Over the fiscal cliff and into the abyss

it seems like a mocking story in a way; the insecurity of the public sector when they have to get out from under their mother’s skirt and make their way in the real world all by their lonesome, and in a sense as much as some may the unwashed who have to provide for their own pension retirement and make their way through the turbulence of precarity which is not conducive to initiative or the entrepreneurial spirit there are some broader issues here on the role of the public sector, their responsibilities and the type of person attracted to this employment structure. …

(see link at end) Conservative government budget cuts lead to record number of distress calls expected this year

A distress line for federal public servants is on track to receive a record number of calls this year as prolonged staffing cuts create high levels of anxiety….

—The Flaherty budget tabled last March forecast 19,200 jobs eliminated and it promised that a heavy burden would be shouldered by the national capital region.
That’s not how it’s worked out.
Just over 18,000 federal public servants have received notices that they could lose their jobs.
According to statistics compiled by the federal public-sector union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, just 35 per cent of those notices have gone out in the national capital region. Sixty-five per cent have gone out elsewhere in the country.—Read More:http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/surprise-federal-job-cuts-happening-mostly-outside-ottawa/article4564788/ image:http://summermixtape.blogspot.com/

Staff in many offices and branches in the federal public service – which has offices across the country – are waiting to find out if their positions will be eliminated.

But one program at Health Canada avoided layoffs and is currently hiring.

The Employee Assistance Program now has 52 staff providing 24-hour assistance, 365 days a year. The counselling service puts public servants in touch with a specialist who has at least a master’s degree in counselling, social work or psychology.

Last year, the office received about 41,000 calls, a record. By the end of August, the office had already received 30,009 calls with four months left in the year.

“It’s been a steady increase in terms of calls over the last three years,” said Francois Legault, who is the director of the counselling program. “We’re seeing a spike this year, as we expected. They’re probably related to the anxiety of Budget 2012.”

Mr. Legault said 167 calls were identified as a suicidal risk last year. Over the first eight months of this year, the office has received 155 suicidal-risk calls….

Tadeusz Kantor art.—Buffett gets several economies from his bank of service reps. He can hire them wherever labor in the country is cheapest, and probably rent will be less, too. He offsets the local touch with 24/7 availability.
Now comes the next step…
And I’m talking about the astounding performance of the IBM computer Watson, which beat the two best human players of the TV game show Jeopardy early in 2011. IBM’s Deep Blue was amazing beating the world’s best chess player, Kasparov, but Jeopardy-winning Watson is a whole order of magnitude more astounding. Here is a machine navigating human language with extraordinary results.
And how might that language technology be used? In the insurance example cited above, we have gotten to the point that GEICO (and Warren Buffett) have eliminated the agent with a bank of interchangeable telephone service representatives. But now, for example, GEICO might decide to replace their bank of service reps with IBM’s Watson. It answers the phone, it asks you a few questions, and poof: you get your quote. And very fast. It works 24/7. It doesn’t have a nettlesome union, or need health benefits or pension.—Read More:http://seekingalpha.com/article/319638-the-impact-of-technology-unemployment-may-be-more-stubborn-this-time image:http:


…Technological unemployment is going to become so pervasive, at least in the medium term that the adjustment period may take a generation. The tragedy here is that often fragile individuals seek public employment; the wages being secondary to the stability of employment and defined benefits. The larger issue is how to deal with the social cost of a very low workplace participation rate and a just taxation system that will maintain consumption and prevent a disintegration of society into competing millenarian cults….

back to Curry: The issue of mental health in the federal public service surfaced earlier this week when a widow of a lawyer with Justice Canada spoke to Radio-Canada about her husband’s suicide in July, which occurred after he received a notice that his job might be affected.

The woman said her husband had suffered from anxiety long before joining the government, and said she was speaking out to encourage other public servants to seek help if they are struggling.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement was visibly shaken this week when asked about the interview, but did not want to speak more broadly about the personal impact of the government-wide spending cuts….

—These are not new concerns. For example, in a paper written in 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes wrote: “We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come – namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.”
In past technology-based economic revolutions, the periods of creative destruction and high unemployment eventually worked themselves out. Over time, the same disruptive innovations responsible for the technological unemployment disease led to the transformation of the economy and the creation of new industries and new jobs. While we are hopeful that this will once more be the case, there is no way of knowing. Perhaps, this time around, the dramatic advances in technology, coupled with the forces of globalization will make it very difficult for jobs to recover in the US and other advanced economies.—Read More:http://blog.irvingwb.com/blog/2011/11/jobs-in-the-age-of-watson.html image:http://www.jewishlaborcommittee.org/2006/01/readings_on_the_american_jewis.html

“This is a personal tragedy,” he said. “I think you’d be well advised to have your thoughts and prayers for the family of that person.”

The Conservative government’s 2012 budget outlined a plan to cut 19,200 jobs, or 4.8 per cent of total federal employment, over three years. The budget estimated that about 7,000 of those positions could be eliminated through attrition.

Public service unions are offering programs of their own to help workers struggling with anxiety and depression. Union leaders note that it’s not just laid-off workers who are feeling stressed. The layoff process – in which waves of people are told their jobs may be “affected” – is also a source of stress.

There were several waves of letters in late spring and another wave went out earlier this month.

—Josef Koudelka photograph. Read More:http://lightbox.time.com/2011/09/29/josef-koudelkas-gypsies-revisited/#1

“It’s very disturbing to see that people are being sent affected notices in large numbers,” said Claude Poirier, the president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, one of the main federal unions. “It creates sort of a panic in departments.”

As an example, Mr. Poirier noted that of the 2,000 Statistics Canada employees represented by his union, 1,200 received “affected” letters even though not all of them will be laid off.Read More:http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx


(see link at end)…As evidenced by Watson, Google’s driverless car, Apple’s Siri personal assistant and a number of recent dramatic advances, computers are now encroaching into a number of activities that not long ago were viewed as the exclusive domain of humans. The accelerating capabilities of these cognitive systems, coupled with the sustained unemployment and jobless recovery in the US and other economies around the world, is leading to real concerns about the kinds of jobs humans will be doing in the future.

Will there be enough good jobs to go around? “The coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs,” argues Gallup’s Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton in a provocative new book, The Coming Jobs War. In this recent Forbes interview he said:

“Gallup has discovered that having a good job is now the great global dream; it’s the number one social value for everyone. This is one of our most powerful findings ever. A good job is more important than having a family, more compelling than democracy and freedom, religion, peace and so on. Those are all very important but they are now subordinate to the almighty good job. . . According to Gallup’s World Poll, there are three billion people out of seven billion who want a good job. There are only 1.2 billion jobs to go around. So there’s a short-fall of 1.8 billion jobs. The question is who gets those new jobs as they emerge.” Read More:http://blog.irvingwb.com/blog/2011/11/jobs-in-the-age-of-watson.html

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