The Washington Post has an early vision of the future, care of Singapore, who like Japan are suffering from the success of post-WWII industrialisation and demographic changes. In Singapore, citizens don’t want babies — or foreign workers, either. Excerpt:

In Singapore, the place where most people go to make the biggest decision in their lives — other than, arguably, their choice of a spouse — is the headquarters of the Housing Development Board. It’s a get-a-room, one-stop shop: Browse the planned communities depicted in glass-enclosed models on the first floor, pick out your unit at the staged showrooms three floors up, and descend again to line up your financing and apply for a spot.

Spend much time there, though, and the real mission becomes apparent: Make babies. Right now, Singapore is a time bomb. In 1980, there were 17 people working for every retired person. That’s come down to six people today, and by 2030, the ratio is expected to be 2 to 1 — a problem stalking much of the developed world that’s bearing down on this island city-state with alarming speed.

So at HDB, it’s families first. Flat-screen TVs display b-roll of smiling pregnant women and couples with strollers. “Working together to build a loving home,” scrolls the motto of the Ministry of National Development underneath. Expecting newlyweds and those with small children jump ahead in the line for new flats (just one of a slew of procreation incentives). Even though the government recently started allowing unmarried people to buy units if they’re over 35 — past which they’re presumably beyond all help — the videos depicting a homely single woman arranging flowers in her lonely living room did not make the choice look attractive.

Aisya Sharif, a 26-year-old kindergarten teacher, is doing exactly what the government wants her to do. At HDB’s vast waiting room on a recent afternoon, she sat reading a book about pregnancy, about to pick up the keys to a new four-bedroom apartment she’d bought with her firefighter husband. It’s an exciting new phase — getting married and buying property is pretty much the only way to move out of your parents’ house — but the future doesn’t look so bright.

“One word? Struggling,” Sharif says, when asked how Singapore is faring. The costs of food, gas and goods are rising, but wages haven’t kept pace. “Generally, what we’re getting is not as much as things are increasing. To survive here is okay, but to do better is hard.”

Over the past decade, the government has tried to supplement the sagging labor force by welcoming immigrants — only 3.2 million of the country’s 5.3 million residents are actually citizens. For Sharif, though, that’s made doing better even harder. She’s now competing with foreign teachers for the best jobs at private international schools. And she’s noticed that everything is getting more crowded as foreign laborers flood the malls, subways and well-designed public waterfront.

A great counterfactual from David Graeber, one of the more interesting academics out there via PBS Newshour. Why America’s favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves. Click through for the conversation and a YouTube discussion. Excerpt:

Editor’s Note: Conservative proponents of the guaranteed income want a lump sum payment (Charles Murray suggests about $11,000 to all adults) to replace existing social welfare programs and downsize American bureaucracy. But some leftists oppose those government welfare agencies, too, London School of Economics professor David Graeber says. The leftist critique of private and public bureaucracies, Graeber explains, is that they “employ thousands of people to make us feel bad about ourselves.”

Bureaucrats pushing paper decide what we and our work are worth. But somewhat ironically, Graeber suggests, it’s those bureaucrats who perform the most meaningless work of all. If we gave everyone a lump sum basic income and eliminated those bureaucratic jobs, we’d all be better off, he says.

Graeber doesn’t self-identify as an anarchist (“anarchism is something you do”), but as an activist in the Occupy and student loan movements, this is all part of his concern that workers today are “wage slaves.”

With a basic income, everyone would have access to the market. Workers (including those government paper-pushers) could pursue the work they want, while society as a whole would benefit from their scientific breakthroughs and artistic talents. From the Beatles to Derrida, Graeber says, this form of public assistance has supported people who would otherwise be “lifting boxes,” or performing some other mundane job as a condition of welfare.

Graeber appears in our Making Sen$e segment on Switzerland’s basic income debate and its appeal in the United States, below. Paul Solman’s extended conversation with him about how a basic income would liberate wage slaves follows.

I think the Australia would do well to scrap both Centrelink and Job Services Australia. Both organisations cost a fortune, deliver very little and would qualify as ‘bullshit jobs’.

From NBC News. Air Force Drone Pilots Are Bummed Out, Overworked: Report. Excerpt:

A new report from the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft program is understaffed, and the military branch isn’t sufficiently supporting the officers who’ve signed up to fly the fleet of Predators and Reapers, which are used for reconnaissance and surveillance and sometimes for missile strikes.

Today’s Air Force drone pilots are overworked and stressed. They guide the unmanned aircraft over places like Afghanistan from bases thousands of miles away in Nevada, New Mexico and California. At the end of their long, pressure-filled shifts, when they drive home to their families, they may have missed a birthday or soccer practice. Some aren’t sure when their deployment will end. And they sure can’t talk about work.

“There’s been an explosion of the use of these particular vehicles,” said Brenda Farrell, the GAO’s director of defense capabilities and management, who led the study. Yet, as of last December, the USAF employed 1,366 drone pilots — only 85 percent of the total needed to operate the 65 combat air patrols (each consisting of up to 4 drones) it intends to have in place by May.

Besides falling short on staffing, according to the report, the USAF hasn’t worked out how many people are needed to fly one operation. Also, it hasn’t fully investigated and made support arrangements for the effects that being deployed on base has on the mental health of the remote pilots. (Fifty-seven percent of the pilots reported working more than 50 hours a week, for example.)

This is the second report in the last few months that recommends the USAF rethink the way it staffs its drones.

I was initially surprised by the skills shortages amongst UAV pilots but on reflection I suppose every young man wants to be ‘Top Gun’ rather than play remotely from Fort Lauderdale.

A common joke among military pilots is the order that they are considered worthy enough to be called a pilot (in Australia it goes RAAF, Navy and Army). Note that UAV pilots are not even on the list. While air forces and regulators are run by pilots the special requirements of UAV pilots will remain a second tier priority even as they become the most important force projection capability.

Although it is not quite the 1840 exodus the Irish government has acknowledged that the rate of emigration is ‘unacceptable’. Via Irish Central. Ireland has EU’s highest rate of emigration with one person leaving every six minutes. Detail:

Figures released by Eurostat show that Ireland has the highest rate of emigration in the European Union (EU). Recent statistics show that one person leaves Ireland every six minutes. The new figures published by Eurostat, which is the statistical office of the European Union, show that Ireland not only had the highest emigration rate but also the highest birth rate and the lowest death rate for 2012. Despite the high birth rate and low death rate the statistics show that that population of Ireland experienced extremely modest growth due to emigration..

Earlier this year Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that 240 people per day, ten people per hour – one person every six minutes – were leaving Ireland. The Irish government has admitted that emigration levels are “at an unacceptable level.”  The CSO’s figures show that 24.6 percent (21,900) of emigrants went to the United Kingdom, 17.2 percent (15,400) to Australia and, according to their graphs, 6.2 percent to the United States. One third of these emigrants are aged between 15 and 24.

I note that the total amount of emigration for 2013 was 89,000 (including 5,300 who went to Canada) and immigration was 55,900 for a net migration figure of -33,900. Full details via the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

The BBC reports on the ‘shocking’ rise in the use of food banks. Food banks see ‘shocking’ rise in number of users. Excerpt:

A food bank charity says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, up from 347,000 the year before. The Trussell Trust said a third were given to repeat visitors but that there was a “shocking” 51% rise in clients to established food banks. It said benefit payment delays were the main cause. In a letter to ministers, more than 500 clergy say the increase is “terrible”. The government said there was no evidence of a link between welfare reforms and the use of food banks.

However, the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, said benefits payments had been a particular problem since welfare changes were introduced just over a year ago. Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions – when payments are temporarily stopped – had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food. And more than 30% of visits were put down to a delay in welfare payments. The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

“In the last year, we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low incomes,” said Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust.

Yesterday, the Australian Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) announced that the second Sydney airport, located at Badgerys Creek would go ahead. Final sign-off on this will create 4,000 construction jobs and potentially 60,000 direct and indirect jobs in greater Western Sydney. From the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. The benefits of an airport at Badgerys Creek. Detail:

Significant economic and employment benefits

An airport at Badgerys Creek will be a catalyst for investment and job creation in Western Sydney. Analysis by Ernst and Young found that an airport at Badgerys Creek has the potential to generate $24.6 billion in direct expenditure by 2060, and contribute a $23.9 billion increase in gross domestic product to the national economy.

The site at Badgerys Creek is located within the New South Wales (NSW) Government’s proposed expansion of the Western Sydney Employment Area (WSEA). The WSEA is expected to accommodate 57,000 new jobs within the next 30 years, with the potential for up to 212,000 jobs when fully developed.

An airport development at Badgerys Creek will contribute substantially in facilitating these jobs for Western Sydney. It could deliver approximately 35,000 jobs by 2035, increasing to over 60,000 by 2060.

While the initial construction phase could generate over 4,000 jobs, the ongoing operation of the airport would generate many more times this amount over its lifetime. Over 30,000 jobs could be generated directly in the airport’s operation up to 2060, and indirect employment around the airport site could contribute an additional 30,000 jobs.

These jobs will also provide opportunities for Western Sydney residents to work closer to home and spend less time commuting. By 2035, it is expected that up to 17,000 residents within the airport region will be able to access employment opportunities closer to home.

By 2060, the number of residents working closer to home is expected to increase to approximately 30,000. This equates to local residents collectively saving nearly four million hours of commuter travel time.


A very well written article from The Star (thanks to Jennifer Yang for pointing this one out on Twitter). The Syrian ‘guests’ of Istanbul. Excerpt:

By the end of this year, the Turkish government expects the number of Syrians within Turkey to balloon to 1.5 million. has shouldered the burden of caring for the displaced mostly alone. It has spent close to $3 billion but has only received $183 million from the international community, says Collinsworth.

Few countries grant Syrians asylum. In fact, 58,450 Syrian asylum applications were received by the EU by the end of August 2013, according to Eurostat and UN data. Of that number, Germany took in 19,360, followed by Sweden at 15,480. Canada has only accepted 512 from when the conflict began to 2012, the data shows.

There are no precise numbers on how many are in Istanbul because so many are illegal. They flee Syria so hurriedly that many leave without their passports. Yet, valid passports are needed to apply for work permits and to obtain other benefits.

Back home, they were engineers, tailors, teachers, doctors and farmers. In Istanbul, most live in crowded apartments and take jobs no one else would touch at low wages. Legal papers are needed to obtain a Turkish work permit.

Redwan Ahmd is one of the displaced. The 23-year-old university educated engineer left his world behind and fled Aleppo seven months ago. He works in a café across from Gezi Park, earning 600 Turkish lira a month, or $310. “I cannot work here in my job because I am not a Turkish man. I am a Syrian . . . No matter where I go, my life is very bad just because I am Syrian,” Ahmd says after work one evening. Ahmd left his family — his parents, four sisters and two brothers — in Aleppo. Every month, he sends 300 lira home. The rest of his pay goes toward rent. He has no money for food but his employers let him eat at the café. “My life is finished. My family is in Syria. I don’t know anyone here. At night, I go home. I have nowhere to go,” he says, then points to a legless Syrian man sitting in a wheelchair, begging for money as his young son stands behind him.

According to SBS Australia agreed to take 500 Syrian refugee’s as part of our humanitarian intake, which is a paltry sum when you consider the scale of the disaster.