Salonanarchist | Leunstoelactivist

Second jobs - job erosion or appetite for consumption

Last year, a spokesperson of the German federal government suggested the explosive growth of Zweitjobs (second jobs) could have various explanations. Yes, people may be forced to take on second jobs out of financial necessity and because of the flexible labour market; but it could also have something to do with an increased «appetite for consumption» (Konsumlust). The suggestion immediately resulted in 2,000 sarcastic tweets.

The Netherlands has also seen a substantial growth in the number of people with second jobs, as new data from Statistics Netherlands illustrate. The chart shows the total number of employees (blue); employees with non-permanent jobs such as temp jobs and zero-hours contracts (red) and employees with a second job (green, all index 2002 = 100).

The green and red lines show a quite similar pattern. One might try arguing that the crisis caused a dip in the appetite for consumption, but more likely there’s a broader pattern of job erosion going on, temporarily slowed down when employers shedded their «flexible skin» (Dutch jargon for the precarious workers employers use) during the crisis.


Scooters often faster than cars

Minister Schultz wants to allow Amsterdam to ban scooters from cycle paths and make them use the road, wearing a helmet. This should make cycle paths safer for cyclists and reduce their exposure to air pollution. However, car and scooter lobbyists argue that the speed difference between scooters and cars is too large for scooters to ride safely on the road, with motorists driving 50 kmph.

So do motorists really make 50 kmph in Amsterdam? «Cycling professor» Marco te Brömmelstroet has tweeted a map showing rush hour speeds far below 50 kmph.

As part of its open data initiative, Amsterdam has released some 5 million speed measurements at the «Hoofdnet Auto» (the network of major roads for cars) during the month of January 2014. The histogram above shows that even at these main roads, the majority of measurements recorded a speed below 50 kmph, with a median speed of 31 kmph. Average speeds during afternoon rush hour were about 5 kmph lower than at night.

A 2011 study by cyclists’ organisation Fietsersbond found found an average speed for scooters on Amsterdam’s cycle paths of 36.9 kmph. The map shows roads where motorists drive on average at least 36.9 kmph (thin red line) or 50 kmph (thick red line). Note that the method by which the Fietsersbond measured scooter speed may be different from the method used to measure car speed.

There have been jokes that scooter riders don’t want to use the road because this would force them to reduce their speed. The data of the Amsterdam government show there’s actually some truth to this.

Scripts for processing the data can be found here.

Executive pay

Last weekend, Senate member Roger van Boxtel criticised trade union FNV’s new central wage demand of 900 euro (which would narrow the gap between low and high incomes), arguing that it’s «really too much». Van Boxtel himself, in his capacity as ceo of the Menzis health insurance company, got a 5,000 euro raise last year, resulting in a remuneration of 389,000 euros.

Over the past year and a half, high-paid executives of (semi) public organisations have been somewhat sheltered from public scrutiny. Because of the introduction of a new norm, the government has suspended its annual publication on excessive pay at (semi) public institutions.

Google Trends data show that there was a peak in searches for «top incomes» in January 2013, when the latest report (on 2011 incomes) was published. Interest in the topic remained, but hasn’t reached the January 2013 level since.

In the meantime, some efforts have been made to analyse data from the annual reports of the institutions themselves. Abvakabo FNV has published its annual Actiz 50, documenting excessive pay at health care institutions. And newspaper de Volkskrant has published an analysis of 119 (semi) public institutions.

The Volkskrant data contain about 40 board members receiving remunerations in excess of the current norm for newly hired executives (230,000 euros). And their list is far from complete: many of the highest-paying institutions in 2011 aren’t even included. Among them Roger van Boxtel’s employer, Menzis.

In short, we won’t have the complete picture until the government publishes a new report, perhaps in a few months.


Cycling against traffic #2

The other day I posted something about cycling against traffic which, it has been claimed, is allowed on 85% of oneway streets in Brussels. I tried to find out the percentage for Amsterdam using Open Street Map, but found that the relevant information is often missing. Or so I thought.

I posted a question on the OSM forum (here and here) and got various helpful answers. Basically, I shouldn’t have looked just for oneway:bicycle=no tags, but also for cycleway=opposite (and perhaps a few more). I was also directed to a web page where cycling tags can be shown on a map.

So does Amsterdam allow cycling against traffic on anyway near the 85% of oneway streets reported for Brussels, if you include the cycleway=opposite tags? Well, no. Then again, looking at a similar map of Brussels, it doesn’t really look like they do any better. Of course, one shouldn’t jump to conclusions:

  • It depends on the part of the city you look at. In Amsterdam, cycling against traffic is more often allowed in the city centre and some other parts like Oost; in Brussels is appears to be more spread out over the city,
  • Perhaps local Open Street Map contributors have different mapping habits.

That said, I was getting curious as to the basis for the 85% claim for Brussels. I found a report from 2010 published by cyclists’ organisation Gracq, which said that 75% of oneway streets in Brussels had sens unique limité (which is apparently a legal requirement on suitable oneway streets). Gracq had contacted local governments by telephone to collect the data.

Can Open Street Map and Qgis show where it’s ok to cycle against traffic

[Update here] - The Italian cities Milan, Bologna and Turin would like to allow cyclists to ride against traffic on some oneway streets. This would help promote environment-friendly modes of transport and it would bring Italian cities in line with many European cities, where this is already allowed. For example, Brussels allows cycling contromano on 85% of oneway streets, they argue.

I was intrigued by that percentage, and curious what the percentage for Amsterdam might be. My first hunch was that it might well be similar, because you sort of expect that cycling in both directions is normally allowed here. Then I realised that the exceptions to this rule include canals, where the streets usually are oneway for cyclists as well. That might cost us percentage points.

I reckoned it should be possible to find out more using Open Street Map, where streets have oneway and oneway:bicycle labels. Unfortunately, the oneway:bicycle information is often missing (dotted lines on the map). This includes streets along canals that are oneway for cyclists, but also streets in neighbourhoods such as the Oosterparkbuurt where cycling in both directions is allowed.

Of course, Open Street Map is a volunteer project, so if information appears to be missing, I guess that’s my responsibility as much as anyone else’s. So here’s my to-do list:

  • Try to find out if I interpreted the oneway:bicycle tag correctly,
  • Figure out how to edit Open Street Map,
  • Add some oneway:bicycle information.

At the very least, it will be a good opportunity to learn something about Open Street Map.

Incidentally, the Italian cities saw their request turned down by minister Maurizio Lupi. Cycling against traffic may work elsewhere, but «we’re in Italy, not Germany», he argues.


Not only am I basically new to OSM; I also don’t have much experience with Qgis, so this was a bit of a trial and error thing. First I tried to define specific types of roads based on this overview of types of oneway roads with cycle lanes. However, trying to create new attributes in Qgis based on these descriptions all but crashed my computer (for some reason using conditions containing AND in the field calculator seems to be problematic). Further, almost no roads in Amsterdam appear to meet these specific criteria.

So instead I took a more basic approach, looking for oneway=yes in combination with different values for oneway:bicycle. Out of more than 11,500 polylines with oneway=yes, 267 had oneway:bicycle=no and five oneway:bicycle=yes (Halvemaansbrug, a nearby bit of Kloveniersburgwal and three unnamed polylines).

Data based on a rectangle comprising the city of Amsterdam, downloaded on 20 September 2014.

Kilts or inequality

On 18 September, Scotland may vote for independence. My understanding is that the referendum isn’t necessarily about kilts and haggis, but rather about left-leaning Scots who are fed up with London’s neoliberal policies. Policies that have caused, among other things, a widening gap between the rich and the rest of society. In fact, the Scottish referendum has been called the «world’s first vote on economic inequality».

One way in which inequality manifests itself is geographically. An interesting question is whether income and political power coincide. In some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, the seat of government is in a region with a GDP comparable to the rest of the country. More often, governments are in high-income regions. For example, France’s richest region is Hauts-de-Seine (with business district la Défense), followed on its heels by Paris itself. Both have a GDP almost three times as high as the national GDP.

But the widest gap is to be found in the UK. Across Europe, only three out of 1357 regions have a GDP per inhabitant that is more than 3 times as high as their national GDP. For Polish boomtown Warsaw, the ratio is just above 3. For the German region of Wolfsburg, where VW has its headquarters, the ratio is 3.4. But the list is headed by the UK, where the «Inner London - West» region has a GDP as much as 5.8 times as high as the national GDP.

All in all, Scots who are dissatisfied with the distribution of income in the UK clearly have a point. Should the No camp find itself looking for someone to blame on 19 September, then perhaps Ms. Thatcher might qualify.

Map of all of Europe here.


I used Eurostat data on gross domestic product per inhabitant by NUTS 3 regions in 2011. NUTS 3 are the smallest regions used by Eurostat and have populations ranging from 150,000 to 800,000. 2011 is the most recent year for which data are available. The map is from EuroGeographics. The R code for the analysis is available here.

Of course, comparing regional GDP to national GDP is just one way of measuring inequality; other measures may produce somewhat different outcomes. It would be interesting to use wealth rather than income data, but I doubt that wealth data are available for regions.


Turnout and population size

The Dutch minister of the interior, Ronald Plasterk, has asked the Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) to evaluate the declining turnout in local elections. This is an important issue, given how inequality and low turnout are related.

More specifically, Plasterk would like to know: first, if turnout is correlated to population size and second, what effect do municipal mergers have on turnout (one suspects a lobby of local governments opposed to mergers behind these questions).

As for the first question, that’s an easy one: yes. Smaller cities tend to have higher turnout. I looked it up, and the correlation’s actually pretty strong, if declining: 0.62 in 2002; 0.59 in 2006 and 0.50 in 2010 (somehow I couldn’t download data from the Kiesraad website, so I used the data I had downloaded some time ago, not including 2014 yet). I think political scientists will not be shocked by these outcomes.

More interesting is what kind of recommendations the CPB will come up with. Somehow I don’t think they’ll recommend cutting up large municipalities. Perhaps they should consider recommending a reintroduction of compulsory voting.