Fast food ≠ low pay

Continuing the fast food theme (yum): BK in the USA vs. BK in Denmark, fast food work can provide living wages, if the institutional environment is right. Read the report by Liz Alderman and Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times.
The fast food restaraunt is an organizational technology designed to use low cost labor – a restaurant that can operate without any employee who knows how to cook! Continue reading

San Francisco escaping zero (hours)

Two weeks advance notice, or you get paid more.

Image from silentsketcher.deviantart.com, via Fast Food News.


San Francisco is the latest American jurisdiction to find an answer to what are called, here in Britain, “zero hours contracts”. As reported by Claire Zillman in Fortune:

[San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which is also the city council of that city+county] voted unanimously on Tuesday [25 November] afternoon in favor of measures aimed at giving retail staffers more predictable schedules and access to extra hours. The ordinances will require businesses to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks in advance. Workers will receive compensation for last-minute schedule changes, “on-call” hours, and instances in which they’re sent home before completing their assigned shifts.

Continue reading

The American elections: a suicide note from human civilization?


Stephen Gardiner, in his book A Perfect Moral Storm, says that climate change produces moral corruption. The worst effects of carbon pollution are many years to come; responsibility is diffused over hundreds of governments, thousands of corporations, billions of individuals, and many generations; and, we are not well practiced or intellectually equipped for making decisions about problems of this sort. So it is hard not to make up stories, to fool ourselves, to tell ourselves that what we do now doesn’t matter, and carry on as before. That is moral corruption. It leaves us with a good chance that action will not be taken soon enough to avert catastrophe.

Americans voted yesterday for more moral corruption, choosing to boost the power of a party that is wedded to the propositions that we can’t have a good life without plenty of fossil fuels, Continue reading

Manufacturing logic for football skills

There is a select group of people who can’t take seriously any sentence with the word “skills” in it because, at an impressionable age, they were exposed to Napoleon Dynamite. ND being a film about a boy who is convinced that a range of fairly worthless skills – from the use of nunchucks to high-performance computer gaming – will impress the girls. Not being a sports fan myself, my reflexive response would be to put football (that is, for any compatriots of mine reading this, soccer) skills in this category: it can be a fun game and maybe you will impress those who you wish to impress (or maybe not), but if we’re talking about the problem of skills in our economy surely we should get serious, and talk about literacy, numeracy, and that sort of thing.

Germany wasn’t doing well in international football competition a decade ago, and to solve this problem it turned to what it does best: training. What Germany has done to improve its football skills in recent years as documented in an excellent article by Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian last May is particularly interesting because is shows how the passion for learning a skill for which the market is small and precarious – the case here is football, but similar cases could be made for many arts and sciences – can be harnessed to ensure the acquisition of general, transferable skills.

There are two reasons to treat football skills as meaningful human capital. Continue reading

Tech skills are risky

Readers of this blog (yes, you are legion … waves to crowd) will know that I think investment in skills can be risky, and that because of this the social insurance framework – how generous are short-term unemployment benefits, and who pays for retraining – has a big effect on what sort of skills people choose to acquire. See old posts for various examples.
Now, you might wonder if this can really be so, in our dynamic information economy, in the case of those bread-and-butter tech skills like programming. If you’re good at that, you should be set for life, no? If you do so wonder, then take a look at this piece by Noam Scheiber on The Brutal Ageism of Tech: highly-skilled Silicon Valley nerds in their thirties sneaking off for botox so it won’t be noticed they’re almost ready for the scrapheap.