NewsRoundup

The Roundup will be brought to you in July and August by the new Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN), an international membership organization for interdisciplinary work and family academics. The WFRN welcomes the participation of policy makers and practitioners as it seeks to promote knowledge and understanding of work and family issues among the community of global stakeholders. The Roundup is a compilation of the latest news articles, reports and other materials related to workplace flexibility delivered to your inbox on Monday and Thursday. In the fall, the WFRN will launch its new website which will include a News Feed among other features. We hope that you will get involved as a member and by posting the latest news. Questions?

May 24, 2011

Articles

Employers see benefits of workplace flexibility

Ruth Mantell • MarketWatch • May 24, 2011

“While the idea of workplace flexibility is familiar — companies have been working for years on strategies to enable employees to have some say over when and where they work — it may become more appealing for firms looking to retain workers stressed by higher productivity demands, and attract those searching for a better spot, industry participants said.”

Retaining Women in Academia

Sarah Ballard and Gurtina Besla • Harvard Crimson • May 23, 2011

“Only 13 percent of universities provide at least 6 weeks of paid maternity leave to graduates, while 58 percent of them provide the same to faculty members. We might assume that Harvard, as one of the leading research institutions in the country, places a high premium on training the best and brightest PhD students, both men and women, for promising academic careers. We might assume that Harvard must be among that 13 percent. But we would be wrong. […] In fact, while we should expect Harvard’s support of graduate student parents to be commensurate with the quality of its research programs, we might make the argument instead that Harvard is one of the most difficult research institutions at which to be a graduate student parent.”

At Well-Paying Law Firms, a Low-Paid Corner

Catherine Rampell • New York Times • May 23, 2011

“Besides making less, these associates work fewer hours and travel less than those on the grueling partner track, making these jobs more family-friendly. And this new system probably prevents jobs from going offshore.  But as has been the case in other industries, a two-tier system threatens to breed resentments among workers in both tiers, given disparities in pay and workload expectations.”

“Refusing to hire people on the basis of race, religion, age or disability — among other categories — is illegal. But companies that turn away jobless people as a group are generally not breaking the law — at least for now.  Job seekers have long known, of course, that it’s easier to land a job when you are still working. There are no hard data on discrimination against the unemployed. But there have been reports from across the country of companies’ making clear in job listings that they are not interested in people who are out of work.”

Union Effort Turns Its Focus to Target

Steven Greenhouse • New York Times • May 23, 2011

“Interviews with 10 of the store’s employees suggest that an important issue behind the unionization drive is frustration about being assigned too few hours of work, sometimes just one or two days a week.  Retailers are increasingly assigning such short workweeks as they seek to build an extensive roster of workers to fill their ever-changing scheduling needs. But some Target workers say that means they are offered too few hours to qualify for the company’s health plan.”

“[…] Suzanne Bianchi […] examined new research on caregiving in later life—a time when men and women may spend their time in similar ways as they enter their retirement years. The study, conducted with Joan Kahn and Brittany McGill […] explored whether retirement and marital status made a difference in how men and women helped others. Specifically, they set out to learn whether men replaced paid work with time spent helping others after retirement and whether divorced people spent less time caring for kin, reflecting weakened family ties.”

Blogs

Nearly Half of Americans Are ‘Financially Fragile’

Phil Izzo • Wall Street Journal - Real Time Economics • May 23, 2011

“Financial fragility isn’t limited to low-income groups. ‘Households with socioeconomic markers of vulnerability (income, wealth, wealth losses, education, women, families with children) are more likely to be financially fragile, and substantially more so,” the authors write. ‘The more surprising finding is that a material fraction of seemingly “middle class” Americans also judge themselves to be financially fragile, reflecting either a substantially weaker financial position than one would expect, or a very high level of anxiety or pessimism. Both are important in terms of behavior and for public policy.’”

“Nearly 70 percent of the Milwaukee electorate agreed with a ballot initiative that all workers in the city should be able to earn paid sick time. Given Milwaukee’s status as the fourth poorest city in the nation, and that low-wage workers are the least likely to have paid sick days, the huge success of this initiative made sense. […] Unfortunately, Milwaukee’s successful initiative has become a target of the political payback strategy of Wisconsin’s corporate special interests and Governor Scott Walker.”

The Decline of Working

Matt Yglesias • • May 23, 2011

“According to the data series available to me average annual hours worked per employed person is in fact trending downward in Anglophone countries […] It’s true that on the European continent average annual hours worked is even lower and there are more explicit anti-work/pro-leisure (or household labor) in place than in Anglophone countries, but the broad trend is cross-national. […] rising hourly productivity manifests itself in part in people spending less of their lives engaged in market production.”

Changing Marriage Patterns Reflect Economics and Class

June Carbone and Naomi Cahn • Huffington Post • May 20, 2011

“Third, the later age of marriage for the for college graduates does suggest a new middle class strategy: invest in women’s education and earning capacity as well as men’s, push back the age of marriage and childbearing from the low ages of the anomalous fifties, and reap the benefits of two incomes. This strategy, of course, began in the sixties and seventies and produced much more independent women. Today, it also reflects a new marriage strategy.”

The Great Job Divide

Richard Florida • Atlantic - Business • May 20, 2011

“As I have written before, the reality is that more than 60 million people, or about 45 percent of the work-force, are already toiling in low-wage service jobs, which will remain low-wage jobs even if and when the economy expands. A successful jobs strategy must focus centrally on upgrading the content and improving the wages of this entire job category. That is what happened a century ago in the manufacturing sector—and it is what needs to happen in the service sector today.”

Global News

“The report, entitled Growth Without Gain?, will suggest that those in the “squeezed middle” are losing out in the post-boom era, as the highest earners take more and more from the proceeds of limited growth and so-called ‘middle-skilled’ jobs are replaced by advancing technology.  As a result, the current generation of hard-working individuals is being left dependent on lower-paid jobs in retail, hospitality and care and can no longer expect, as their parents did, to see their living standards rise as output expands.”