How Poverty of Work Becomes Entrenched

A sociology study of the experiences of working class migrant workers finds that the conditions of their work make it virtually impossible to get ahead. The participants who work as labourers, gardeners, construction workers and in various service industries, say that they are forced to work long hours and multiple jobs. Due to being employed on a temporary basis, they cannot afford to take the time to up-skill or undertake additional education to lift themselves out of poverty. One of the researchers, Victoria Smith, says:

“In the interviews, workers said they needed the hours, wherever they could get them. They could come from jobs they have on a regular basis, or it could come from being asked to do one-time jobs working for a friend, like helping with a landscaping job, or helping clean a house. They constantly keep their eyes open for these one-off jobs so they can get their hours.”

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Read more: http://buff.ly/1o44Zfi Photo: http://buff.ly/1o44Zfu  

Why the Middle Class Misunderstands Inequality

This year, Australia has endured yet another rise of racist public discourses about refugees taking away jobs from “Australians.” But given that refugees who resettle in Australia are, in fact, Australian, which Australians are being evoked in this argument and why? In May 2016, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said of refugees:

“For many people, they won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English, and this is a difficulty. These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that, and for many of them that would be unemployed, they would languish in unemployment queues and on Medicare and the rest of it.”

These comments are not factual – half of all refugees speak English and three quarters have at least a high school education. It is well documented that refugees and their children make a strong economic contribution to the Australian economy. Refugees do not ‘take jobs away’ from other Australians – this perception is founded in the historical racist rhetoric that underpinned Australia’s immigration policies since Federation. Refugees, especially the children of those from non-English speaking countries such as Viet Nam, are more socially mobile than third-generation Australians. That means that, even if their parents arrive in Australia as working class, the second-generation joins the middle class. But this does not push Anglo-Australians out of the middle class. So why this misinterpretation? Continue reading Why the Middle Class Misunderstands Inequality

Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

On my blog, one year after the devastating fires in two Bangladesh factories where 1,100 workers died, I revisited the poor industrial relations that lead to this destruction. I looked at how international boycotts of garment factories are not always an effective way to take action against unfair labour conditions for overseas workers. I noted that sociological research paints a different picture on how international boycotts have a weak impact on labour laws but negatively affect the largely female workforce and their children. Under poor socio-economic conditions, garment factories can be a source of protection for women. International action should focus on changing social policies in a way that does not punish these vulnerable workers. Read about how the push for change might be better informed by women’s experiences.

My blog post: http://buff.ly/1s857h8 #sociology #feminism #socialscience #work

Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Photo: Weronika via Flickr CC 2.0
Photo: Weronika via Flickr CC 2.0

In Bangladesh, four million people work in textile factories. Their work accounts for 80% of their country’s annual exports. Yet they work in extremely dangerous conditions. It’s been a year since 1,100 workers died in two incidents of fire and structural collapse in April 2013. My post explores this tragedy through a sociological lens, looking at empirical studies of the local working conditions and social reality in which garment workers live. These tragedies are an ugly reminder of the unequal economic relations that sustain globalisation. One of the visceral Western response to these tragedies may be to cry for a boycott of these companies. Sociological research shows that the resolution is much less tidy. The story behind this is not simply about corporate greed. It is a tale about gender inequality and the social costs of economic mobility. Let’s start by remembering the 2013 tragedy. Continue reading Beyond Boycotts: Gender, Globalisation and Garment Factories in Bangladesh

Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Programs that focus on the “culture of poverty” and the alleged “attributes” of poor people don’t get to its root cause, which is, quite simply, that millions of people don’t have enough money. Poverty is not a fixed trait; we can easily make people less poor by giving them enough money so that they’re no longer poor.

Continue reading Sociologist Shamus Khan on Re-framing Poverty

Myths About Science Funding

A Quora thread recently caught my eye. Titled, How do we restore trust in science?, I was curious to see, once again, the conflation of trust in science with the idea that all science is politically and economically motivated by “big pharma” companies and by politicians. I reproduce my answers to the original question and my response further below. I start by pulling apart the interconnected ideas of trust, funding, belief in science and political influences on science. The public should hold scientists, politicians and private industry accountable for Research and Development. This is an important discussion, but it often happens in a vaccum. Researchers address research demands in closed journals. Research ethics is part of our training. The reality of these issues, however, are not really as the public imagines it.

Continue reading Myths About Science Funding

“Science Needs Women”

Happy International Women’s Day! I’ll do a couple of posts on this over the next day to commemorate this glorious day for both my time zone in Australia and the rest of you in other parts of the world. I want to start with the challenges that lie ahead. Our STEM Women community has been publishing a series of posts celebrating women in sciences, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). We started with a look at the number of Nobel prize laureates. We shared our post to our other science community, Science on Google+, and faced phenomenal backlash.

Various sexist arguments followed, ranging from: “Women aren’t as smart as men” to “This probably isn’t sexism, it’s something else (but somehow it’s women’s fault still).” None of these people presented evidence, but rather they relied on biased personal anecdotes.This thread was incredibly counter-productive; rather than engaging with the science presented, people wanted to argue that they don’t think that this is an example in sexism.
Continue reading “Science Needs Women”

Women and the Nobel Prize for Sciences

Two women appear on the back of the Nobel Prize medal. Yet less than  3% of Nobel laureates have been women! Only one woman social scientist has been awarded a science Prize (in economics). Not to mention the fact that most of the winners have been White and predominantly from Europe and North America.

As part of our celebration of women in STEM ahead of International Women’s Day, I wrote about the gendered nature of these awards for STEM Women.

Continue reading Women and the Nobel Prize for Sciences

Poverty as a Matter of Justice

Below is an excellent, succinct argument for addressing poverty as a human rights issue that requires government intervention. Jeffery Reiman of the American University argues that leaving the issue of poverty to charitable organisations alone reflects the idea that disadvantaged groups are somehow lesser citizens.

He notes that this is not a critique of charities or the people who receive benefits, but instead he argues that the opposite ideal should prevail. He sees that poor people should be seen as being entitled to government support.

“If inequality is a matter of justice then it shouldn’t be rectified by charity. Charity means, ‘I give freely what I have out of my generosity.’ Justice means, ‘I give what I owe – what people have a right to… The idea that you do it by law, that these people have a right, treats them with dignity. And of course you should follow through on that.” 

Sociology of Ponzi Schemes

A White woman counts money at a cafe. The title is at the top of the graphic: Sociology of Ponzi Schemes

This is an intriguing image below came to me on Google+. It asks why Bernie Madoff was the only Wall St investor to be facing jail. The text argues it’s because Madoff ripped off the 1% – the rich elite. The meme is inferring that justice is not served for the 99%, the working classes, who have been fleeced by Wall Street practices.

There’s a grain of truth to this message, but not quite in the way you might think. White middle class and upper class people are more likely to be convicted of “white-collar” crime and they are less likely to get severe sentences relative to minority first-time offenders who are caught for blue-collar crimes.

The punishment of crime is a tricky cultural terrain. Society gives higher penalties for some forms of crime (such as low-level drug abuse) that ensure more poor people are jailed. So where is the justice for the poor?

As for justice for the 99%: there’s another way to think about this too. The people who were conned by Bernie Madoff were rich and so they had more resources and could be better organised to seek justice.

Continue reading Sociology of Ponzi Schemes