Analyses in Mother Jones and Natural Health describe what's wrong with work


September 03, 1995|By Bruce McCabe | Bruce McCabe,Boston Globe

How's your job? The week's reading suggests at least three responses to that question: What job? To which one of my jobs are you referring? Or, compared with what?

Jeremy Rifkin's "Vanishing Jobs" in October's Mother Jones and Andrea Pyenson's "Change Your Job, Save Your Life" in the September/October Natural Health tell you much if not most of what you need to know about what's happening.

"While corporate profits are heading through the roof, average families struggle to keep a roof over their heads. More than one-fifth of the work force is trapped in temporary assignments or works only part time," Mr. Rifkin writes. "Millions of others have slipped quietly out of the economy and into an underclass no longer counted in the permanent employment figures. A staggering 15 percent of the population now lives below the official poverty line."

Mr. Rifkin predicts a "deep recession," citing large drops in tTC manufacturing jobs, rising inventories and declining consumer confidence. He outlines the global economy's shift from "mass labor" to highly skilled "elite labor." "Factory workers, secretaries, receptionists, clerical workers, salesclerks, bank tellers, telephone operators, librarians, wholesalers, and middle managers are . . . destined for virtual extinction."

In her article, Ms. Pyenson delineates the "work zombie" who "awakens, washes, gulps down coffee, goes to work for an interminable day, then drags home, only to get up the next morning and do it all again." Indeed, she writes, "the average worker is spending more and more time at the office and increasingly less time at home."

She cites findings that in 1990, male workers were down to 17 hours of free time a week, less than half the amount their grandfathers had. (She adds that although males are cited in this survey, women face time problems that are "similarly dismal.")

Both authors argue that time, not money, is the issue and that the 30-hour work week is the solution. Mr. Rifkin writes that working women, who now make up about half of the workplace, "may hold the key to whether organized labor can reinvent itself in time to survive the Information Age," something that, he notes, will take time, since of the 83 unions in the AFL-CIO, only one is headed by a woman.

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