Robots may not want your job – they like to watch

Paul Krugman says the decline in truck drivers’ wages is “not a technology story … robot truck drivers are a possible future, but not here yet … the obvious thing: unions.”

Certainly, the collapse of union power in trucking had a lot to do with the collapse of wages. But that does not mean that technology was not a factor. In trucking, technology has done little to change the hours of work, or the level of skills, required to deliver a load. But technology has improved management surveillance of truck drivers. Continue reading

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India’s tax reform: tortoise of regional integration inches ahead

Ajit Ranade in The Hindu
Economist Intelligence Unit
BBC
Concerns of India’s manufacturing states – A Sarvar Allam in Economic and Political Weekly

Regional economic integration is something usually associated with international trade blocs – the European Union, ASEAN, and so forth. But two of the most important cases aren’t international – they are happening within India and China. Both countries are more populous than any international “region” (excluding of course regional groupings which include either India or China), and both have had very poorly integrated national markets, for reasons to do both with internal transport infrastructure, and the protection of sub-national markets by various means.

Global economic integration – quick, and institutionally shallow – is the hare; regional integration is the tortoise.

Anti-austerity is terrible messaging

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Opposition to the UK government’s cuts, since 2010, in all public services – deep cuts in police, transport, hospitals, schools, fire, universities, disability benefits, mental health services, care for the elderly, legal aid for the poor, nursery schools, the army, green technology … everything – has gone under that banner of “anti-austerity”. And every time I hear the slogan, I despair.
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Ordinary surveillance, inequality, and fear

Our friends Giorgio and Gemma, visiting here from Rome, had this impression from a recent trip to New York: workers in New York are scared. Security staff enforced seemingly trivial rules – don’t step across this line – in a way that they couldn’t explain otherwise.

Workers watch you so nervously when they themselves are watched closely and their jobs are insecure. Continue reading

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.

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