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A look at some of the day’s best economic articles

In this Oct. 24, 2013 photo, Mark Risinger, 16, checks his smartphone at home in Glenview, Ill.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Here at Economy Lab, I come across economic tidbits on a daily basis that, while suitably fascinating, never quite make it onto the blog. "That's a shame," I thought to myself. "It sure would be nice to share some more of these cool things with readers."

Then I remembered – I get to write this stuff. I can pull it all together and post it in capsule form, for all to explore and enjoy. No point saving all this fun for myself.

So, from my scattered brain to your viewing pleasure, here is a selection of economic articles that caught my eye on Monday – the beginning of what we plan to make a regular feature in Economy Lab.

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Internet stats show income gap

Monday morning's Statistics Canada report on Canadians' Internet usage showed continued (though not particularly surprising) growth in online shopping (up 24 per cent in the past two years). But a little lost in the details of the report was that technology usage is yet another symptom of income inequality in this country. A puny 62 per cent of Canadians in the lowest quartile of income used the Internet for personal purposes last year, compared with 95 per cent of those in the top quartile.

Still, Statscan lays most of the blame at the foot of seniors (who are skewed toward lower income levels). Only 28 per cent of seniors (age 65 and over) in the bottom quartile are personal Internet users, versus 95 per cent of those age 16-24 in bottom-quartile households.

Health care cracks widest for old, young workers

The Conference Board of Canada published a report Monday reminding us that Canada's health care system isn't as universal as we might like. Indeed, where there are gaps between health needs and government-funded health care, the country's oldest and youngest workers are the ones most likely to be left without adequate coverage.

The study found that because the youngest and oldest segments of the work force tend to hold a higher proportion of casual, part-time or contract jobs, they are more likely to lack employer protection for disability or mental-health issues. For example, only 34 per cent of 18-to-24 year-old workers receive paid sick days and short-term disability coverage. Fewer than half of those age 65 and over receive paid sick days and short-term disability, and just 41 per cent have long-term disability coverage.

Youth may be wasted on the young – but not money

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The cover story in the Oct. 25 edition of Newsweek magazine, entitled "Eating Our Young," looks at the disproportionate impact that government austerity is having on youth (especially poor and at-risk youth). The article points out, among other facts, that U.S. governments (all levels) spend more than twice as much on each elderly citizen each year than they do on youth citizens (the power of votes, perhaps?), and that 26 million young people in developed countries are neither employed, in school or receiving training.

It's not just harsh for those whose schools and social services are shrinking and who can't find work; the lack of investment in youth poses a long-term threat to the economy, potentially creating an entire generation of under-trained, under-employed and under-paid worker/consumers. The article's author, Anna Bernasek, sums it up eloquently: "Cutting back on the young is like eating the seed corn: satisfying a momentary need but leaving no way to grow a prosperous future."

More time for my bottlecap collection

The Telegraph in London reported recently on a new book that suggests I'm working too hard. Or at least, too many hours, regardless of my hourly effort level.

The book, from left-leaning British think tank the New Economics Foundation, argues that we would all be better off if our standard work week was 30 hours instead of 40. The authors argue that this reduction – achievable through gradual changes allowing new workers to opt for four-day work weeks and government programs supporting higher minimum wages in exchange for reduced hours – would ease economic pressures on the home front, particularly for working women. They say it would also improve physical and mental health and even reduce greenhouse emissions.

Of course, we would likely earn less money; most of our employers would no doubt expect a commensurate reduction in pay. But the authors argue that time is a commodity too, and too many of us are suffering from "time poverty."

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