Monday, September 03, 2007

American Workers 'Most Productive' According to UN Report

Yes, the conservative media have been all over this one today. Fox News has particularly been keen to trumpet these statistics as evidence of the strength of the American workforce. This is, as far as the media are concerned, something to celebrate. From Fox:

American workers stay longer in the office, at the factory or on the farm than their counterparts in Europe and most other rich nations, and they produce more per person over the year.

They also get more done per hour than everyone but the Norwegians, according to a U.N. report released Monday, which said the United States "leads the world in labor productivity."


Wow, don't it make you so proud?? America leads the way in terms of productivity. But what does this actually mean?

Part of the reason why Americans work longer hours is due to a decrease in income. For example, the real value of the minimum wage has decreased from $5.84 in 2000 to $5.15 in 2005 (statistics from Economic Policy Institute - EPI). Consequently, lower income earners have to work longer to make up the shortfall. As well as a decrease in the real value of the minimum wage, there has been a marked decrease in the median family income. In 2000, the median was $55,647, in 2004 it was $54,061 (EPI). That's a decrease of over $1,000 per year. Interestingly, while incomes have generally declined, the main obstacle to wage decreases, the unions, have become almost powerless in the US. Union coverage decreased in 2005 to an all-time low of only 12.5%, down one percentage point since 2000 (EPI).

In contrast to these decreases, the rich have been getting richer. Between 2002 and 2003, the most recent available statistics, the top one percent earned an extra $53,000 (EPI) after tax. The lowest quintile actually saw a $200 decrease. The actual share of the income has also grown dramatically. For 2005, the top fifth took home 50.4% of total income. The bottom fifth only took home around 3.4%. Of course, it goes without saying that the top fifth will be the owners and the bottom fifth the workers. Workers who are, according to the report, working longer than their counterparts in other industrialised nations. This discrepancy in the distribution of income makes another statistic from the report stand out:

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.

The US worker produces more wealth than their counterparts across the globe. They create $63,885 of wealth per year, and yet they see only a tiny fraction of that wealth. Those that do reap the benefits of this world beating level of wealth creation are the rich. In effect, the workers are working harder and longer for less pay, and yet they are creating more wealth which, in turn, ends up not in their pockets, but in the pockets of the top fifth. Yes, American workers are working harder, but they do not see the fruits of their labour. That is the capitalist system. It enslaves the workers to produce more and then takes what they produces and distributes it amongst the rich. And this makes the media proud? I see nothing to be proud of here. Corporate America should be ashamed of the way it steals from the poor and gives to the rich. There is nothing to celebrate in this achievement. America has been hijacked by the rich and Fox News pops open the champagne. Workers of America, your system hates you.