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Working Harder To Make The Rich Richer

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Message Bruce Morris

            There is a wealth of new information out there right now on the state of workers in the United States and the world and the comparison of the outrageous pay of American CEO’s and high-level money managers compared to, well, just about everyone else in the world.  If you weren’t already angry and depressed enough about all this, when you read all this information together, you will be even madder and sadder.

             Just today we were treated to the International Labor Organization’s 2007 report on Key Indicators of the Labor Market.  I am sure you have heard the trumpets blare on how the US worker is the most productive in the world yet again.


 Here are the basic findings.

             The average U.S. worker produces $63,885 of wealth per year, more than their counterparts in all other countries, the International Labor Organization said in its report. Ireland comes in second at $55,986, followed by Luxembourg at $55,641, Belgium at $55,235 and France at $54,609.

             Norway, which is not an EU member, generates the most output per working hour, $37.99, a figure inflated by the country's billions of dollars in oil exports and high prices for goods at home. The U.S. is second at $35.63, about a half dollar ahead of third-place France (at $35.08).

             The U.S. employee put in an average 1,804 hours of work in 2006. That compared with 1,407.1 hours for the Norwegian worker and 1,564.4 for the French. “Report: U.S. Workers Are Most Productive”, Bradley S. Klapper, AP, September 3, 2007.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gURr_MR-Wtuq2-T70HLknZGGD6Ng.  Workers in Germany and Great Britain work even fewer hours than the French and the quite productive Irish work only a little more than the French.  (Side-by-side hour numbers were hard to find in the ILO report, but from what I can see from various sources, including the ILO’s generalizations, the French numbers seem to be a decent average for Europe as a whole.)

             So, the average American worker contributes value at about $.55 more per hour than the average French worker.  If we each worked, say 1700 hours per year (roughly half-way between the two figures), our total value added per worker would exceed the French’s by only $953.00.  We are at least about $8,000 ahead of the France and rest of the developed world primarily because we work so many more hours.

             In fact, we work about 240 hours more on average than French workers do.  That is SIX FULL WORK WEEKS, assuming a 40-hour week.  Think about what you could do with an extra six weeks! And, of course, in every other developed country, health insurance and excellent K-12 education and in many, even university education is provided to all citizens.  But, you say, we work so many more hours to make so much more money for ourselves.

             Wait, just a minute.  While the ILO report does not list relative wages, compare the new productivity and hour numbers with the new outrageous American CEO-salary information all over the web recently.  First, as we all know, CEO pay is wildly disproportionate to worker pay.  Barbara Ehrenreich writes in “Travails of the Super Rich” in Nation on September 1 that

Just in time for the holiday, two liberal groups–United for a Fair Economy and the Institute for Policy Studies–have issued a gleefully malicious new attack on our CEO class. They point out that the CEOs of large companies earn an average of $10.8 million a year, which is 362 times as much as the average American worker, and retire with $10.1 million in their exclusive pension funds. The groups further point out that the compensation of US CEOs wildly exceeds that of their European counterparts, who, we are invited to believe, work equally hard


            As Marie Cocco elaborates, based on data analyzed by the Institute for Policy Studies, 

It is not only that American business executives are doing far, far better now than before when compared with their own workers. They’re doing far, far better than business leaders in Europe-the very executives against whom American CEOs say they must compete in the global economic market. In 2006, according to the IPS, the 20 highest-paid European managers made a combined average of $12.5 million. That’s about a third as much as the top 20 American managers.

“Free Market Madness”, http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/08/30/3513/

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Bruce is 46 year-old father of one, stepfather of three and grandfather of two, who left a lucrative law practice at a large national law firm to work, advocate and write for social justice and equality and find a way to incorporate a spiritual life (more...)
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