trafficking forced labor slavery retirement

Switzerland allows teens to sell themselves
legal age pension

France forces oldsters to sell their labor

Yes, we should all work to eat. And there is no free lunch (unless you’re powerful). But still, there is a lot of good, cheap abundance that is concentrated, not shared. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) the Christian Science Monitor, Jun 14, on slavery by Howard LaFranchi; and (2) the Guardian, Jun 16, on retirement by Lizzy Davies.

by Howard LaFranchi and by Lizzy Davies

The US State Department’s annual report on human trafficking brands 13 countries as standouts for failure to address rampant cases of sex trading, indentured domestic work, forced field labor, and other varieties of slavery within their borders.

The global scofflaws range from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to North Korea and Cuba. The bright spots include Pakistan, Malaysia, Syria, and Egypt -- countries that don’t always shine in annual human-rights ratings but that the State Department found have acted to address human-trafficking issues over the past year.

The US report praised Bosnia-Herzegovina for imposing stronger penalties for trafficking and for improving services for trafficking victims. On the other hand, the report slaps Switzerland with a “tier two,” or less-than-exemplary, rating, largely over Swiss law that in some cases allows 16- and 17-year-olds to legally engage in prostitution.

The State Department tallied more than 4,000 convictions worldwide in trafficking and slavery cases in 2009 -- a 40% increase over the previous year. On the other hand, the global economic downturn means that more people facing deteriorating living conditions are finding fewer alternatives to forced labor -- either in their own countries or in foreign locations to which they are trafficked.

The report estimates that more than 12 million people are trafficked globally every year.

A not-so-positive trend in this year’s report is a “feminization of trafficking,” with more women being involuntarily placed in domestic or “maid” work, either in their home countries or abroad. In other cases -- as in a documented case in the United Arab Emirates -- women are hoodwinked into accepting what they are told will be maid jobs in a foreign country, only to find themselves prostituted out.

Cases of large-scale trafficking of men have fallen off, not so much as a result of better enforcement but because the global recession has curtailed the building boom in the Middle East and other regions.

The report also honors nine anti-trafficking heroes who dedicate their lives to stopping human trafficking.

A Mauritanian woman, Aminetou Mint Moctar, has worked to denounce the trafficking of Mauritanian girls to Persian Gulf nations. In Florida, Laura Germino coordinates the antislavery campaign of the coalition of Immokalee Workers, which for years has uncovered slavery operations in the agriculture sector in the southeastern US.

For the first time, the US rated itself in the report, giving itself a “tier one,” or top-tier, rating (along with most Western countries and Nigeria, which stands out in Africa as a tier one country) but recommending more training for federal, state, and local law enforcement officials to better detect and prosecute cases ranging from debt bondage to child prostitution.

JJS: Those are the obvious cases of forced labor. Now for a subtle one.

The French government today sparked anger from unions and the Socialist opposition when it announced its intention to raise the legal age of retirement.

In a blow to a much-cherished exception française, the French will no longer be able to retire from the age of 60. They will instead be expected to work until they are 62 by 2018.

Brought in by François Mitterrand in the 1980s, the age 60 is viewed by Socialist party stalwarts as a symbol of left-led social progress.

"I am very angry and very sad because the end of retirement at 60 ... is the end of an era," Jean-Luc Mélenchon , the head of the Parti de Gauche, told French radio. "It's the end of a way of living, and it's the end of happy days."

"All our partners in Europe have done this by working for longer,” the employment minister, Eric Woerth, said. “It is not possible for us to not join this movement."

As well as a progressive raising of the retirement age, beginning next July, the reform also envisages increasing the number of work years needed in order to claim a full pension, from 40.5 years now to at least 41.5 in 2020.

An array of tax hikes, including a 1% surcharge on the top income tax bracket, also aims to raise revenue for a pensions system forecast to register a €32bn (£26.6bn) deficit this year. France's oversized budget deficit currently stands at 7.5% of GDP.

JJS: While the numbers don’t lie, are they looking at the right numbers? Take a look at productivity, the measure of getting more from less. Thanks to automation and globalization, the modern West has gotten rid of a lot of grunt work. So, why force people to perform work that’s not particularly useful, especially since a lot of seniors already volunteer to do work that does make life easier for others?

The big picture solution is to see beyond getting all our income only from labor. Yes, labor does deserve compensation; we couldn’t have any wealth without it. But another factor determines how much wealth we as a society end up with, day in, day out, and that factor is land, or more precisely, location. A good location, with a high density of population, is very efficient at churning out the goods and services. Busily bountiful places like that pump up their site values, like Paris, which has very high land values.

Let’s quit fixating on labor and try fixating on land. Feel worthy of income from one’s labor but also from the region’s land. Sort of like what Alaska does with oil rents and Aspen Colorado does with some land values, gather them all up (using taxes, leases, fees, or dues) and then divvy them up as a Citizens Dividend.

If you did that, and at the same time abolished the counterproductive taxes that drive up prices of nearly everything, I bet you’d find that this rent dividend, plus one’s private savings, plus a constantly falling cost of living, together would be enough so that government could get out of the pension business altogether.

Of course, the answer depends on the actual figures, but this is the right discussion to have -- about technology, useful work, respect for elders, land rent, and sharing society’s surplus. It’s the geonomic recipe and it works.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Those French know how to live

Until we geonomize, some battles need re-winning

Economic ills need economic cures

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