Tuesday, September 23, 2014
10

分享工作

发自伯克利——美国目前正面临着一场自1930年代以来从未有过的长期失业危机。正如美联储主席伯南克(Ben Bernanke)在最近一次演说中提到的那样:大概有40%的失业者已失业超过6个月,比二战后任何一次衰退中出现的比率都要高。

这场长期失业危机正在对那些受影响者的生活造成深远的影响。而我们之所以知道这一点,就是得益于一系列对1930年代大萧条的深入细致研究。

其中最广为人知的是E·怀特·巴克(E. Wight Bakke)——此君当时还是位研究生,后来成为耶鲁大学经济学教授——对康涅狄格州纽黑文市长期失业的研究。通过参与者访谈,个人观察,时间日志和纵向研究等方式,巴克说明了失业期的不断延长是如何导致劳动者丧失其技能并使之更难以找到新工作的。长期失业同时也会引发一系列生理和心理问题,其中包括意志消沉,对事物丧失兴趣以及社会孤立感。

对那些不幸经历这些的人来说,长期失业——如今,正如1930年代的一样——是一场悲剧。同时对于社会这个整体来说,有相当一部分劳动者的生产力将存在遭到破坏的危险。

但鲜为人知的是,在比当今波及范围更大的情况下,1930年代的美国成功地缓和了这些问题。企业并未进行大规模裁员,而是让其雇员不足时工作。制造业和采矿业的每周平均工作时间从1929年的45小时下降到1932年的35小时。而我们正在1986年发表的一篇文章上看到这些的,该文的合著者之一是笔者在伯克利的同事詹姆斯·鲍威尔(James Powell),而另一位作者不是别人——答案揭晓——正是伯南克本人。

在大萧条最严重时出现的24%失业率可不是开玩笑的。而如果制造业劳动者的每周平均工作时间依然维持在45小时的话,那这个比率估计要升得更高。减少20%的工作时间可以额外令数百万劳动者得以留在工作岗位上。他们持续获得收入,不断学习技能,有了希望,也保留着晋升的机会。

为什么1930年代会出现那么多的工作分享行为?其中一个原因是有政府在背后推动这一点。在回忆录中,时任总统的赫尔伯特·胡佛估计有200万名劳动者因为他的这一政策而避免了失业。

其二,法律法规也鼓励这一点。新政的工业法规为特定行业的每周工作时间设定了上限。而《公平劳动标准法案》也为那些长时间工作的雇员们提供了争取加班酬劳的激励。

第三,也不存在失业保险这个阻碍因素。对当今的个人来说,在每周工作20小时和领取失业保险之间往往会选择后者。但在1930年代失业保险出台之前,20小时总比什么都没有强。

当然,失业保险仅仅只能补偿大多数工人先前收入的一小部分,也意味着其在这方面的影响并不是那么强。但即便失业保险没有阻碍工作分享,也可以对其进行重新设计以产生激励作用。可以向那些短时间工作的劳动者们支付部分的救济,而不是向那些完全失业者发放限定的款项。这个项目至少可以在一定程度上自给自足,同时对那些遭到更低失业率影响的短时间劳动者发放额外的款项(并因此向那些完全没有工作的人发放更少的钱)。

事实上,美国已经在这方面有所行动了:这是一个被称为“短时补偿”(Short-Time Compensation)的项目。在雇主提交一份得到批准的工作分享方案之后,劳动者们可以领取依照其工作时间分配的失业补贴,而联邦政府则会补偿各州政府的一部分项目构建启动成本。而迄今为止已经有24个州开始对自身失业保险系统进行调整以利用这一政策。

但不幸的是,联邦政府所提供的财政激励主要局限在帮助各州进行宣传以及项目的自动化运作之上。而那些项目自身的力度反过来则不够强,根本不足以令工作分享成为一个有吸引力的选项——尤其是对那些有理由期望一份全职工作的高级劳动者来说。

其他国家在这方面走得更远。例如在德国,联邦政府的缩短工时(Kurzarbeit)项目规定如果一个劳动者因为工时缩短而导致收入下降超过10%时,政府将给予占该下降幅度相当一部份的补偿。

美国联邦政府可以通过对各州的短时补偿项目发放更加慷慨的补贴来效仿上述例子。而如果做不到这一点的话,不仅会令那些失业者遭受不必要的伤害,同时也会让美国社会背负上一笔长期支出。

翻译:邹驰骋

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  1. CommentedAndrew Purdy

    There were also no such thing as health benefits in the 1930s. For low wage workers, benefits are a large fraction of fixed costs, and can even exceed the take home pay.

  2. Commentedphilip meguire

    Between 1929 and 1933, the number of nonfarm private sector full time equivalent jobs declined 29%. In 1933, per capita disposable income was $1/day. This at a time when there was no unemployment insurance or food stamps or Social Security, when nearly all private sector jobs did not offer pensions, and when welfare was at most $5/week or simply did not exist. Many rural Americans burned wood, grew vegetables, raised chickens, and waited for better times. Very scarce money was reserved for property taxes and a bit of gasoline.

    In such a world, a layoff of more than 4-6 months' duration could be a death sentence. And so many private employers cut pay and hours, but kept as many of their core experienced people as they could afford. This happened to my great uncle, whose pay rate was cut and whose hours were cut to mornings only. He got by because he had no children, and because his wife had come into a small inheritance. I deem what his employer did to be a disguised pension.

    I would use "labour sharing" to describe factories and the like being open, say, 8-10 hours a day, but workers working 4-5 hour shifts. It is my impression that many factories in the worst years of the Depression worked mornings only. Many shops at Bethlehem Steel worked only 18 hours/week. I do not know if that was 3 hours before lunch, 6 days a week. I do know that the Navy paid BS a subsidy in order to keep going.

    Focus on the employment-population ratio (EPR). Regrettably, the BLS does not report the measure I would prefer, namely that for persons between their 25th and 62nd birthdays, who are neither institutionalised nor deemed permanently disabled by Social Security. Also avoid seasonally adjusted data. Seasonal adjustment is a great creator of fictional jobs, and destroyer of real jobs lol...

    Before the crisis, the EPR was about 63.5%. It is now about 58.5%, about what it was in 1977. Hence the Great Recession has destroyed one out of every 13 jobs. But a significant part of the problem is that over the past 30 years, we have become accustomed to a level of labour force participation that before 1978 was only attained in wartime. What we have experienced of late is a sharp rise in GDP per full time equivalent employee, in other words, in labour productivity. This is not entirely a bad thing. The issue then becomes one of spreading more widely the benefits of that increased productivity. The way forward I propose is a "demogrant" of $350/month paid to every legal resident of the USA. This demogrant is part of a flat tax system I advocate and have described in detail elsewhere.

      Commentedphilip meguire

      And a few states should immediately trial fractional unemployment benefits for those on reduced hours. That said, I suspect that a lot of people working part time are doing so not because they are working reduced hours in what used to be a full time job, but because part time work is the best the could find after being laid off from a full time job. If we make all part time workers eligible for fractional unemployment benefits, the taxpayer will find itself paying billions to WalMart's work force!

  3. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    This goes to the core question of how we should organize our society. What should we produce and how should we distribute it?

    We have improved our productivity to unimaginable levels but our distribution methods are woefully inadequate. In a world of plenty we have conspired to create poverty, debt and fear.

    We need to share much more than the work.

      Commentedphilip meguire

      Tax all value added by employers, all wages and interest paid by government, and all cash social benefits, at a flat 35% rate. Credit FICA and Medicare tax payments against this flat tax liability. Pay all legal residents of the USA a tax-free $350/month "demogrant." I predict that this would move the USA about half way to budget balance AND, when combined with food/energy stamps and Medicaid, would largely extinguish desperate poverty. When the long term unemployed would go back to work, they would lose their food stamps and perhaps Medicaid eligibility, but not the demogrant.

  4. Commentedjames durante

    No one should ever work.

    Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.

    My minimum definition of work is forced labor, that is, compulsory production. Both elements are essential. Work is production enforced by economic or political means, by the carrot or the stick. (The carrot is just the stick by other means.) But not all creation is work. Work is never done for its own sake, it’s done on account of some product or output that the worker (or, more often, somebody else) gets out of it. This is what work necessarily is. To define it is to despise it.

    The anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, surveying the data on contemporary hunter-gatherers, exploded the Hobbesian myth in an article entitled “The Original Affluent Society.” They work a lot less than we do, and their work is hard to distinguish from what we regard as play. Sahlins concluded that “hunters and gatherers work less than we do; and rather than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per capita per year than in any other condition of society.”

    What I really want to see is work turned into play. A first step is to discard the notions of a “job” and an “occupation.” Even activities that already have some ludic content lose most of it by being reduced to jobs which certain people, and only those people are forced to do to the exclusion of all else. Is it not odd that farm workers toil painfully in the fields while their air-conditioned masters go home every weekend and putter about in their gardens? Under a system of permanent revelry, we will witness the Golden Age of the dilettante which will put the Renaissance to shame. There won’t be any more jobs, just things to do and people to do them.

    Bob Black
    "The Abolition of Work"

      Commentedphilip meguire

      The turnover of most firms is procyclical. How should the resulting risk be borne? The notion that employees should bear no risk except a heightened probability of job termination is one that we should move on from. and is not one our preindustrial ancestors would have experienced. Corporate HR should very seriously entertain reduced rates and hours as well as layoffs.

      Traditional farming involved a burst of hard work to plow and plant, and another burst at harvest time. The rest of the year was a rather relaxed affair. If there were no cows to milk, it was not unknown for farmers to be in no hurry to get out of bed. A major reason for the enormous rise in GDP per capita since 1700 has been a dramatic rise in working hours and work effort. The main way we work less than people did before WWII is that we can afford to retire when we are still healthy.

  5. CommentedCharles St Pierre

    The bosses, ie the wealthy, pay themselves too much. If they paid themselves less, there would be more money to pay the people who actually do the work. More people would have jobs. More work would get done. See:

    http://anamecon.blogspot.com/2011/09/unemployment-average-wage-and.html

    But Zsolt Hermann is also right. The world needs to get on a sustainable course, and quickly. But there is actually a lot of work involved in doing this, since much of the capitalization involved in today's society is a poor investment in a sustainable future. The US, for instance, with its suburbs and mainly dependent on its vast network of roads, is poorly positioned for a future of expensive energy.

  6. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    Undoubtedly one of the main features of the ongoing global crisis is the growing unemployment.
    If we consider the reasons behind the crisis, the unsustainable constant quantitative growth economic model, and that about 90% of all the production happening today is completely unnecessary and even harmful for a normal human life in the 21st century, we will se unprecedented number of unemployed people into the billions world wide, regardless of the development level of the countries.
    According to certain statistics about 10-15% percent of the world population can provide the necessities giving all 7 billion people a normal, comfortable life with the necessities of food, housing, clothing, health and security, so when humanity returns to a necessity and resource based economy in order to come out of the crisis and survive we have to figure out what to do with the rest of the billions.
    We have to first understand there is no "happy ending" here, the way we live today is unnatural, and we are only part of a vast natural system we are going against with our excessive, exploitative ways, thus we have no choice but to adapt to the laws and conditions around us.
    Instead of the cosmetic solutions, and wasting all our resources on institutions that have no future, present day leaders should prepare for the transitional period creating supplies and provisions for each and every one of us to maintain the necessities, avoiding mass hunger, plagues and consequent riots, and other violent scenarios.
    In the meantime they also need to plan and initiate a global, integral education plan in order to explain people why we are where we are, what the new global, integral world means, why we cannot continue with our present socio-economic models and what options we have to build a new system for all of us.
    The information is already all around is, but nobody puts it together for general use.
    As we start building a new mutually responsible system based on our true necessities without excesses, we will understand that the present day unemployment we consider as a tragedy looking from the viewpoint of today's lifestyle is actually the road to freedom from the slavery of the consumer system where everybody is endlessly chasing goods they do not even need and never would have wanted if not for the brainwashing of the marketing system influencing us 24/7.
    Whether we want it or not it is time to disconnect from the "Matrix".

  7. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    I have seen the German or the Swiss system working very closely, where the 'short time' work is organized in a manner that the loss is shared between the worker, the State and the company or the employer; this credo of sharing the burden when the recession strikes is the fundamental driver of change and buoyancy that we find missing in America, where partisanship and blame-game make the partnerships a remote possibility. Partnership between the employer, employee and the government and a responsibility to partner together in times of crisis would have gone a long way to reduce the sordid impacts of long-term unemployment; the solution lies in this partnership.

    Procyon Mukherjee

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