Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search

 


Research reveals unsustainability of America’s workplaces

Research reveals unsustainability of America’s workplaces


The research of a Victoria University of Wellington lecturer who shadowed truck drivers, Wall Street traders and unemployed workers in the United States for several months, reveals the precarious nature of America’s workforce.

Dr Benjamin Snyder, a lecturer in Victoria’s School of Social and Cultural Studies, is turning his experiences, originally documented for his PhD, into a book, which examines how the American workplace has changed over the last 30 years. He believes the experiences of United States workers reflects a wider global trend, to which the New Zealand workplace is not immune.

“I wanted to know how work shapes people’s experience of everyday life,” he says.

“What surprised me was the anxiety that people from all three groups were facing. Although many of them enjoyed their jobs, they didn’t see them as sustainable in the long term. There was this sense that their bodies were going to wear out, or that they couldn’t maintain the stress of their jobs, or that they were likely to get fired soon.”

Dr Snyder spent two months on the road with truck drivers, clocking up thousands of miles, sleeping when the driver slept and staying awake for long hours.

“I gained a huge appreciation for what it takes to keep consumer capitalism going—given that most of the stuff around us has been brought here by trucks,” he says.

“These drivers are enduring crazy schedules and pushing their bodies to the limit—one day they might sleep in the middle of the day, the next they’ll be sleeping late at night.

“For Wall Street traders, the challenge is much more cognitive. They have to learn how to make their minds work at the same speed as these Matrix-like streams of text on screen. Sometimes they have to make instant decisions where millions of dollars are on the line.

“When they finally disengage from the screen after a long day they’re exhausted, and this can have a negative effect on their family lives. On the surface, these people have the best type of job—it’s high paying, engaging, creative and carries a lot of status. But many of the workers I interacted with weren’t sure that the stress was worth it in the long term.”

Dr Snyder says post-industrial capitalism has changed the face of work. “Companies used to cultivate workers who would stick with them for life. Although this has its own set of problems and anxieties, a worker could at least picture their life trajectory. Today’s typical employer wants a flexible worker, who doesn’t get too committed to just one thing.”

The unemployed workers Dr Snyder talked to were mostly white collar professionals who had lost their jobs after the 2007 financial collapse.

“A lot of them were older and had never been unemployed before. Many of the tasks they had been doing in their work were becoming obsolete because of digital processes that could do the work, or their work had been outsourced to another country where labour was cheaper, or their companies had elected to reduce costs by laying off staff.

“Many of the unemployed people I engaged with were looking at starting their own businesses and those that were looking to return to corporate America were seeking work with the assumption that they would lose their next job within three years. Their advice for everyone was to become a permanent job seeker.”

Dr Snyder says he was surprised to find just how precarious today’s workplace is. “There aren’t necessarily continuous and smooth trajectories for one’s life course out there that you can ‘plug into’ with the right background and education.

“In New Zealand, the advantage I see is the stronger tradition of labour movements and unions, which has basically dissolved in the States—having that third party to intervene is, I believe, essential for today’s workers.”

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Scoop Review Of Books: From Here And There

Being Chinese: A New Zealander’s Story
by Helene Wong.
This is the fascinating story of Helene Wong, born in 1949 in Taihape to Chinese parents: her mother, born soon after her parents migrated here, and her father, born in China but sent to relatives in Taihape at seven to get an education in English. More>>

Chiku: Hamilton Zoo's Baby Chimpanzee Named

Hamilton Zoo has named its three-month-old baby chimpanzee after a month-long public naming competition through the popular zoo’s website. The name chosen is Chiku, a Swahili name for girls meaning "talker" or "one who chatters". More>>

Game Over: Trans-Tasman Netball League To Discontinue

Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand have confirmed that the existing ANZ Championship format will discontinue after the current 2016 season, with both organisations to form national netball leagues in their respective countries. More>>

NZSO Review: Stephen Hough Is Perfection-Plus

He took risks, and leant into the music when required. But you also felt that every moment of his playing made sense in the wider picture of the piece. Playing alongside him, the NZSO were wonderful as ever, and their guest conductor, Gustavo Gimeno, coaxed from them a slightly darker, edgier sound than I’m used to hearing. More>>

ALSO:

Howard Davis Review: King Lear At Circa

In order to celebrate it's 40th birthday, it is perhaps fitting that Circa Theatre should pick a production of 'King Lear,' since it's also somewhat fortuitously Shakespeare's 400th anniversary. If some of the more cerebral poetry is lost in Michael Hurst's streamlined, full throttle production, it's more than made up for by plenty of lascivious violence designed to entertain the groundlings. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Tauranga Books Festival

Escape to Tauranga for Queen’s Birthday weekend and an ideas and books-focused festival that includes performance, discussion, story-telling, workshops and an Italian-theme morning tea. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Education
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news