Gloomy Outlook for Youth Employment

“A new study from the International Labor Organization takes a global tour of youth joblessness and finds that what’s gone up won’t come down in the next five years. The youth unemployment rate* among the richest countries is projected to flat-line, rather than fall, before 2018. As a result, the global Millennial generation could be uniquely scarred by the economic downturn. Research by Lisa Kahn has showed that people graduating into a recession have typically faced a lifetime of lower wages.”

From The Atlantic


International Workers Day


The origin of May Day is indissolubly bound up with the struggle for the shorter workday – a demand of major political significance for the working class. This struggle is manifest almost from the beginning of the factory system in the United States.


Although the demand for higher wages appears to be the most prevalent cause for the early strikes in this country, the question of shorter hours and the right to organize were always kept in the foreground when workers formulated their demands against the bosses and the government. As exploitation was becoming intensified and workers were feeling more and more the strain of inhumanly long working hours, the demand for an appreciable reduction of hours became more pronounced.

The continual fight for worker’s social, economic and political rights continues till this day in more than 80 countries around the world that celebrate International Workers Day. While what exactly constitutes the working class is not always clear – it is apparent in most nations that the employed, the subordinates, the man on the ground need a voice.

See protests videos and pictures from around the world that underscore the global nature of this ongoing fight. Whether it is a march against austerity measures, rising costs of living or stagnant wages – workers and unions continue to make known to governments and corporations that the current economic and political system continues to disproportionately disadvantage their class.

At home, the usual top-down message from PM Lee that reaffirmed the tripartite system had to compete for airtime with ground-up rally organized by Gilbert Goh of that protested the white paper and the government’s plans to let in more immigrants.

Singapore: Biggest Creative Class?

The World’s Leading Creative Class Countries
by Richard Florida (link here

Yesterday, I looked at how the nations of the world stack up on technology and innovation. Despite predictions of U.S. technological decline and the rapid rise of the BRIC countries, America and other advanced nations continue to hold an overwhelming lead in technology and innovation. Today I turn to another key dimension of economic progress: human capital.

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The Power of Procrastination

How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done
By John Perry, written in 1996 (original link here

I have been intending to write this essay for months. Why am I finally doing it? Because I finally found some uncommitted time? Wrong. I have papers to grade, a grant proposal to review, drafts of dissertations to read.

I am working on this essay as a way of not doing all of those things. This is the essence of what I call structured procrastination, an amazing strategy I have discovered that converts procrastinators into effective human beings, respected and admired for all that they can accomplish and the good use they make of time.

All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, such as gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they find the time. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because accomplishing these tasks is a way of not doing something more important.

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Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers

The domestic worker has been around for centuries. A worker in an employer’s household, they take on a job that is essentially of an unpaidnature (housewives have no ‘market’ wage rate do they?). Despite increasing technological and socioeconomic advances, their services continue to be highly demanded. However, issues over their treatment and rights continue to surface–prompting the International Labor Organization to adopts its first Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. 

The Domestic Workers Convention is a…

“landmark treaty setting standards for the treatment of domestic workers that was adopted at the International Labour Conference in Geneva has been widely hailed as a milestone. The Convention and accompanying Recommendation on decent work for domestic workers aim at protecting and improving the working and living conditions of domestic workers worldwide – estimated to number anywhere between 53 million and 100 million.

Why is it needed?

Decent work deficits among domestic workers are huge. For over 56 per cent of domestic workers the law does not establish a limit on how long a working week can be. About 45 per cent of all domestic workers are not entitled to at least one day off per week. About 36 per cent of female domestic workers have no legal entitlement to maternity leave. Domestic workers are amongst the most vulnerable categories of workers, those who are already at the margin and least equipped to face the consequences of economic upturns. They comprise mainly women and girls who, to a large extent, work informally. Decent work for domestic workers means affording them respect and dignity and contributing towards their transition from informality to formality.

How does it impact the status of domestic workers?

This instrument sends a very strong political signal. It constitutes an international commitment to work on improving the living and working conditions of a very large segment of the work force which has been historically excluded, either totally or in part, from the protection of labour law. When it ratifies the Convention, a country opens itself to international scrutiny and this puts pressure on member States to ensure that their laws and policies are in conformity with the Convention. The accompanying Recommendation, which is a non-binding instrument, provides practical and useful guidance on how to give effect to the obligations embedded in the Convention. The new standards on domestic workers are both robust and flexible. They guarantee minimum protections to domestic workers, while allowing for considerable flexibility and wide ratification and continuous improvement of their working and living conditions.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Situation in Singapore? Jolene Tan, of the feminist blog the fword, analyzes the broader situation…

Much of this racist abusiveness and dehumanisation is closely related to Singaporeans’ fear and anxiety over the country’s post-colonial survival. The national narrative has us plucked from the jaws of devastating poverty by good governance and hard work (both presented, with varying degrees of explicitness, as specifically Chinese virtues), and positions Singapore as a unique success story in a region of backward societies whose misfortunes are testament to, and constitutive of, the unreality and insignificance of their inhabitants. Thus, Human Rights Watch documents a case where an employer justified withholding wages for eight years of a FDW’s work with: “I’ve done a lot for you. Because of me, you got to breathe the air in Singapore. I gave you a luxurious life. Whatever we have done for you is enough.” In other words, because she came from a poorer country, slavery was the best she could legitimately hope for. Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister for 25 years from independence and whose son is now Prime Minister, has brandished maidhood as part of the ultimate threat to the nation’s well-being: if the 45 year-long dominance of the ruling party were to end, he cautioned, “your asset values will disappear, your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people’s countries”.

Currently, the country in the midst of debating a mandatory weekly day off  for them.

What are your thoughts about the ILO’s Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers?

Should the Singapore government ratify it? Why? 

Paternity leave please?

Singapore-based women’s rights group AWARE recently made the call to make paternity leave mandatory, arguing that Singapore’s current parenting leave policies – where new mothers are given four months’ maternity leave while father’s are not entitled any – reinforce unhealthy gender stereotypes and do not help declining fertility rates.

Some key policy recommendations include making paid paternity leave of two weeks mandatory, converting of the 4th month of maternity leave into ‘parental leave’ to be taken by either parent, and a $4000 ‘parenting present’ to fathers who opt to take up the 4th month of paternity leave. The recommendations also suggest that any costs incurred will have to be shared between the state and the employer.

Naturally, these proposals have drawn mixed reactions from the ground. Economist A/P  Dr Tan Khee Giap, for instance, expressed concerns about the proposals’ cost-effectiveness, stating that

“If such a law is passed, similar requests of this sort will also come forward and they expect the Budget to pay for it. It will be a burden to the country’s Budget and the economy would have to grow fast. More foreign workers would have to be accepted. Instead, the Government should encourage and leave it to employers to provide paternity leave.” (Taken from this TODAY article)

An ST poll has also reveal contrasting sentiments towards the recommendations. Notable reactions to the policy measures include concerns about whether these measures sit well with our society’s current values, burden the employers too much, or might even be seen as a step backwards if the 4th month of transferable leave is not utilized effectively.

What are your own thoughts on the proposal to make paternity leave mandatory?

Do you think Singapore is ready to accept such a measure? Should we even be open to it?

Is there face for Facebook in the working world?

According to this news report, a woman was apparently given the sack over because she was caught accessing Facebook at home when she was supposedly on sick leave due to migraine.

Some thoughts from Shareef 1T29 who shared this article:

People should be more responsible and should know when and where to do things.  Also when using social networking sites, one should know who they are adding as friends as some people might be impostors.

Social networking sites have presented both a plethora of opportunities and threats to the average net user. New media both empowers and yet also leaves us vulnerable in certain ways.  However, some additional questions that arise from this episode are whether it is ethical for companies to spy on workers in this manner.  Also, should Facebook be disallowed in companies?  Does it really affect productivity or are companies just being overly paranoiac? What do you think?