Category Archives: Public Sector

Role of psychosocial work factors in the relation between becoming a caregiver and changes in health behaviour: results from the Whitehall II cohort study

Source: Nadya Dich, Jenny Head, Naja Hulvej Rod, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, Online First, 23 May 2016

From the abstract:
Background: The present study tested the effects of becoming a caregiver combined with adverse working conditions on changes in health behaviours.

Methods: Participants were 5419 British civil servants from the Whitehall II cohort study who were not caregivers at baseline (phase 3, 1991–1994). Psychosocial work factors were assessed at baseline. Phase 4 questionnaire (1995–1996) was used to identify participants who became caregivers to an aged or disabled relative. Smoking, alcohol consumption and exercise were assessed at baseline and follow-up (phase 5, 1997–1999).

Results: Those who became caregivers were more likely to increase frequency of alcohol consumption, but only if they also reported low decision latitude at work (OR= 1.65, 95% CI 1.15 to 2.37 compared with non-caregivers with average decision latitude), or belonged to low occupational social class (OR=2.38, 95% CI 1.17 to 4.78 compared with non-caregivers of high occupational social class). Caregivers were more likely to quit smoking if job demands were low (OR=2.92; 95% CI 1.07 to 7.92 compared with non-caregivers with low job demands), or if social support at work was high (OR=2.99, 95% CI 1.01 to 8.86 compared with caregivers with average social support). There was no effect of caregiving on reducing exercise below recommended number of hours per week, or on drinking above recommended number of units per week, regardless of working conditions.

Conclusions: The findings underscore the importance of a well-balanced work environment as a resource for people exposed to increased family demands.

The ARC and the Covenants, 2.0: an update on the long-term credit risk of US states

Source: Michael Cembalest, J.P. Morgan, Eye on the Market, May 19, 2016

As managers of ~$70 billion in municipal bonds across our asset management business (Q1 2016), we’re very focused on the total indebtedness of US states. New GASB rules have now standardized the reporting of municipal liabilities, so we’re taking this opportunity to update our assessment of how much it will cost states to service them. Total liabilities include bonds and obligations related to underfunded pensions and retiree healthcare benefits (referred to as “OPEB”, an acronym for Other Post-Employment Retirement Benefits). Pensions and OPEB are a big part of the debt picture: while US states have ~$500 billion of bonds supported by state tax collections and general revenues, they have another $1.0-$1.5 trillion of unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities, depending on rates used to discount them.

After analyzing 330 single-employer and multi-employer pension and OPEB plans, we created a single measure for each state. The chart shows the ratio of what states currently spend on bonds, pensions and OPEB as a percentage of their revenues (blue bars), and what they would be spending assuming a 6% return on plan assets, amortizing any unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities over 30 years (total bars). For multi-employer plans, we only include the state’s share of pension and OPEB liabilities since local entities are responsible for the rest.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2016 Trends

Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence, May 2016

From the summary:
For the third year in a row, state and local governments are reporting an increase in hiring. Pressure on benefits continues, with employees taking on greater shares of health care costs and contributions to pensions. As the rate of retirements accelerate, there is a greater sense of urgency about recruitment, retention, and succession planning.
The ‘Silver Tsunami’ Has Arrived in Government
Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, May 31, 2016

Significantly more state and local workers are retiring or quitting, according to a recent survey.

Women and Public Sector Precarity: Causes, Conditions and Consequences

Source: Leah Levac and Yuriko Cowper-Smith, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, April 25, 2016

From the abstract:
Leah Levac and Yuriko Cowper-Smith explore the causes, conditions and consequences of precarity in Canada’s public sector using a gendered, intersectional analysis.

Precarious work bears significant consequences for Canadian workers, and public sector workers are no exception. Privatization, outsourcing, contract and part-time work have replaced permanent, full-time work for many Canadians, causing precarious conditions – or precarity – that leaves workers vulnerable. When precarity occurs in the Public Service, its impacts can be particularly problematic for women.

Economic Volatility: Hidden Societal Cost of Prevailing Approaches to Pension Reforms

Source: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement System, May 2016

Pension funds are the great stabilizers of our economy. When individual investors run for the door during market downturns, pension funds are there to stay. They are long-term investors and remain in the market for the long haul. This provides financial and economic stability that is needed for economic prosperity….. Pensioners keep receiving their pension check in good as well as bad economic times. While incomes from jobs and investments decline during bad economic times, pension checks provide an economic cushion and keep local economies afloat. Unfortunately, we have been steadily dismantling pensions and hence undermining this economic cushion, increasing economic volatility as a result. Prevailing pension reforms increase economic volatility in another way. They contribute to the formation and bursting of asset bubbles……

State Retiree Health Plan Spending: An examination of funding trends and plan provisions

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, May 2016

From the overview:
This report, a first-of-its-kind effort, provides data on state OPEB liabilities—the cost in today’s dollars of benefits to be paid to current workers and retirees over future years—and funding trends and how they are affected by aspects of state retiree health plans. Researchers collected and analyzed updated OPEB financial data and trends since 2010, as well as 50-state data on the eligibility criteria for retiree health plans. (To convey more clear and consistent trends, we report 50-state OPEB data only since 2010, because many states were adjusting to newly implemented GASB reporting standards in 2008 and 2009.) They found that states’ strategies for addressing OPEB liabilities vary greatly and that the methods states choose to contribute to their retirees’ health insurance premiums substantially affect the size of their OPEB liabilities. Specifically, the researchers found:

  • States’ OPEB liabilities decreased 10 percent, to $627 billion, between 2010 and 2013, after adjusting for inflation. This drop resulted from lower rates of growth in health care costs and changes states made to their OPEB funding policies and retiree health plan provisions.
  • State-funded ratios—representing the amount of assets states have set aside to fund their OPEB liabilities—increased from 5 percent in 2010 to 6 percent in 2013.7 However, this trend varied greatly among states—the funded ratio of eight states decreased, and Oregon increased its funded ratio by 25 percentage points.
  • States’ actual expenditures for OPEB totaled $18.4 billion in 2013, or 1.6 percent of state-generated revenue.(See “Glossary” box.) If states had instead set aside the amount suggested by actuaries to pay for OPEB liabilities, their total payments that year would have more than doubled to $48 billion—4 percent of state-generated revenue—and spending to fully fund OPEB obligations would have outpaced what states contributed to active state employee health premiums.
  • The states that automatically increased their retiree health insurance premium contribution when the total cost of the premium rose had higher OPEB liabilities relative to the size of their economies in 2013, while the states that paid a fixed amount toward retirees’ health insurance premiums had relatively lower OPEB liabilities.
  • States varied in how they modified retiree health plan provisions. For example, between 2000 and 2015, Idaho eliminated retiree health coverage for newly hired employees; at least five states stopped making any health premium contribution for certain retirees; and over a dozen states changed the minimum age or the number of state service years required for retirees to be eligible for health benefits.
  • 35 states have implemented Medicare Advantage or Employer Group Waiver Plans to provide health or prescription drug benefit coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees since these options were authorized as part of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003.8 These cost-saving programs provide states with financial subsidies from the federal Medicare program to provide Medicare plus wraparound benefits.9 (See “Glossary” box.)
  • As state policymakers address challenges in providing retiree health care, this report is intended to help them better understand how their spending, long-term liabilities, and criteria for premium contributions and coverage eligibility compare with those of other states.

    Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration

    Source: Curtis K. Chan, Michel Anteby, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 61 no. 2, June 2016
    (subscription required)

    From the abstract:
    In this article, we examine a case of task segregation—when a group of workers is disproportionately allocated, relative to other groups, to spend more time on specific tasks in a given job—and argue that such segregation is a potential mechanism for generating within-job inequality in the quality of a job. When performing those tasks is undesirable, this allocation has unfavorable implications for that group’s experienced job quality. We articulate the processes by which task segregation can lead to workplace inequality in job quality through an inductive, interview-based case study of airport security-screening workers in a unit of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at a large urban airport. Female workers were disproportionately allocated to the pat-down task, the manual screening of travelers for prohibited items. Our findings suggest that this segregation led to overall poorer job quality outcomes for women. Task segregation overexposed female workers to processes of physical exertion, emotional labor, and relational strain, giving rise to work intensity, emotional exhaustion, and lack of coping resources. Task segregation also seemed to disproportionately expose female workers to managerial sanctions for taking recuperative time off and a narrowing of their skill set that may have contributed to worse promotion chances, pay, satisfaction, and turnover rates for women. We conclude with a theoretical model of how task segregation can act as a mechanism for generating within-job inequality in job quality.

    Where Did the Government Jobs Go?

    Source: Annie Lowrey, New York Times Magazine, April 27, 2016

    Long a ticket to the middle class, especially for African-Americans, they have become increasingly difficult to find. ….

    ….The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years.

    The public sector’s slow decimation is one of the unheralded reasons that the middle class has shrunk as the ranks of the poor and the rich have swollen in the post-recession years. This is certainly true in Louisiana, where five of the 10 biggest employers are public institutions, or health centers that in no small part rely on public funds. In Rapides Parish, which includes Pineville, the biggest employer is the school district.

    Across the country, when public-sector workers lose their jobs, the burden disproportionately falls on black workers, and particularly women — people like Theresa Jardoin and Linette Richard….