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

 
Sheep: Shearing Record Smashed In Hawke’s Bay

Three shearers gathered from around New Zealand have smashed a World record by 264 sheep despite the heat, the pumiced sheep of inland Hawke’s Bay and a year’s wool weighing an average of over 3.5kg a sheep. More>>

ALSO:

Carrie Fisher: Hollywood In-Breeding & The Velocity Of Being - Binoy Kampmark

There was always going to be a good deal of thick drama around Carrie Fisher, by her own confession, a product of Hollywood in-breeding. Her parents, Debbie Reynolds and the crooner Eddie Fisher, provided ample material for the gossip columns in a marriage breakup after Eddie sped away with Elizabeth Taylor. More>>

  • Image: Tracey Nearmy / EPA
  • Gordon Campbell: On The Best Albums Of 2016

    OK, I’m not even going to try and rationalise this surrender to a ‘best of’ listicle. Still…maybe there is an argument for making some semblance of narrative order out of a year that brought us Trump, Brexit and the deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Alan Vega, who I missed just as much as the Big Three. So without further ado….oh, but first a word from the sponsor More>>

    Emojis: World’s First Māori Emoji App Launched

    It’s here - the world’s first Māori emoji app Emotiki has landed just in time for summer roadtrips and santa stockings, with 200 Māori and Kiwi cultural icons for people to share their kiwiana moments with each other and the world. More>>

    ALSO:

    Howard Davis: Album Of The Year - Van Morrison's 'Keep Me Singing'

    2016 was a grand year for Van The Man - The Belfast Cowboy turned 71, received a knighthood, and reissued an expanded set of soul-fired live recordings from 1973 ('It's Too Late to Stop Now'). In the game for 53 years now, Morrison's albums consistently open new windows into the heart and soul of one of the most enigmatic figures in modern music. More>>

    Review: The NZSO Performs Handel's Messiah

    Max Rashbrooke: Saturday night's performance took the piece back to something like the way it would have originally been performed when premiered in 1742, with an orchestra of 20-30 players and only a few more singers. More>>

    Culture: Rare Hundertwasser Conservation Posters Found After 40 Years

    When Jan and Arnold Heine put a roll of conservation posters into storage in 1974 they had no idea that 42 years later they would be collectors items. More>>

    Get More From Scoop

     
     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
    Education
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news