Unemployment

Do Migrants lower wages?

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The notion that immigration is putting workers' wages under pressure is widely accepted even among some on the left. Yet this argument is both dangerous and wrong.

In January a much-quoted official study found "nominal wage growth below the rate of price inflation has resulted in real wages falling for the longest sustained period since at least 1964". The figure would have been even more shocking if comparable statistics were available for earlier periods. Many economists agree that British workers are facing the longest fall in their living standards since the 1870s.

The inside story: Waving or drowning?

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Considering the state of the UK economy, the figures for employment appear to present a paradox. While GDP has fallen by around 4 percent since the start of the slump in early 2008, employment is down by less than 1 percent over the same timescale. And the latest official figures show that employment has actually increased over recent months. What is going on? How can the economy have flat-lined, while employment seems to be holding up?

If we look behind the headline figures, we'll see that a number of factors are involved. Together they point to the conclusion that the labour market is nowhere near as healthy as it seems.

Germany: the rise of the Pirate Party

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The German Pirate Party has captured the imagination of millions of young and unemployed voters but, asks Mark Bergfeld, are they really the radical anti-establishment force they claim to be?

"Que no! Que no! Que no nos representan!" They don't represent us. From the streets of Buenos Aires in 2001 to the squares of Puerta del Sol and Placa de Cataluna in 2011 this slogan captures the anger and alienation that millions of people feel towards the political system made up of professional politicians, lobbyists and unelected technocrats.

Spain: a spiral of crisis, cuts and indignacion

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In March 2011 several regular Guardian columnists analysed the crisis in the Spanish state and the response to "austerity" by the population. All agreed that young people were "apathetic" and even "docile".

Two months later that same youth led tens of thousands to occupy city squares and a million to demonstrate across the country - the movement of "the outraged" ("los indignados" in Spanish). Actually the journalists were not wholly wrong: at the time of writing there had been a limited fightback and the consensus across Spain was that people were apathetic.

Getting nastier

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As opposition to austerity increases Mark L Thomas looks at how the Tories are entering a new and much nastier phase and considers how the issue of European integration is forcing old divisions to the fore.

The government has entered a new and much nastier phase. Two events stand out. Firstly, George Osborne's autumn statement to parliament on 29 November promising further austerity - the day before the mass public sector strike - and 9 December, when David Cameron wielded the British veto to block proposals at a European Union summit for a new EU-wide treaty, much to the delight of his Eurosceptic backbenchers.

The gathering storm

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The depth of the devastation of ordinary American lives means that the divisions between workers and protesters that existed in the 1960s have collapsed, writes Megan Trudell

It could be argued that it's been a long time coming. For 30 years, US capitalism's answer to falling rates of profitability has been to restructure - cutting manufacturing jobs, relocating operations from former industrial heartlands to the much more weakly unionised South and West, intensifying work processes, deregulating industry, privatising services and extending working hours while chipping away at wages and holiday and sickness benefits.

Is there a precariat?

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In recent times some have suggested that we have witnessed the rise of the "precariat". This new class of workers, who endure insecure conditions and low wages, are thought to have different interests to organised workers and little use for trade unions. Esme Choonara disagrees

Four years ago McDonald's attempted, unsuccessfully, to have the term "McJobs" removed from dictionaries. They were annoyed that McJobs were seen by so many as epitomising the main sort of work on offer, especially for young people: low-paid, low-skilled service sector work, often short term and with very little prospects.

Many now feel that the economic landscape is now dominated by McJobs and growing job insecurity. The growth of agency work, outsourcing and privatisation, coupled with growing job losses, has also added to a feeling that there are no decent permanent jobs left.

Eurozone on the brink of collapse?

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The global economy is entering "a dangerous new phase", said the International Monetary Fund before its annual meeting last month. The same can be said for the European Union (EU) and the eurozone.

At the centre of all the press talk of a capitalist crisis (and this is the phrase increasingly used by papers such as the Financial Times) lies a crisis of the eurozone - the EU economy is bigger than that of the US.

The Big Squeeze

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There is now much discussion about whether the British economy is heading back into recession.

The British economy shrank by 6.5 percent between the spring of 2008 and autumn of 2009. The recovery since then has been anaemic, with growth in the three months to June just 0.2 percent. Output remains significantly below its pre-crisis peak in early 2008. It's clear that most working class people are feeling the pinch, as unemployment rises and living standards are being sharply squeezed even for those in work. Unemployment at the end of June stood at 2.49 million, up nearly 40,000 on three months earlier.

Workers and recession

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Jane Hardy takes issue with a new study which claims that workers haven't suffered too badly in the recession

A recent book edited by Paul Gregg and Jonathan Wadsworth claims to look at what has happened to employment in the UK during the recession. They puzzle about why Britain has had the biggest recession since the Second World War with a fall in GDP of 6 percent, while claiming that the loss of jobs has been relatively "benign".

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