Roberta is collecting her cards when I approach her cloth covered table. She is in her sixties and wears a light purple shawl over a flowing black dress. A matching purple gem – sapphire, she tells me – hangs from a thin chain on her neck and the silver bangles on her wrists are also dotted with purple-shaded stones. The bracelets jangle as her thin hands move over cards labeled “independence,” “knowledge,” “stability,” and “excitement.” Roberta pushes them across the table and invites me to sort the cards as I see fit: it will help me “learn something new” about myself.
Roberta is not a Tarot card reader. She is a professional “career coach” who specializes in guiding the white-collar unemployed through hard times. Roberta is manning a vendor booth at the 2019 National Career Development Association (NCDA) and she is taking me through the first step she takes with clients who have been laid off: self-discovery. I sit and sort the cards into ascending rows of importance as Roberta hums sagely.
Most executives today understand that if their companies are to thrive in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace, they must hire and retain the most talented employees. This has created imperatives to recruit job candidates solely on the basis of merit, and reward and promote employees based on their work performance.
Adding to these increasingly competitive pressures, companies are now at the center of intensely charged debates about racial and gender inequality. Facing a greater need than ever to demonstrate a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and racial justice, corporate executives, even those with openly progressive ethos, have struggled to rectify demographic imbalances in their organizations. For example, Google’s US workforce is just 32.0 percent female and only 3.7 percent Black, per the Google Diversity Annual Report 2020. To improve the recruitment and retention of underrepresented employees — and, importantly, to show that their decisions about whom to hire, reward, and promote are based on objective, fair, unbiased criteria — some companies have become eager to dismantle any role that bias might play in employment decisions and outcomes.
During the height of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, workers producing military supplies were at the heart of a strike wave in the United States, calling for a more equitable distribution of war-profits in the form of higher wages and better benefits. Although little attention has been paid to them, such strikes by manufacturing workers in war-industries have caused nearly 2.2 million working days lost in recent decades.
This is not a new phenomenon: During the large wars of the twentieth century, industrial workers in the United States regularly engaged in strikes that raised their wages and ushered in new institutions designed to protect workers’ rights.
These recent strikes—alongside this historical relationship—raise an important question: How have U.S. wars affected workers in the twenty-first century? In a recent article, I explore this question by reviewing strikes by manufacturing workers in war-industries.
Many rich countries provide paid parental leave and childcare to help mothers reconcile work and parenting. But, where are these policies most effective at keeping moms employed, and which moms respond most strongly to them? Not surprisingly, the answers to these questions are complex and contentious.
In a recent study, we propose that a missing piece of the puzzle is a country’s level of earnings inequality, the size of the gap between those who earn a little and a lot. Earnings inequality helps explain who is most affected by family policies and why these same policies “work” in some countries, but not others.
We found that when countries spend more on early childhood education and care (ECEC), mothers of young children are more likely to be employed. The effect is stronger for mothers without a college degree than for mothers who have completed college.
Food delivery couriers have become an increasingly common sight across cities all over Europe and North America, as myriad food delivery platforms have proliferated in recent years as part of the growth of the global gig economy. Even during the global lockdown which followed the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, food delivery was among those essential activities which continued uninterrupted. Yet workers in this sector are mostly underpaid, with a precarious contractual situation, and subject to stringent forms of algorithmic control on their work activities.
These adverse circumstances are often seen as obstacles to workers’ mobilisation. Yet, food delivery has been one of the segments of the ‘gig economy’ where workers have started to organise to protest exploitative working conditions. How so? In a recent article, we investigate what explains the emergence of workers’ solidarity even in this hostile context through analysis of the mobilisation of food delivery couriers in the UK and Italy.