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Social Problems

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  1. Social Problems Work and Unemployment

  2. Overview Modern economy originates with the information revolution andpost-industrial economy - a productive system based on service work and information technology - began in 1950s Character of work changed: • From tangible products to ideas • From mechanical skills to literacy skills • From factories to almost anywhere

  3. Economic Systems Capitalism • Private ownership of property • Pursuit of personal profit • Competition and consumer choice Welfare capitalism combines a mostly market-based economy with extensive social welfare programs

  4. Economic Systems (cont.) Socialism • Collective ownership of property • Pursuit of collective goals • Government control of economy Communism: a hypothetical economic and political system in which members are socially equal

  5. Capitalism vs. Socialism • Economic productivity: capitalism out produces socialism 2.7:1. • Economic equality: socialist economies create less income disparity but offer a lower overall standard of living. • Personal freedom: capitalism has freedom to act and socialism has freedom from want.

  6. The Global Economy The global economy expands economic activity that crosses national borders Consequences: • Global division of labour • Products pass through several nations • National governments have less control • Small number of businesses control a vast share of the market • Concerns about the rights and opportunities of workers are raised

  7. Other consequences • The world's countries are becoming specialized. • Governments can no longer fully control the economic activity that takes place within their borders. • A small number of businesses control a vast share of the world's economic activities.

  8. New Technology and the Workplace How computers change the workplace: • “Deskilling” of labour: Machines make some some workers and managers obsolete • Making work more abstract: Understanding rather than doing is key • Limiting workspace interaction • Enhance employer’s control of workers • Allow relocation of work: call centres

  9. Economic Sectors • Primary: part that draws raw materials from the natural environment • Secondary: part that transforms raw materials into manufactured goods • Tertiary: part that generates services • “Social reproduction sector”: unpaid labour

  10. Changes in Economic Sectors

  11. Dual Labour Market • Primary labour market: occupations that provide extensive benefits to workers, e.g., white collar professions and upper management • Secondary labour market: jobs that provide minimal benefits to workers, e.g., low-skill service and blue-collar work • “Reserve army of labour”: those last hired in expansion and first fired with contraction

  12. Labour Force Participation in the Canadian Post-Industrial Economy In 2008, 18.2 million people in the labour force but by Feb. 2009, down to 16.9% • 73% of men and 63% of women aged 15+ are in the labour force • Approximately 4% are in agricultural work • Approximately 75% of the labour force is in the service sector, but much service work pays much less than former factory jobs

  13. Types of Employment • Professions: require extensive education and training – “white collar work” • Paraprofessionals: have skills but lack theoretical knowledge • Unionized work: 1/3 of labour force • Some is “blue collar” work but highest level is in public administration (i.e. teachers)

  14. Self- and Underemployment Self-employment: earning a living without working for a large organization. • Includes professionals, farmers, trades people, and home businesses • Approximately 15% of labour force Underemployment uses less than one’s full talents or abilities • 50% of university grads are in jobs that do not require these credentials. • But, level of education is a predictor of employment

  15. Underground Economy Economic activity involving income or the exchange of goods and services that is not reported to the government as required by law, e.g., baby-sitting, garage sales, and illegal activity • 15-20 percent of economic activity • Statistics Canada suggests 3.5 percent of GDP • Increased with imposition of GST

  16. Bureaucratization • Predicted and described by Max Weber • Based on rational-legal authority structure • Ideal bureaucracy has Christmas tree shape • Downward chain of command and upward information flow • Tall (hierarchical) vs. flat (more democratic and productive) bureaucratic structures

  17. Structural Functionalist Perspective on Work and Unemployment • One of most basic social institutions • Provides social interaction, social solidarity and cohesion in society • Stratification and hierarchy in workforce both natural and normal • Unemployment is a dysfunction

  18. Conflict and Feminist Perspective • Source of class conflict • Bourgeoisie want more labour for less money and proletariat want more pay for less work • An inherent contradiction in capitalism system • Workforce is patriarchal: women make less • Problem of the “reserve army of labour” • Unemployment keeps wages low • Women are exploited for their unpaid labour

  19. Symbolic Interactionist and Social Constructionist Views • Work is a major source of identity • Also source of status and recognition • Social Constructionist: The workforce, work relations, and how people think about work constantly evolving

  20. Social Problems Linked to Work and Unemployment • Gender discrimination • Racial and ethnic discrimination • Inequality • Work-family problems • Alienation

  21. Vulnerable Populations • Sex workers • Child labourers

  22. Unemployment • Discriminatory unemployment • Due to discrimination because of ethnicity or gender • Structural unemployment • Due to socio-economic factors

  23. Unemployment (cont.) Unemployed increases with “downsizing” esp. during a recession • Rarely below 5% • Official statistics understate it (only a % of those still “actively seeking work”) • Does not include “discouraged workers” • Does not count part-time work • Some part-time work is involuntary • Higher for visible minorities and Native men and women • Higher for younger men and women

  24. Unemployment Rates • In Canada, official unemployment rate on Mar. 13 was 7.7% • U.S. was 8.1% • TD predicts will be 10% by end of the year • “There is no doubt that 2009 will go down in history as one of the most difficult economic years for Canadians” (Beata Caranci, TD's director of economic forecasting) • Globally, a new forecast by the U.N. predicts that more than 198 million people will be unemployed in 2009

  25. Work-related Health Problems • Workplace safety • Work stress • Job insecurity • Exploitation

  26. Health Consequences of Unemployment • Mortality • Substance Abuse • Depression and Anxiety • Increased smoking rate and higher obesity • Increased risk of violence (esp. domestic) • Other effects • Spousal effects • Effects on children

  27. Solutions? • Tepperman suggests more job training and education programs at the societal level and therapy (for discouraged workers) and networking at individual level. • However, when unemployment is structural and global, then structural changes are needed • For instance, U.N's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests “ten million [green] jobs could be created by investing in restoring degraded forests, planting new trees, building forest trails and recreation areas” (, March 10 2009)

  28. Or…. • An example of a revolution promoting democratic structural change • The take (2004) • Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein • Produced by Barna-Alper productions and Klein Lewis Productions with the NFB and CBC • A video on the effects of economic collapse and globalization on work (and unemployment) in Argentina in 2001