chapter  14
10 Pages

Working for nothing

The latest high-growth sector?
ByAndrew Ross

This chapter describes some versions of free labour in more detail. It raises the question of whether the upsurge of unpaid labour can help us explain the gulf between the current inflation of corporate profits and high rates of underemployment. Two of the reasons for the gap between high earnings and joblessness seem to be beyond dispute. Corporations are still moving their operations offshore, especially jobs in high-skilled sectors where the largest savings in labour costs can be secured. In addition, these offshore activities allow them to dodge taxes by parking their profits overseas. Employees have been pressed by the stiff threat of layoffs, either to work harder and longer for the same pay check or to take a cut in wages. The pressure of import prices and recessionary drops in consumer demand has led American employers to seek out sharply discounted prison labour in ever greater quantities.