A Hotter, Less Productive World?

A Hotter, Less Productive World?

Thursday marked the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere, but you wouldn’t know it from the weather on the east coast of the US. It’s been a hot September, and NASA recently announced that worldwide, August was the hottest month observed in 136 years of modern record-keeping—or rather, it tied with July. Whether we like it or not, the world is getting hotter, and this stands to have a significant impact on our productivity. A recent paper published in Science magazine investigates the link between climate change and the economy, positing that a warming planet stands to make society less economically productive:

Temperature, in particular, exerts remarkable influence over human systems at many social scales; heat induces mortality, has lasting impact on fetuses and infants, and incites aggression and violence while lowering human productivity. High temperatures also damage crops, inflate electricity demand, and may trigger population movements within and across national borders. Tropical cyclones cause mortality, damage assets, and reduce economic output for long periods. Precipitation extremes harm economies and populations predominately in agriculturally dependent settings. These effects are often quantitatively substantial; for example, we compute that temperature depresses current U.S. maize yields roughly 48%, warming trends since 1980 elevated conflict risk in Africa by 11%, and future warming may slow global economic growth rates by 0.28 percentage points year. …

Although climate is clearly not the only factor that affects social and economic outcomes, new quantitative measurements reveal that it is a major factor, often with first-order consequences.

This is by no means the first study to make such a connection. In July, Brady Dennis at the Washington Post highlighted new research published ahead of a UN forum on climate change, which found that as extreme heat conditions become more common, a great deal of productivity will be lost because people are simply too hot to work:

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House Democrats Seek Federal Ban on Salary History Queries in US

House Democrats Seek Federal Ban on Salary History Queries in US

After Massachusetts became the first state to bar employers from inquiring about job candidates’ salary histories in an effort to help close the gender pay gap, Democrats in the US House of Representatives are introducing a bill that would do the same on the federal level. The bill, which Washington, DC representative Eleanor Holmes Norton and her cosponsors Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) plan to introduce in this session of Congress, would “prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history before making a job or salary offer,” according to a statement from Norton’s office:

The bill seeks to eliminate the wage gap that women and people of color often encounter. Because many employers set wages based on an applicant’s previous salary, workers from historically disadvantaged groups often start out behind their white male counterparts in salary negotiations and never catch up. Even though many employers may not intend to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, or ethnicity, asking for prior salary information before offering an applicant a job can have a discriminatory effect in the workplace that begins or reinforces the wage gap.

The bill will have a very hard time getting passed in the current Congress, however. As Rebecca Shabad explains at CBS News, Democrats’ efforts to legislate equal pay have met with forceful opposition from conservatives and pro-business groups, and salary history bans are no exception:

Carrie Lukas, managing director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, however, said she’s concerned that an outright prohibition could wind up hurting prospective employees.

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Middle-Class Job Opportunities Shrink As the Skills Gap Grows

Middle-Class Job Opportunities Shrink As the Skills Gap Grows

American politicians like to talk about the threat of the “disappearing middle class”—and if a new CareerBuilder study is correct, they are right:

The U.S. economy is expected to add 7,232,517 jobs over the next five years — a 5 percent increase — but a new study from CareerBuilder and Emsi shows that workers in middle-wage jobs may not find as many opportunities. High-wage and low-wage occupations are each projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2021, but middle-wage jobs are only estimated to grow 3 percent. At the same time, 61 percent of the 173 occupations expected to lose jobs over the next five years are in the middle-wage category. …

For the purpose of this study, CareerBuilder and Emsi defined low-wage jobs as those that pay $13.83 per hour and below; middle-wage jobs earn $13.84 – $21.13 per hour; and high-wage occupations make $21.14 per hour and higher.

The study zooms in on a number of high-, middle-, and low-wage occupations in which employment is likely to increase or decrease the most by 2021. Among the biggest losers are low-wage workers like door-to-door salespeople, street vendors, and sewing machine operators, but other low-wage jobs like home health aides and restaurant cooks are expected to grow. Among the middle-wage occupations CareerBuilder expects to shrink the most are printing press operators, farmers, and ranchers.

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Unpaid Internships Are Getting Riskier, And For Good Reason

Unpaid Internships Are Getting Riskier, And For Good Reason

Amid a cascade of lawsuits in recent years challenging unpaid internship programs at various employers, Carol Patton at HRE examines some of the latest advice on how to employ interns while staying on the right side of laws, regulations, and legal precedent:

More than 30 cases have been filed on behalf of unpaid interns in the past four years, according to the 2016 Employer’s Guide to Developing a Successful Internship, published by Gonzaga University Career Center in Spokane, Wash. The fallout from this parade of legal action, according to some employment attorneys, is that employers are either scaling back their unpaid internships or replacing them with programs offering a minimum wage or stipend.

“Your safest bet is [to] just pay [interns] the minimum wage and that assures you’ll have some safety from getting a wage and hour class action for unpaid time,” says Mike Reilly, a partner at Lane Powell law firm in Seattle who authored the Employer’s Guide. … Over recent years, he says, some employers have become “smarter, tactical and strategic” by developing written curriculum that identifies specific educational tasks interns must complete. Where some employers go wrong, he says, is when interns are treated unfairly, by being asked to perform unskilled jobs such as making copies or running errands.

One point that is lost in this discussion about why unpaid internships are good or bad is how much of a class issue they raise. Think about how internships facilitate a cycle of class dependency: If you are expected to work full-time without pay and cover your own costs of living, who can actually afford to do that? Usually, the answer is kids with wealthy parents who will pay for their housing and food. But getting a high-power job right out of college often requires internship experience. Thus, to get an internship, you may need wealthy parents, and to one day become a wealthy parent, it helps to start with an internship. And so the cycle continues. Unpaid internships, by their very nature, shut a lot of people out of the opportunities they offer.

What’s more, these internships aren’t necessarily helping college kids land good jobs after they graduate.

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Massachusetts Bill to Restrict Non-Competes Fails

Massachusetts Bill to Restrict Non-Competes Fails

A bill that would have limited employers’ ability to enforce non-compete clauses died in the Massachusetts state house on Sunday night, after the House and Senate were unable to agree on its terms, Curt Woodward reports for the Boston Globe:

The two sides’ final disagreement revolved around a so-called garden leave, which would require companies to pay former workers to stay out of the job market. The House’s approach would have limited the noncompete period to one year, and required employers to pay half the worker’s salary. The Senate version would have limited those leaves to three months, and required a full salary. The House version also would have allowed companies and workers to substitute garden leave pay for some other mutually agreed-upon arrangement. But venture investors and startups argued that language was so vague that it could allow companies to provide essentially no compensation.

Given that the House passed its version of the bill unanimously in June, it is likely to be revisited in the next legislative session. It seems inevitable that Massachusetts will get in line with other states like California that already have such bans in place. In the meantime, the failure of the Massachusetts bill might slow the momentum of a push by legislators in various US jurisdictions to crack down on non-competes, which Steve Lohr reported on for the New York Times in June:

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New US-EU Data Sharing Agreement Goes into Effect, But Challenges Await

New US-EU Data Sharing Agreement Goes into Effect, But Challenges Await

A new data-sharing agreement between the US and EU went into effect last week, providing a new legal framework for HR departments at multinational organizations to share employee data between the two jurisdictions, but legal challenges await the set of complicated rules and procedures.

The new “Privacy Shield” agreement, Klint Finley outlines at Wired,

is a new set of guidelines approved by the US Commerce Department and the European Commission … that governs data-sharing between Europe and the United States. The Privacy Shield replaces the EU’s so-called Safe Harbor Decision, in place since 2000, which asserted that the US provided adequate privacy protections to meet EU standards… Last October, citing Edward Snowden’s revelations about mass surveillance by US authorities, an EU court struck down the Safe Harbor Decision, a move that could have opened tech companies to investigations and lawsuits.

Authorities in the US and EU announced the accord in a joint statement last Tuesday, celebrating the expected benefits for business on both sides of the Atlantic. “The approval of the Privacy Shield is a milestone for privacy at a time when the sharing of data is driving growth in every sector, from advanced manufacturing to advertising,” US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement. “For businesses, the free flow of data makes it possible for a startup in Silicon Valley to hire programmers in the Czech Republic, or a manufacturer in Germany to collaborate with a research lab in Tennessee.” Firms will be able to signups for the new agreement as soon as August.

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