The week@work – guaranteed basic income, college grad stats, internet trends and the world’s longest tunnel opens

This week@work the Swiss electorate rejected a ballot measure to provide a guaranteed basic income for citizens, the college graduate unemployment rate is 2.4%, with history majors matching mid-career salaries of business school grads, Mary Meeker projected her 2016 internet trends and 2,600 workers completed 17 years of work to open the world’s longest tunnel under the Alps.

On Saturday Swiss voters rejected a proposed plan to provide an unconditional monthly income of 2,500 francs by a margin of 77% to 23%.

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Philip Oltermann surveyed the growing economic trends toward guaranteed basic income, ‘State handout for all? Europe set to pilot universal basic incomes’.

“Universal basic income has a rare appeal across the political spectrum. For those on the left, it promises to eliminate poverty and liberate people stuck in dead-end workfare jobs. Small-state libertarians believe it could slash bureaucracy and create a leaner, more self-sufficient welfare system.

In an increasingly digital economy, it would also provide a necessary injection of cash so people can afford to buy the apps and gadgets produced by the new robot workforce.

Crucially, it is also an idea that seems to resonate across the wider public. A recent poll by Dalia Research found that 68% of people across all 28 EU member states said they would definitely or probably vote for a universal basic income initiative. Finland and the Netherlands have pilot projects in the pipeline.”

The New Yorker contributor, Mark Gimein summarized recent discussions on the topic, comparing U.S. views to European counterparts.

“…when they look further into the future, Americans talk about a national minimum income in the context of a jobless future, an employment apocalypse in which workers compete for fewer and fewer good jobs. Robert Reich, the former labor secretary, sees a national guaranteed income as the most likely endgame in an economy with “more and more people getting pushed out of the middle class into the personal service sector of the economy getting lower and lower wages.” When the Swiss talk about basic income, they’re talking about a utopian vision. When Americans like Reich talk about it, it’s a last bulwark against national impoverishment.”

‘The Upshot’ analyzed the May unemployment numbers and drew a positive spin on disappointing results. “A better gauge of the underlying rate of jobs growth is to take an average over the past three months. By that measure, the labor market is creating around 116,000 jobs per month. This is a notable slowdown from jobs growth in the 150,000-250,000 range over most of the past five years. But it’s a slowdown and not a sudden stop.”

Here’s the good news for college grads. In a separate post, the folks @UpshotNYT posed this question: “What do you think the unemployment rate is for 25-to-30-year-olds who graduated from a four-year college?”  Most folks guessed high. The actual rate is 2.4%, without a four-year college degree it’s 7%.

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While we’re on the topic of debunking ‘value of college myths’, let’s turn to a story about the much maligned history majors. (Full disclosure, I was one)

Writing in the LA Times, James Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association lamented the decline enrollment in undergraduate history programs and countered with new research that suggests undergrads might want to reconsider their choice of major.

“Over the long run, …graduates in history and other humanities disciplines do well financially…after 15 years, those philosophy majors have more lucrative careers than college graduates with business degrees. History majors’ mid-career salaries are on par with those holding business bachelor’s degrees. Notably these salary findings exclude those who went on to attain a law or other graduate degree.

The utility of disciplines that prepare critical thinkers escapes personnel offices, pundits and politicians (some of whom perhaps would prefer that colleges graduate more followers and fewer leaders). But it shouldn’t. Labor markets in the United States and other countries are unstable and unpredictable. In this environment — especially given the expectation of career changes — the most useful degrees are those that can open multiple doors, and those that prepare one to learn rather than do some specific thing.”

On Wednesday The New York Times announced ‘the Internet is over’. They are changing their style rule to join the rest of the world to lowercase the word ‘internet’.

The same day, venture capitalist Mary Meeker presented her 2016 internet trends report. Inc. contributor, Jessica Stillman cited five ‘take-aways’ from the deck of 200 slides.

“Internet growth is slowing dramatically. Advertisers aren’t spending enough on mobile. Privacy concerns are “a ticking time bomb.”Search is about to be revolutionized…and so are messaging apps.”

Moving from technology trends to engineering marvels, BBC News reported on the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland, culminating 17 years of work by 26,000 workers.

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“Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first imagined it in 1947: a massive tunnel, unprecedented in length, buried a mile and a half under Switzerland’s symbolic Gotthard mountain range.

Nearly seven decades later, after redesigns, political disagreements and the long, slow work of drilling beneath the Gotthard massif, as it’s called, Gruner’s dream is complete.

The Gotthard Base Tunnel — a record-setting 35.4 miles long, and farther below ground than any other tunnel — was inaugurated Wednesday. The occasion was marked with a celebration that promoted “Swiss values such as innovation, precision and reliability…”

Now the completed tunnel, delivered on time and within budget, will create a mainline rail connection between Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Genoa in Italy.

When full services begin in December, the journey time for travellers between Zurich and Milan will be reduced by an hour to two hours and 40 minutes.

About 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains will pass through the tunnel each day in a journey taking as little as 17 minutes.”

The week@work – Davos, Sundance, transparency and the benefits of procrastination

This week@work world leaders and policy gurus headed to Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum, actors and directors arrived in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival and the rest of us enjoyed a snow day without the airfare. Transparency was suggested as a way to close the pay gap and provide a fair balloting process for the Oscars. And finally, for you procrastinators, research finds your approach to problem solving is more creative.

Of all the tweets emanating from the World Economic Forum, the most stunning came from Sharan Burrow, participating on ‘The New Climate and Development Imperative’ panel. Ms. Burrow is General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. In discussing the drivers of action for development and climate targets she stated, “For workers, there are no jobs on a dead planet.” If that doesn’t bring home the reality of climate change to each global citizen, I’m not sure what will.

One of the ten major global challenges identified by the WEF poses the question, What does the world of work look like today and what will it look like in the future?

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“The scale of the employment challenge is vast. The International Labour Organization estimates that more than 61 million jobs have been lost since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008, leaving more than 200 million people unemployed globally.

Nearly 500 million new jobs will need to be created by 2020 to provide opportunities to those currently unemployed and to the young people who are projected to join the workforce over the next few years.

At the same time, many industries are facing difficulty hiring qualified staff. One 2015 survey found that, globally, 38% of all employers are reporting difficulty filling jobs, a two-percentage point rise from 2014.

Put simply, we need jobs for the hundreds of millions of unemployed people around the world, and we need the skilled employees that businesses are struggling to find.”

Two additional perspectives of the Davos conference were provided by Alexandra Stevenson for The New York Times, ‘Glass Ceilings at Davos, Now on the Agenda’, and Anne Marie Slaughter‘s ‘A Tale of Two Feminisms at Davos’.

Several time zones west, the Sundance Film Festival began its ten day run in Park City, Utah. Since 1978, it has been the place for independent film makers to show their dramatic and documentary films. A number of these films eventually became Oscar nominees, which brings us to a conversation on transparency.

For the past two weeks, since the announcement of the Academy Awards, the major recognition for those who work in film, the conversation has centered on the lack of progress in diversifying the industry and its major export, films. How many of us even knew how the voting was done as we mindlessly watch red carpet arrivals and comment on fashion, performances and our bets to win?

Glenn Whipp of the LA Times shared ‘Here’s How Oscar Voting Is Done’.

“Who nominates the actors for the Oscars? And how does the voting process work? Here’s a step-by-step primer:

The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has 6,261 voting members. The entire body votes for best picture.

Nominations for most of the remaining categories are determined by the balloting of the academy’s various branches. A committee selects the foreign-language film nominees.”

The full article, though short, will definitely make your hair hurt, and prompt the question, why the delay in reform?

Film mogul, actor and producer, Tyler Perry offered his solution “If the Academy – I think all this would go away if they revealed the votes,” Perry said. “If you look at a movie like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ right and just say it got 1,000 votes and ‘The Revenant’ got 1, 001 votes, is that racism or is it just this is the way the votes went?”

We might all benefit from transparency and a clear set of rules beyond the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Claire Cain Miller proposes we “publish everyone’s pay” as one answer to ‘What We Can Do to Close the Pay Gap’.

“When the comedian Ricky Gervais joked that he was paid the same to host the Golden Globes as the actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — combined — his barbed humor most likely resonated in many workplaces.

When employers publish people’s salaries, the pay gap shrinks.

Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist at Washington University, has found that salary transparency raises wages, in part by lending legitimacy to employees’ arguments in wage bargaining. “Even being cognizant of gender pay disparity being an issue can change norms,” he said.

That has been true in the public sector, where disclosing pay information is often required. Alexandre Mas, an economist at Princeton, studied the effects of a 2010 California law that required cities to publish municipal salaries. It prompted pay cuts, but only among men.

Women might have been spurred to negotiate after seeing that their salaries were lower, he theorized, or cities might have made salaries more equitable to avoid lawsuits.”

Bottom line, there are a lot of global and domestic problems to be solved and they require serious thought, teamwork and creativity.

Wharton professor Adam Grant shared the benefits of re-thinking his pre-crastination habit in ‘Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate’, and found “..while procrastination is a vice for productivity, I’ve learned — against my natural inclinations — that it’s a virtue for creativity. It turns out postponement can encourage divergent thinking.

A few years ago, though, one of my most creative students, Jihae Shin, questioned my expeditious habits. She told me her most original ideas came to her after she procrastinated. I challenged her to prove it. She got access to a couple of companies, surveyed people on how often they procrastinated, and asked their supervisors to rate their creativity. Procrastinators earned significantly higher creativity scores than pre-crastinators like me.”