit. She explained if Social Security wasn’t offered, the older generations would stay in their positions even longer not allowing for the younger generations to take their places in the workforce. She found in her research that younger voters, whom have been hit the hardest by the economy are more supportive towards Social Security, and think it should be guaranteed because employees pay taxes on it. Lake explained that young people do agree with Social Security, so the question needs to be: how do we mobilize them and get that message heard through the polls? Her bottom line was that we can entrust Social Security to young people in the country even if we can’t trust the people in Washington.

The next speaker, Teresa Ghillarduci, author of When I’m 64, The Plot Against Pensions and Plan to Save Them, explained that the days of the 1960’s when men had to continue to work to define themselves has ended. People want the freedom to retire and enjoy life after working 45 years. If we erode retirement savings plans then people will have to stay in the workplace longer and their health and well being is at risk. People who retire when they want to enjoy a much healthier and stress free life, and get to enjoy the freedoms retirement is meant for.

Finally, Kathryn Edwards, author of the Economic Policy Institute’s Young Persons Guide to Social Security, got up and shared her experience when dealing with young people and their views of Social Security in a nutshell. She referred to this idea as the “Youth Challenge: because they don’t think they’ll need it and they don’t think they’ll get it.”  She was quick to point out that Social Security is not, “just money for old people but a system of social insurance.”

Social Security is a program utilized more strongly by the middle class than people think. It is not simply to provide for the elderly who do not have good retirements already, but it is a tool people can rely on and a promise made to them to provide a supplement to them when they are in need and unable to work. Social Security is all about the risk associated with not being able to work whether you are disabled, elderly or suffer from an untimely death. But, the main difference between Social Security and other forms of privatized insurance is that Social Security only spends $.01 for every dollar on administrative costs. This figure would be unheard of in a private insurance provider.

Kathryn’s message was simple in that you cannot outsmart risk, so the bottom line is that you need protection from it. People have fears about the future of Social Security, including the idea that people are living longer and we will run out of money to support them. But, life expectancy increasing over the years is a reason to celebrate Social Security, as it is working and allowing people to live longer because they can live out their elder years more stress free.

According to the research conducted at the Economic Policy Institute, to continue Social Security working smoothly and as promised for the over 53 million people receiving its’ benefits, it would cost only 1.5% of the GDP, which was the same amount spent on national defense between 2001 and 2007. Social Security is a well thought out and functioning plan which has provided people with their chance at enjoying retirement since 1935. The younger generations need to step up and ensure politics don’t get in the way of this honorable American program and break the promise made to millions of American workers.

About the Author: Jesci Drake is a current law student and legal intern for WorkPlace Fainess.

Young Workers in Free Fall: 1/3 Under 35 Live with Parents

Thursday, October 7th, 2010
Image: Art LevineSo much for the economic independence that’s supposed to come with young adulthood.

But when unemployment among young men workers is the highest it’s been in 61 years, as noted by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, it’s little wonder that workers under 35 are facing so many economic obstacles.

On Tuesday, the AFL-CIO released the results of a disturbing new Peter Hart survey, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade” that found that about a third of workers under 35 live at home with their parents, and they’re far less likely to have health care or job security than they were ten years ago. Even then, in a 1999 survey, when they faced economic insecurity, they still had reasons to be hopeful.

Those days are long gone. A quarter of young workers say they don’t earn enough to even pay their monthly bills, a 14% rise from the last survey. As Richard Trumka, the presumptive incoming president of the AFL-CIO, said in a press conference today:

We’re calling the report “A Lost Decade” because we’re seeing 10 years of opportunity lost as young workers across the board are struggling to keep their heads above water and often not succeeding. They’ve put off adulthood – – put off having kids, put off education – and a full 34 percent of workers under 35 live with their parents for financial reasons.Thirty-five percent are significantly less likely to have health care than older workers, only 31 percent make enough money to pay their bills while putting anything aside in savings, and almost half are more worried than hopeful about their economic future.

That’s one reason that Trumka and other labor leaders announced this week a new outreach campaign to recruit young workers — and a stepped-up drive for the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform. They used Labor Day, with the  involvement of 100,000 union members in just the AFL-CIO alone in events and actions, as a launching pad to spur Congressional action.

As Trumka declared in a speech Monday at the Center for American Progress (via Working In These Times blog):

The challenge facing unions isn’t just to change the way labor laws work; it’s to change the way we work.It’s to reconfigure ourselves to respond to the needs of a new generation of working Americans….

Younger workers ought to have health care. They ought to have paid sick leave and paid vacations. They ought to have pensions. They ought to have union representation.

But when they look at unions too often what they see is a remnant of their parents’ economy — not a path to succeed on their own. This is the issue that will decide the future of the American labor movement.

We all hear a lot about unions coming back into the AFL-CIO — and that’s a personal priority of mine – but, ultimately, it won’t matter how many unions are in the AFL-CIO if we fail to capture the imagination of millennials.

Now, we ought to be clear: the problem isn’t that they have some deep-seated hatred of unions; they don’t….They think we do a lot of good things for our members; the problem is that they don’t think we have much to offer them.

The union movement hopes to change that perception by offering them the concrete gains unions can offer them in the workplace, and as In These Times’s David Moberg observes, they’re potentially open to progressive appeals:

They primarily blame Bush, Wall Street/banks, and corporate CEOs and see job loss, inadequate wages, and healthcare costs as working people’s biggest economic problems.They strongly prefer public investment to create jobs over reducing the deficit. And by a 50 to 23 percent margin, they think workers are better off with a union. They support Obama and identify with Democrats much more strongly than older workers.

But the future now looks particularly bleak, especially if the “jobless recovery” continues at its relatively slow pace, and the level playing field for union organizing remains blocked by opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.

At the media conference on Tuesday, one 31-year-old worker, Nate Scherer, explained his all-too-common plight:

After getting married, my wife and I decided to move in with my parents to pay off our bills. We could afford to live on our own but we’d never be able to get out of debt. We have school loans to pay off, too. We’d like to have children, but we just can’t manage the expense of it right now…so we’re putting it off till we’re in a better place. My [work] position is on the edge, and I feel like if my company were to cut back, my position would be one of the first to go.

Nate at least has a job, but he represents an economic tsunami for young workers that offers a profound challenge to the country — and our economic future. As Bob Herbert, looking at both long-term joblessness and the problems facing young workers, summed up recently in his column“A Scary Reality”:

For those concerned with the economic viability of the American family going forward, the plight of young workers, especially young men, is particularly frightening. The percentage of young American men who are actually working is the lowest it has been in the 61 years of record-keeping, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.
Only 65 of every 100 men aged 20 through 24 years old were working on any given day in the first six months of this year. In the age group 25 through 34 years old, traditionally a prime age range for getting married and starting a family, just 81 of 100 men were employed.

For male teenagers, the numbers were disastrous: only 28 of every 100 males were employed in the 16- through 19-year-old age group…

This should be the biggest story in the United States. When joblessness reaches these kinds of extremes, it doesn’t just damage individual families; it corrodes entire communities, fosters a sense of hopelessness and leads to disorder.

The union movement’s leaders are hoping that by engaging young workers and increasing its power in more workplaces, they can start turning around this crisis and making up for “The Lost Decade.”

This article was originally published on Alternet.org.

About the Author: Art Levine, a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly, has written for Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate.com, Salon.com and numerous other publications. He can be reached at [email protected]

Global Youth Unemployment Reaches Record Levels

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Image: James ParksThe global economic crisis has been especially bad for young workers. A new report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) shows that while youth unemployment has been steadily worsening for more than a decade, the economic crisis caused an explosive increase in the jobless rate for young workers. The report, issued late last week, kicked off the United Nations International Youth Year.

At the end of 2009, 81 million young workers between the ages of 15 and 24 around the world were unemployed—the highest number ever. The overall jobless rate for young workers globally is now 13 percent, the ILO says. Rising youth unemployment is compounded by some 152 million young “working poor” caught in extreme poverty.

In the United States, an AFL-CIO report, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade,” published last fall, showed a massive decline in the economic situation of young workers here over the past 10 years. Among other findings, the survey shows that one-third of young American workers cannot pay their bills.

This high and rising level of youth unemployment globally is a “social time-bomb” that risks damaging the social, economic and political fabric of countries around the world, says Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC):

An entire generation of young people is being left behind, and the consequences of this for society will be severe. Governments have to act urgently to get job-creation moving, by maintaining economic stimulus where it is needed rather than by cutting public expenditure.

Read the ILO report here.

Trade unions in the United States and around the world are pressing governments to adopt policies that focus on creating good jobs now. Burrow says we also must push for specific measures to improve the access of young people to decent jobs and quality education and training.

About the Author: James Parks had his first encounter with unions at Gannett’s newspaper in Cincinnati when his colleagues in the newsroom tried to organize a unit of The Newspaper Guild. He saw firsthand how companies pull out all the stops to prevent workers from forming a union. He is a journalist by trade, and worked for newspapers in five different states before joining the AFL-CIO staff in 1990. He has also been a seminary student, drug counselor, community organizer, event planner, adjunct college professor and county bureaucrat. His proudest career moment, though, was when he served, along with other union members and staff, as an official observer for South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Author photo by Joe Kekeris

Young Workers: Hit Hard, Hitting Back

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Image: Liz ShulerAs newly elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, I traveled the country this fall, talking with workers and hearing their concerns. The economic crisis is causing a lot of pain. So many people have no jobs, no health care–and many are losing their homes. And as I looked into the faces of young workers, the reality hit home that these young people are part of the first generation in recent history likely to be worse off than their parents.

This is a tragedy.

The AFL-CIO and our community affiliate, Working America, recently surveyed young workers–and I’m not talking about 17- and 18-year-olds. I’m talking about 18- to 34-year-olds. In the past 10 years, young workers have suffered disproportionately from the downturn in the economy:

  • One in three young workers is worried about being able to find a job–let alone a full-time job with benefits.
  • Only 31 percent make enough money to cover their bills and put some aside–that is 22 percentage points worse than it was 10 years ago.
  • Nearly half worry about having more debt than they can handle.
  • One in three still lives at home with parents.

Young workers are living the effects of a 30-year campaign to create a low-wage workforce. It has succeeded.

For decades, the far right led an anti-government, anti-investment, feed-the-rich-and-starve-the-poor drive that gave us an era of deregulation, privatization and job exporting.

At the same time, corporations and government attacked unions and workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for decent wages and benefits. When unions are strong, paychecks grow and workers have benefits like health care and pensions.

When unions are under attack, paychecks shrink. Pensions vanish. Health care becomes the emergency room.

What’s left is not working for young people–or for any of us. It will take a broadly shared sense of wartime urgency to replace today’s low-wage economy with a high-wage, high-skills economy. The first step must be immediate action to address the nation’s jobs crisis, with five essential steps:

  1. Extend the lifeline for jobless workers.
  2. Rebuild America’s schools, roads and energy systems and invest in green technology and green jobs.
  3. Increase aid to state and local governments to maintain vital services.
  4. Fund jobs in our communities.
  5. Put TARP funds to work for Main Street with job-creating loans to small businesses.

We took these initiatives to the White House Summit on Jobs on Dec. 3 and are pushing Congress to take action now. The first reports from the Jobs Summit are encouraging, and we look forward to working with the Obama administration and Congress to carry on this momentum.

It’s time to rebuild an economy that works–an economy based on prosperity, an economy we can be proud to pass on to our children and their children. And we need young people to lead the way. That survey I mentioned earlier shows they are ready.

· Young workers have a whole new level of civic engagement, with the surge of new voters in the 2008 election.
· They are well-informed and following government and policy news.
· They believe in collective action and understand the power of having a union.
· They have hope for the future and the vision of a savvy, diverse movement to bring about progressive change.

We’re planning a major summit for young workers after the first of the year to bring all our ideas and voices together. When crises hit, it’s young people who drive change.

Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 when he led the Montgomery bus boycott. At 25, César Chávez was registering Mexican Americans to vote. Walter Reuther headed strikes demanding GM recognize its workers’ rights starting when he was 30. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was 33 when she drafted the declaration of women’s rights.

Young people are being hard in this jobs crisis. But I believe they provide much of the fuel we need to get out of it.

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post on December 7, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.

**Photo credt: © 2009 Jay Mallin.  All rights reserved. Licensed soley for use in publications, both electronic and print, websites, and public relations of the AFL-CIO.  All other uses, publication, or distribution strictly prohibited. Licensing is contingent on payment in full of our invoice. For more information, contact: [email protected] 202-363-2756

About the Author: Liz Shuler was elected AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer in September 2009, the youngest person ever to become an officer of the AFL-CIO. Shuler previously was the highest-ranking women in the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, serving as the top assistant to the IBEW president since 2004. In 1993, she joined IBEW Local 125 in Portland, Ore., where she worked as an organizer and state legislative and political director. In
1998, she was part of the IBEW’s international staff in Washington, D.C., as a legislative and political representative.

‘Young Workers: A Lost Decade’

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

(The following post is part of our Taking Back Labor Day blog series. Many people view Labor Day as just another day off from work, the end of summer, or a fine day for a barbecue. We think that it’s a holiday with a rich history, and an excellent occasion to examine what workers, and workers rights activism, means to this country. Our Taking Back Labor Day posts in September will do that, from a variety of perspectives, and we hope you’ll tune in and join the discussion!)

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Take a look around this Labor Day. Chances are, you’ll see a lot of young workers on the job, because something bad happened in the past 10 years to young workers in this country: Since 1999, more of them now have lower-paying jobs, if they can get a job at all; health care is a rare luxury and retirement security is something for their parents, not them. In fact, many—younger than 35—still live at home with their parents because they can’t afford to be on their own.

These are the findings of a new report, “Young Workers: A Lost Decade.” Conducted in July 2009 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America, the nationwide survey of 1,156 people follows up on a similar survey the AFL-CIO conducted in 1999. The deterioration of young workers’ economic situation in those 10 years is alarming.

Nate Scherer, 31, is among today’s young workers. Scherer lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he shares a home with his wife, his parents, brother and his partner.  He spoke at a media conference at the AFL-CIO today to discuss the report.

After getting married, my wife and I decided to move in with my parents to pay off our bills. We could afford to live on our own but we’d never be able to get out of debt. We have school loans to pay off, too. We’d like to have children, but we just can’t manage the expense of it right now…so we’re putting it off till we’re in a better place. My [work] position is on the edge, and I feel like if my company were to cut back, my position would be one of the first to go.

During today’s press briefing, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka summed up the report’s findings this way:

We’re calling the report “A Lost Decade” because we’re seeing 10 years of opportunity lost as young workers across the board are struggling to keep their heads above water and often not succeeding. They’ve put off adulthood—put off having kids, put off education—and a full 34 percent of workers under 35 live with their parents for financial reasons.

Just last week we learned that about 1.7 million fewer teenagers and young adults were employed in July than a year before, hitting a record low of 51.4 percent.

As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said:  

Young workers in particular must be given the tools to lead the next generation to prosperity. The national survey we’re releasing today shows just how broken our economy is for our young people…and what’s at stake if we don’t fix it.

Some of the report’s key findings include:

  • 31 percent of young workers report being uninsured, up from 24 percent 10 years ago, and 79 percent of the uninsured say they don’t have coverage because they can’t afford it or their employer does not offer it.
  • Strikingly, one in three young workers are currently living at home with their parents.
  • Only 31 percent say they make enough money to cover their bills and put some money aside—22 percentage points fewer than in 1999—while 24 percent cannot even pay their monthly bills. 
  • A third cannot pay their bills and seven in 10 do not have enough saved to cover two months of living expenses.
  • 37 percent have put off education or professional development because they can’t afford it.
  • When asked who is most responsible for the country’s economic woes, close to 50 percent of young workers place the blame on Wall Street and banks or corporate CEOs. And young workers say greed by corporations and CEOs is the factor most to blame for in the current financial downturn.
  • By a 22-point margin, young workers favor expanding public investment over reducing the budget deficit. Young workers rank conservative economic approaches such as reducing taxes, government spending and regulation on business among the five lowest of 16 long-term priorities for Congress and the president.
  • Thirty-five percent say they voted for the first time in 2008, and nearly three-quarters now keep tabs on government and public affairs, even when there’s not an election going on.
  • The majority of young workers and nearly 70 percent of first-time voters are confident that Obama will take the country in the right direction.

Trumka, who is running for AFL-CIO president without announced opposition at our convention later this month, is making union outreach to young people a top priority. He said one of the report’s conclusions is especially striking:

Young people want to be involved but they’re rarely asked. Their priorities are even more progressive than the priorities of the older generation of working people, yet they aren’t engaged by co-workers or friends to get involved in the economic debate.

Currently, 18-to-35-year-olds make up a quarter of union membership. And at the AFL-CIO Convention, we will ask Convention delegates to approve plans for broad recruitment of young workers, as well as plans for training and leadership of young workers who are currently union members. And that’s just the beginning of a broad push towards talking and mobilizing young workers in the coming months and years.

According to the report, more than half of young workers say employees are more successful getting problems resolved as a group rather than as individuals, and employees who have a union are better off than employees in similar jobs who do not.

Read the full report here.

About the Author: Seth D. Michaels is the online campaign coordinator for the AFL-CIO, focusing on the Employee Free Choice campaign. Prior to arriving at the AFL-CIO, he’s worked on online mobilization for Moveon.org, Blue State Digital and the National Jewish Democratic Council. He also spent two years touring the country as a member of the Late Night Players, a sketch comedy troupe.

This article originally appeared in employeefreechoice.org. Re-printed with permission from the author.

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