When Children Aren’t Better Off Than Their Parents

Sunset - Copyright PvBIf you want to understand the real economic anxiety that drives voters in developed economies to reject politics as usual, from the rise of Donald Trump to Brexit, you’ve got to know this:

Between 25 percent and 50 percent of people in the developed world are no longer advancing economically. Part of this is indeed due to the slow recovery after the 2007-2008 recession. If low productivity growth persists for the next decade, an even higher share, 70 percent to 80 percent of households, will not advance. But even under the most optimistic assumption – that productivity growth recovers to historic highs – 10 to 20 percent of households in developed economies will still not advance.

These startling findings come from a new research report released by the McKinsey Global Institute, “Poorer than their parents? A new perspective on income inequality“. This is about the US and European countries, not the developing world. Much of the developing world is still trying to rise out of poverty, though significant advances have been made in the last decades.

All parents want their children to be better off than they are. For many families in developed countries, that is clearly not happening anymore. The researchers point out that this is a drag on total consumption spending and therefore GDP growth. But even more unsettling is the rise of social tensions. As more and more people do not advance, many will withdraw their support for the things that have driven economic growth in the past: free trade, technology and migration. While trade and technology have been more responsible for declining or stagnant household incomes than worker migration, immigration is a more emotional issue because it is more visible.

Prior to 2004 only 2 percent of people in the developed world were not advancing. It wasn’t a big issue for governments who focused more on improving total growth and reducing total unemployment. So this problem is new and politicians are struggling to deal with it. We need a constructive and reasoned debate in the body politic about policy solutions; neither platitudes nor demagoguery will help. But as business people we cannot just leave it to government and the politicians.

In a podcast discussing the findings, Richard Dobbs, the senior partner at McKinsey who led the research, says that business has an important role to play in addressing this problem: First, business can help drive productivity and economic growth. Second, businesses can help retrain mid-career people when their jobs are displaced by technology. Third, businesses can proactively help schools provide the next cohort of workers with the most relevant education for the future needs of the economy.

There are some good examples of businesses doing these things but it is not enough. We need the business community to get a lot more systematic in fulfilling this responsibility to society, constantly trying new things, learning from their experiments and quickly scaling up what works so it benefits as many workers as possible. It’s only through such a collective effort that we can address this very real challenge to the well-being of our societies.

In our book we go further by pointing out the moral obligations that business leaders have to their dislocated workers. In Chapter 9, “Between Automation and Globalization”, we show how age-old Judaeo-Christian teachings can be applied to this very modern issue. While no one can be guaranteed employment for life, employers cannot simply discard their workers. They need to give them ample provisions for the next part of their journey. These fall into three categories: 1. skills that workers can take with them, 2. adequate monetary compensation to help them through the transition, and 3. sufficient time to prepare and adjust.

While the pace of change has sped up considerably, the well-being of our fellow human beings is still what matters most. We are all on a grand journey called life, and we have a duty to our fellow travelers who share parts of our journey. Let’s do everything in our power to help one another!

Posted by Peet van Biljon

What’s in the Book?

Back Cover_webFront Cover_web Our book is on track for a late August release on Amazon, so please stay tuned!

In the mean time, I want to share the chapter headings (with notes) so people can get a better sense of the content.

As you can see, we’ve tried to cover a wide spectrum of business and work life decisions.

1. “Our Business Lives in Perspective” – the purpose of our work
2. “Being the Boss” – burdens of leadership
3. “The Laborer is Worth His or Her Wage but Doesn’t get It” – fair compensation and inequality
4. “The Big Time Crunch” – work hours, rest and productivity
5. “The Many Sacrifices of the Ideal Worker” – family and relationship costs
6. “Temptations of a Salesperson” – unethical sales techniques
7. “Slaves to the Revenue God” – harmful products and consumption patterns
8. “A Costly Choice: Whom Will You Serve?” – societal costs and layoffs
9. “Between Automation and Globalization” – helping workers adjust
10. “Shackles of the Shareholder-Primacy Demon” – refuting shareholder-primacy ideology
11. “Playing on the Ethic Line” – typical ethical temptations
12. “A Principled Life in an Imperfect World” – personal coping strategies

Posted by Peet van Biljon

Wrong Choices Are Always Easy

A new and exciting book on business ethics will be available to you in August.  Look for it on Amazon and elsewhere: Business Ethics for Executives – A Christian Decision Guide.

Making ethical business decisions is never easy. Sometimes, the more difficult the choice the more you become aware it’s the right choice. Wrong choices are always easy.  Every chapter of our book explores its topic from two perspectives: business and religion. We believe the insights provided will challenge Christian business leaders and executives to set the bar higher.
Peet and I intentionally wrote this book to engage our readers in an on-going conversation about business ethics. Up for discussion are employee compensation, management and employee expectations, product and worker globalization, and seeing a new way through the variety of decisions executives and employees face in the twenty-first century.
As a pastor, I’ve watched and guided churches through agonizing struggles over employee job expectations, equitable and fair compensations, retirement accounts, insurance, etc. I’ve seen well-meaning people adjust their values when finances was the main driver and the institution’s needs were guarded more and valued more than the employees’needs. We all get it; it’s the world we live in. Even in the church we can make the use of money and church finances a sacred cow.
One of our hopes for this book is that it will change the default of how most of us do business on a daily basis by giving our readers grist for the ethical decision making mill. We don’t assume that business executives will make the same decisions as Peet or I would. Business Ethics for Executives will change and elevate the conversations about how and what decisions are made. Sometimes, that’s as good as it gets.
I like what co-author Peet van Biljon said about this book: “it’s a contemporary business book shaped by Christian values, not a Christian book for business people.” For most people, a large portion of the meaning derived from life comes from and is defined be the work we do. Business Ethics for Executives is concerned with not simply what we do for a living, but how we live with what we do. Business executives, upper and mid-level management, and all other workers search for meaning and purpose in life, often through our work and those with whom we work. Passion for our work product, and loyalty toward co-workers and management, are all entangled in our desires and expectations for what is fair and equitable. When these concerns are mutually shared there is great potential for all making a difference with their lives and their work.
Our book engages everyone in the conversations that occur daily in the work place. Guidance and help are on the way in Business Ethics for Executives: A Christian Decision Guide.
Bookmark this website. Use the sign-up page to subscribe to our updates. Feel free to ask questions and challenge our thinking at the blog site. We’d love to hear from you and work with you in all that you do. We’re expecting an August launch of our book. Stay tuned.

Posted by James C Sprouse

Announcing “Business Ethics for Executives”

My co-author, Jim Sprouse, and I are excited to announce our new book, Business Ethics for Executives – A Christian Decision Guide, which will be published and available for purchase on Amazon.com and elsewhere by early August. The book will be available in both paperback and Kindle format.

It is a Christian business ethics guide that challenges you to make business decisions that serve a higher purpose than maximizing profits. Think of it as Harvard Business Review meets the Ten Commandments!

The book covers topics such as leadership, fair compensation, expectations of employees, sources of revenue and pricing, how sales are made, cost reduction, automation and globalization, as well as other ethical challenges that executives are faced with every day. Each chapter is a combination of research from contemporary business sources juxtaposed with moral teachings from the Bible. While the primary aim of the book is to challenge Christian business leaders to “lift their game”, we hope that it will be a useful reference for anyone who wants to live a more moral life at work. And we pray that it will influence for the better the business decisions made in corporate America and elsewhere.

Why did we write it? Many of us attend worship services over the weekend, and hear inspirational sermons that motivate us to work for the Kingdom. Yet the working world we step into on Monday mornings is a very different environment from the one we experience in the pews. It can be all too easy to deal with this dichotomy by compartmentalizing our lives. We are after all working in legal enterprises and following ethical rules set by our companies. We do not necessarily think so much about our faith while we are at work and making our business decisions. But think how much of our waking hours are spent at work. And think how consequential so many of our business decisions are for other people. This book is aimed at bridging that gap, to help you think differently about all the core business decisions you make and how they affect people.

This is a contemporary business book shaped by Christian values, not a Christian book for people in business. It is also not written as an autobiography, though it has been influenced by the life journeys of its authors. Instead it is analytical and practical, looking at the same business issues you read about in the financial or popular press with a Christian lens. If fact, we frequently reference press reports and the latest business research out there. And while it covers typical issues thought of a ethical issues like bribery and corruption, it’s main focus is on core business decisions. For people who are trying to lead moral lives at work, any decision that impacts another human must be viewed as an ethical decision. Are our everyday business decisions benefiting or harming our fellow human beings?

Because it bridges the gap between the business world and the worship service, writing this book needed to be a collaboration between people who could bring both perspectives to bear on the issues at hand. I have spent decades in the business world and Jim has decades of experience as a pastor. Writing the book together has been a fruitful collaboration and also wonderfully enriching for both of us personally. One’s faith truly comes alive when you try to figure out how to act on it, and then, when you see the right path, to take that path even if it is not the easiest. Writing the book has been one such a leap of faith for us as authors, and we hope and pray that it will encourage our readers to take their own leaps of faith.

There are many workers in God’s vineyard and we are just two of them. We want to acknowledge and celebrate the many Christians who are already actively involved in workplace ministry. We hope this book will be an additional resource for you and encourage you to reach out to us with any suggestions or requests.

Please bookmark this website and use the sign-up page to subscribe to our updates. We will let you know when we post new blogs and material here. For example, we will be posting a video interview with the authors in a couple of weeks and will also share free extracts from the book with our subscribers in the run-up to the August launch.

Posted by Peet van Biljon