At the request of ProPublica, ADP, the nation’s largest payroll services provider, undertook a study of 2013 payroll records for 13 million employees. ADP’s report, released today, shows that more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.

Roughly half of these debtors, unsurprisingly, owed child support. But a sizeable number had their earnings docked for consumer debts, such as credit cards, medical bills and student loans.

[…]

ADP’s study, the first large-scale look at how many employees are having their wages garnished and why, reveals what has been a hidden burden for working-class families. Wage seizures were most common among middle-aged, blue-collar workers and lower-income employees. Nearly 5 percent of those earning between $25,000 and $40,000 per year had a portion of their wages diverted to pay down consumer debts in 2013, ADP found.

Perhaps due to the struggling economy in the region, the rate was highest in the Midwest. There, over 6 percent of employees earning between $25,000 and $40,000 — one in 16 — had wages seized over consumer debt. Employees in the Northeast had the lowest rate. The statistics were not broken down by race.

Currently, debtors’ fates depend significantly on where they happen to live. State laws vary widely. Four states — Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina — largely prohibit wage garnishment stemming from consumer debt. Most states, however, allow creditors to seize a quarter of a debtor’s wages — the highest rate permitted under federal law.


All of this measuring and sorting has changed the way we think about creativity. For the Romantics, creativity’s center of gravity was in the mind. But for us, it’s in whatever the mind decides to share—that is, in the product. It’s not enough for a person to be “imaginative” or “creative” in her own consciousness. We want to know that the product she produces is, in some sense, “actually” creative; that the creative process has come to a workable conclusion. To today’s creativity researchers, the “self-styled creative person,” with his inner, unverifiable, possibly unproductive creativity, is a kind of bogeyman; a great deal of time is spent trampling on the scarf of the lone, Romantic genius. Instead, attention is paid to the systems of influence, partnership, power, funding, and reception that surround creativity—the social structures, in other words, that enable managers to reap the fruits of creative labor. Often, this is imagined to be some sort of victory over Romanticism and its fusty, pretentious, élitist ideas about creativity.

But this kind of thinking misses the point of the Romantic creative imagination. The Romantics weren’t obsessed with who created what, because they thought you could be creative without “creating” anything other than the liveliness in your own head. (“All men are poets in their way,” Coleridge wrote.) In fact, because we think of creativity in terms of objects instead of minds, and outcomes instead of experiences, the idea of a lone, creative genius has become as inconceivable to us as the idea of a lone, unprofitable businessman. We believe creativity is “real” only when a crowd says so; we need creativity to “pay off.”


The four men are demanding about 65m yen (£375,000; $620,000) in extra pay.

They claim the compensation for removing contaminated debris and patrolling the plant has been inadequate given the risks involved.

It is the first time Tepco has faced legal action from Fukushima workers over pay and working conditions.

The BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes says if they win, it could set a precedent for thousands of other workers to come forward.


David Weil, the director of the federal Labor Department’s wage and hour division, says wage theft is surging because of underlying changes in the nation’s business structure. The increased use of franchise operators, subcontractors and temp agencies leads to more employers being squeezed on costs and more cutting corners, he said. A result, he added, is that the companies on top can deny any knowledge of wage violations.

“We have a change in the structure of work that is then compounded by a falling level of what is viewed as acceptable in the workplace in terms of how you treat people and how you regard the law,” Mr. Weil said.

His agency has uncovered nearly $1 billion in illegally unpaid wages since 2010. He noted that the victimized workers were disproportionately immigrants.

[…]

Business advocates see a hidden agenda in these lawsuits. For example, the lawsuit against Schneider — which owns a gigantic warehouse here that serves Walmart exclusively — coincides with unions pressuring Walmart to raise wages. The lawyers and labor groups behind the lawsuit have sought to hold Walmart jointly liable in the case.

Walmart says that it seeks to ensure that its contractors comply with all laws, and that it was not responsible for Schneider’s employment practices. Schneider said it “manages its operations with integrity,” noting that it had hired various subcontractors to oversee the loading and unloading crews.

Business groups note that the lawsuits against McDonald’s have been coordinated with the fast-food workers’ movement demanding a $15 wage. “This is a classic special-interest campaign by labor unions,” said Stephen J. Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association. In legal papers, McDonald’s denied any liability in Ms. Salazar’s case, and the Oakland franchisee insisted that Ms. Salazar had failed to establish illegal actions by the restaurant.


“I have often wish’d I had saved a single specimen of all the new articles I have made, and would now give twenty times the original value for such a collection. I am now, from thinking, and talking a little more upon this subject … resolv’d to make a beginning.” So said Josiah Wedgwood in 1774, as he laid the foundations for one of the greatest ceramics collections in the world. The Wedgwood Museum was first opened to the public in 1906, and for more than a century it has been telling the story of how six towns in north Staffordshire were transformed through clay and coal into the world-famous Potteries.

Then, in 2009, the Wedgwood business went into administration and, through a wretched quirk in pension law, brought the museum down with it. Suddenly, this extraordinary testament to the genius of Josiah Wedgwood and the unrivalled skills of Stoke-on-Trent’s potters was at risk of a fire-sale to fill a £134m pension black hole.

Today, the fight to save the Wedgwood collection begins in earnest as the Art Fund joins forces with the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Victoria & Albert Museum to raise the final £2.75m of the £15m price tag. It is a campaign to which, I hope, Guardian readers might contribute, because if you haven’t yet made it to Barlaston to see the 8,000-strong collection – from black jasper Portland designs to bone china tea sets and Robert Adam-designed vases – you are missing out on one of the most compelling accounts of British industrial, social and design history.


A lot of Americans work all kinds of crazy hours these days to pay the bills. Doctors do. Lawyers can. Maybe you do. It can make for a stressful life. Especially if the hours are irregular. All over the map. And especially if the work is low-wage. A doctor might hire a nanny. A stock clerk, a barrista, a Wal-Mart associate – not likely. But last-minute, all-over-the-clock-and-week shift assignments have become common. You can’t plan. You don’t know. And then there’s freelance work. This hour On Point: hanging on, making do in the makeshift, all-over-the-clock economy.


From jobs to schools to demographic transitions, Ferguson and its neighbouring towns, where many protesters live, have undergone sweeping changes in recent years. Some places have become pockets of poverty, comparable to the poorest spots in St Louis, once a hub for corporations such as Anheuser-Busch and Ralston-Purina, which drew generations of immigrant labourers.

Some towns, like Ferguson, are economically mixed, with middle-class subdivisions alongside run-down streets and big apartment complexes like the one where Brown lived. Either way, Swanstrom said, the area highlighted the growing challenge of the “suburbanisation” of poverty.

"This was a catalyst for something much deeper, the lack of economic opportunities and representation people have," said Etefia Umana, an educator and board member of a group called Better Family Life. "A lot of the issues are boiling up."

It’s been boiling for decades. St Louis’ jumble of suburbs - 91 municipalities exist in a county of about one million people ringing the city - has long been sharply segregated. Until the late 1940s, restrictive covenants blocked blacks from buying homes in many towns.

Well into the 1970s, tight zoning restrictions and other rules, especially in places near the city’s mostly black north side, kept many areas largely white, said Colin Gordon, a University of Iowa professor who’s studied housing in St Louis.

That began to change by the 1980s, when middle- and working-class white families began leaving the area around Ferguson for newer, roomier housing in more distant suburbs. In their place came a flood of black families from St Louis in search of better housing and schools.

"When black flight out of the city began, this was the logical frontier," Gordon said. "It became what the city had been, a zone of racial transition."

In Ferguson, the change happened fast. In a generation - from 1990 to today - the population changed from three-quarters white to two-thirds black. Even as the area’s demographics shifted, solid blue-collar jobs sustained many of these towns, said Lara Granich, a community organiser.


Like increasing numbers of low-income mothers and fathers, Ms. Navarro is at the center of a new collision that pits sophisticated workplace technology against some fundamental requirements of parenting, with particularly harsh consequences for poor single mothers. Along with virtually every major retail and restaurant chain, Starbucks relies on software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data to determine which of its 130,000 baristas are needed in its thousands of locations and exactly when. Big-box retailers or mall clothing chains are now capable of bringing in more hands in anticipation of a delivery truck pulling in or the weather changing, and sending workers home when real-time analyses show sales are slowing. Managers are often compensated based on the efficiency of their staffing.

Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes. “It’s like magic,” said Charles DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos, which supplies the software for Starbucks and many other chains.

Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships, undermining efforts to expand preschool access, driving some mothers out of the work force and redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families, say parents, child care providers and policy experts.


That’s the story of the new rural poverty in America: If your hometown went south, you probably did with it, unless you managed to get out and had the wherewithal to not come back.

The poverty of Las Animas isn’t the poverty of Appalachia or the Mississippi Delta or an Indian reservation, entrenched and intergenerational, enforced by age-old hierarchies of race and class. It’s the kind of poverty that can affect anyone who finds themselves in a place when the native industries disappear, as they have in Southeast Colorado and other rural areas across America.

[…]

“I think it’s more of a place-based poverty than it is demographic,” says Tracey Farrigan, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who is studying how rural poverty has spread. “People are moving to areas where they can afford to live, which are areas with less support for them. It’s kind of a cycle. So the places are poor, and the people are poor.”


Changing China’s household registration rules was one of the main planks of reform promised by President Xi Jinping at a Communist Party meeting in November, and it was reiterated in plans for more vigorous urbanization issued this year. Now Mr. Xi’s test will be achieving that promise, city by city, despite qualms and resistance from local officials and many long-term urban residents.

“I think there’s more hope of substantive change this time,” said Lu Yilong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing who studies household registration divisions and their effects. “This is more a coordinated, top-down reform, unlike in the past when local governments had more room to set their own rules. There have been changes already, and now we need a more systematic approach.”

The barriers in China’s system of household registration, or hukou, date to Mao’s era. In the late 1950s, the system was instituted to keep famished peasants from pouring into cities. The policies later calcified into caste-like barriers that still often tie citizens’ education, welfare and housing opportunities to their official residence, even if they have moved far away from that place to find a livelihood. The restrictions hinder permanent migration between many urban and rural areas, and among regions and cities, such as Shanghai and Beijing.

“The main problem now is not the rural population moving to a local city, that’s quite easy,” said Ren Xinghui, a researcher for the Transition Institute, a privately funded organization in Beijing, who campaigns against educational discrimination directed against children from the countryside. “The main problem is migration across provinces and cities, and the controls imposed by the big cities against cross-region migration. That’s the key to hukou reform.”


Let us return, for a moment, to the specific ideology of leisure. Rest, relaxation, escape and distraction are, perhaps, ‘needs’: but they do not in themselves define the specific exigency of leisure, which is the consumption of time. Free time is, perhaps, the entire ludic activity one fills it up with, but it is, first of all, the freedom to waste one’s time, and possibly even to ‘kill’ it, to expend it as pure loss (this is why it is insufficient to say that leisure is ‘alienated’ because it is merely the time necessary to reproduce labour power. The alienation of leisure is more profound: it does not relate to the direct subordination to working time, but is linked to the very impossibility of wasting one’s time).
 The true use-value of time, the use-value which leisure desperately tries to restore, is that of being wasted. The holidays are this quest for a time which one can waste in the full sense of the term, without that waste entering in its turn into a process of calculation, without that time being (at the same time) in some way ‘earned’. In our system of production and productive forces, one can only earn one’s time: this fatality weighs upon leisure as it does upon work. One can only ‘exploit [faire-valoir] one’s time’, if only by making a spectacularly empty use of it. The free time of the holidays remains the private property of the holiday-maker: an object, a possession he has earned with the sweat of his brow over the year; it is something owned by him, possessed by him as he possesses his other objects — something he could not relinquish to give it or sacrifice it (as one does with objects in making gifts of them), to yield it back up to total availability, to that absence of time which would be true freedom. He is tethered to ‘his’ time as Prometheus was tethered to his rock, tethered to the Promethean myth of time as productive force.
 Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus: all the existential myths of ‘absurd freedom’ are reasonably accurate representations of the holiday-maker in his setting, with all his desperate efforts to imitate ‘vacation’, gratuitousness, a total dispossession, a void, a loss of himself and of his time which he cannot achieve, being, as he is, an object caught up in a definitively objectivized dimension of time.
 We are in an age when men will never manage to waste enough time to be rid of the inevitability of spending their lives earning it. But you can’t throw off time like underwear. You can no longer either kill it or waste it, any more than you can money, since they are both the very expression of the exchange-value system. In the symbolic dimension, gold and money are excrement. It is the same with objectivized time. But it is, in fact, very rare — and logically impossible in the current system — for money or time to be restored to their ‘archaic’, sacrificial function of excrement. That would really be to deliver oneself of them in the symbolic mode. In the order based on calculation and capital, things are, in a sense, precisely the opposite way about: objectivized by it, and manipulated by it as exchange-value, it is we who have become the excrement of money, it is we who have become the excrement of time.
 Thus, everywhere, in spite of the fiction of freedom in leisure, ‘free’ time is logically impossible: there can only be constrained time. The time of consumption is that of production. It is so to the extent that it is only ever an ‘escapist’ parenthesis in the cycle of production. But, once again,this functional complementarity (variously shared out in the different social classes) is not its essential determination. Leisure is constrained in so far as, behind its apparent gratuitousness, it faithfully reproduces all the mental and practical constraints which are those of productive time and subjugated [asservi] daily life.

Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society

A Japanese nursing-care service provider requires Filipino job applicants sign a statement absolving the company of any responsibility should they die in Japan, the statement obtained by Kyodo News showed Saturday.

”…in case of loss of life of the undersigned through natural circumstances while in Japan, I release, waive and forever discharge Juju Corporation, its officers, directors, representatives or employees from any action for sums of money or other obligations arising,” the statement said.

There have been complaints from Filipino employees about harsh working conditions, while another document showed Juju Corp. in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, had one employee work on night duty 13 times one month.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has started a probe into why the company had its employees sign such a statement, written in both Japanese and English, as well as its working conditions.


The most recent government data show there are about 155,000 technical interns in Japan. Nearly 70 percent are from China, where some labor recruiters require payment of bonds worth thousands of dollars to work in Japan. Interns toil in apparel and food factories, on farms and in metal-working shops. In these workplaces, labor abuse is endemic: A 2012 investigation by Japanese labor inspectors found 79 percent of companies that employed interns were violating labor laws. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said it would use strict measures, including prosecution, toward groups that repeatedly violated the laws or failed to follow its guidance in their treatment of technical interns.

Critics say foreign interns have become an exploited source of cheap labor in a country where, despite having the world’s most rapidly ageing population, discussion of increased immigration is taboo. The U.S. State Department, in its 2013 Trafficking in Persons report, criticized the program’s use of “extortionate contracts”, restrictions on interns’ movements, and the imposition of heavy fees if workers leave.

Japan faces a worsening labor shortage, not only in family-run farms and factories such as Kameda but in construction and service industries. It is a major reason that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is planning a further expansion of the trainee program.