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New figures reveal the depth of Unemployment

Terry Mauro

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One out of every 34 Americans who earned wages in 2008 earned absolutely nothing -- not one cent -- in 2009.

The stunning figure was released earlier this month by the Social Security Administration, but apparently went unreported until it appeared today on Tax.com in a column by Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston.

It's not just every 34th earner whose financial situation has been upended by the financial crisis. Average wages, median wages, and total wages have all declined -- except at the very top, where they leaped dramatically, increasing five-fold.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/25/income_inequality_statistics_tax_code__n_773392.h tml

The tabulations, staggering as they may be, are only half of half of picture.

Behind the official 10 percent unemployment (which is probably somewhere closer to 22 percent), are the stories of millions of individuals who are struggling to get by or are coming to terms with a future of lower wages and a life with less.

"60 Minutes" profiled the underemployed and unemployed on Sunday in a piece titled "The 99ers."

Among the most troubling stories: a financial analyst unemployed for two years and living in a stranger's attic and a former office manager who collects bottles and cans to get by.

Play video at end of story from 60 Minutes.

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No peace without justice

Sunday, October 24, 2010 By Peter Boyle

The politicians of the world's richest nations justify their wars against some of the world's poorest nations with talk of stopping 'terrorism'. But they never address the single most obvious source of global conflict: gross global inequality. Photo: Wikimedia Just 8% of the world's population owns 79.3% of the world's total wealth, a new study by the research wing of the giant Swiss bank, Credit Suisse found, Sam Pizzigati said on the A World of Progress blog on October 18.

Further, 35.6% of all wealth is held by just 0.5% of the world's 4.4 billion adults.

On the opposite end of the scale, 68.4% of the world's adults get to share just 4.2% of global wealth.

If you want to work out where you fit in on the global wealth spectrum, to be in the top 0.5% you have to have a net wealth (total assets minus all you owe) of more than US$1 million. To be in the top 8%, you need a net wealth of $100,000.

Pizzigati wrote that, notwithstanding the Global Financial Crisis, no other nation holds as much total wealth as the United States.

"With only 5.2 percent of the world's population, the United States can claim 23 percent of the world's adults worth at least $100,000 and an even greater proportion, 41 percent, of the world's millionaires", he wrote.

Credit Suisse's research calculated that globally there was $194.5 trillion in wealth. If this was shared evenly across the globe, every adult in the world would have a $43,800 net wealth.

The politicians of the world's richest nations justify their unending wars against some of the world's poorest nations with talk of stopping "terrorism". But they never address the single most obvious source of global conflict: gross global inequality.

Is it even possible to imagine a world without conflict, when half the world's population holds under 2% of world wealth while the world's richest 1% hog 43%?

There will be no peace without justice, as Green Left Weekly has argued consistently since it was established in 1991. We've also argued there can be no environmentally sustainable future without addressing inequality and injustice.

If you agree with us, why not join the band of loyal supporters who keep the GLW project afloat? We don't expect to get much of a hearing with the world's richest 0.5%. We speak for the billions, not the billionaires.

It's ordinary people, struggling to make ends meet, who each week also dedicate some of their time — and money — to keeping GLW afloat, as part of the struggle to end such unsustainable and obscene global inequality.

You can donate online to GLW here, or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, account no. 00901992.

Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or donate on the toll-free line, 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

Last week, our supporters raised $4040 for our fighting fund. But we still have to raise $127,721 to meet the $300,000 target by the end of the year. Can you help us get there?

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From GLW issue 858

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The young and the restless: Youth unemployment hits record high

Sunday, October 24, 2010 By Adam HolmesAs Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan continues to preach about a strong Australian economy underlined by a surge in job creation, youth unemployment figures continue to rise to record heights, reflecting a disturbing global trend.

According to the August 12 Sydney Morning Herald, in 2009, global youth unemployment grew at a rate twice that of adults, affecting 13% of 15 to 24-year-olds. Australia was not exempt from the alarming trends.

In Adelaide, 27.4% of people aged 15 to 19 are out of work, according to the state Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology.

These alarming figures highlight the issue of age discrimination. Capitalism, a system dedicated to the pursuit of profits for a tiny minority, encourages the exploitation of young people. For example, the concept of "youth wages" allows bosses to get away with paying 15-year-olds less than half the adult wage to perform the same task.

Governments talk about cracking down on crime and getting young people off the streets, but allowing more of us to enter the workforce in rewarding, useful jobs, and paying us decent wages — as well as increasing funding to and quality of public education and training — would go a long way to addressing the sense of powerlessness, boredom and alienation felt by many young people who can't find work.

But try telling that to a capitalist.

Adelaide's Young Workers Legal Service (YWLS), a free service relying on volunteer law students, has identified a number of factors discouraging young people from entering the workforce. Low youth wages was just one on them.

The YWLS 2009 annual report said the service had experienced a drastic increase in young workers coming forward in search of legal advice against employers. Almost 700 young workers approached the service for help during the 2008/09 period.

Of these 700 people, 40% were 18 to 21-year-olds, 59.5% were from Adelaide's traditionally lower socio-economic northern and southern suburbs, and 54.3% sought unfair dismissal or underpayment advice. The retail industry was the source of most complaints.

Employers are increasingly using "apprenticeships" and "trainee programs" as an excuse to underpay young workers, without the employee receiving any training or moving any closer to a qualification.

In June, Australia's minimum wage was increased to $15 an hour, but even that was a stretch for the bosses. ABC Online said on June 3: "Employer groups had argued that level of increase was unaffordable."

The levels of exploitation and underpayment serve as a disincentive to work, but unemployment poses its own dangers. The September 14 Age said recent research suggested serious mental and physical health risks stemmed from long-term unemployment.

The international study, conducted over 20 years, found the health effects of long-term unemployment were akin to smoking 10 packets of cigarettes a day, the Age said. "Young men were at particular risk", it said, "with suicide rates 40 times higher than usual for those out of work for more than six months."

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Young workers in Australia should take heart from the youth rights movement in New Zealand.

A few years ago, the Unite union organised the young workers of fast-food chains in New Zealand into a massive movement against poverty-level wages, workplace discrimination, and for a general overhaul of the corrupt casual work system.

The success of the Super-Size My Pay campaign should be a message to the underpaid, underrepresented and exploited youth of Australia: united, we are a force that can win improvements to pay and working conditions.

United with other trade unionists struggling to defend and extend their rights at work, we can be a force even the Wayne Swans of the world will have to listen to.

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