ProPublica and Documented collaborated to search public databases of labor violations to map businesses across New York state with wage theft claims. Image: Screenshot, Documented
Wage theft disproportionately affects low-wage workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrant workers. ProPublica and Documented dug into labor violations data to determine the extent of the problem in the United States. This week, GIJN also highlights stories on increasing near-accidents of US commercial airlines, Russia’s brain drain due to its war in Ukraine, and a reconstruction of Japan’s Great Kantō Earthquake which happened 100 years ago today.
Wage theft is a huge problem and can come in many forms: employers not paying the minimum wage, withholding tips, or forcing workers to work overtime off the books. By analyzing two databases of labor violations from the US and New York Labor departments, ProPublica and Documented found more than US$203 million had been stolen from 127,000 workers across all industries in New York during a five-year period. Of that amount, 25% (more than US$52 million) was stolen from those working in restaurants. Want to explore the data? Documented created an interactive map of establishments in New York with wage theft records.
Airline Close Calls
You may have heard that flying is safer than driving, and the statistics hold true for that. However, an investigation by The New York Times is raising the alarm that safety lapses and near-collisions between planes are happening more and more frequently along US runways. Based on the NYT’s analysis of internal safety reports from the Federal Aviation Administration, multiple dangerous incidents are happening every week on average this year. The story includes detailed animations of some of the near-misses that took place. Journalist David Enrich summarizes the investigation in this tweet thread.
Russian Brain Drain
The war waged by Russia against Ukraine is driving its intellectuals away. According to a report by Novaya Gazeta Europe, at least 270 scientists and academics have resigned and left Russia following the war. The journalists came to this conclusion after comparing the faculty lists of Russia’s top 10 universities from just before the war to the current day and by trawling through public posts on social media and on scientific portals. Moscow’s prestigious HSE University saw the largest brain drain, with 160 faculty members stepping down.
Reconstructing the Great Kantō Earthquake
A century ago, an earthquake that struck off the southern coast of Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, claimed approximately 105,000 lives as a result of fires that broke out among the dense, collapsed wooden structures in Tokyo. Diving into old public records, Japanese media Nikkei reconstructed the timeline of events on that fateful day — now known as the Great Kantō earthquake — to explain how the initially localized fires turned into a 46-hour firestorm that engulfed 40 per cent of the city. Journalists also offered lessons learned from the Great Kantō earthquake to minimize earthquake damage for the future. Bonus interactive: Nikkei mapped the history of earthquakes in Japan over the last century.
German Auto Traffic
Amid reports of the German Transport Minister advocating for building more highways in the country, Spiegel took a look at whether the traffic data supported the necessity of constructing new roads. Journalists evaluated data from more than 900 points along German motorways and federal highways and found that — contrary to the belief that traffic would increase beyond pre-pandemic levels after the pandemic — there was significantly fewer cars on the road compared to 2019.
Heat Waves in France
France has had a sweltering summer with the thermostat reaching 42.4°C (108°F) in the southern city of Toulouse and 43.2°C (110°F) in nearby Carcassone. Reporters from the French newspaper Le Monde tracked how many heatwaves each department has experienced over the last 20 years. By charting the total number of days on a map, they show which regions have suffered the most from red and orange alerts, heatwaves that are “exceptional in duration, intensity, [and] geographical extension” or which “constitute a health risk for the entire exposed population.” The hottest place, with 160 official heatwave days since 2004, is the Rhône. See also the same team’s coverage on urban heat islands.
Spanish Congress Demographics
There has been a demographic shift in the halls of power in Spain. Today, there are fewer baby boomers in the Congressional lower house than at any time in the last 20 years, while Generation X politicians, those born between 1965 and 1980, are now in the majority. That’s according to an analysis by the data team at Spanish newspaper El País, which also noted the first members of Generation Z, born after 1997, to enter Congress. The team used publicly available birth data on elected politicians to graph the changing population since the country’s return to democracy in the late 1970’s, and to track the demographic make-up of different political parties.
Brazilian Cars Go Grayscale
From Brazil’s Globo, a data-led story on an interesting socio-demographic question for those interested in the motor industry: Where have all the colorful cars gone? A survey by Globo’s g1 team, based on data from the National Traffic Secretariat, found that the vast majority of vehicles on the country’s roads were either white (21%), black (19%), silver (17%), or gray (10%), with red holding on as the only colorful pick in the top five. Looking at cars, motorbikes, trucks, and other vehicles, reporters mapped which colors are most popular in different parts of the country, and ranked the colors nationally from most popular to least. Particularly fun is a map that shows the cities where the more “extravagant” colors of orange, yellow, gold, and turquoise are held in higher esteem.
First Names Popularity Tool
A few weeks ago, we told you about the most chic baby names in France. Now, from Switzerland, daily Tages-Anzeiger has developed an interactive tool to show the country’s most popular first names and how they have surged or dropped in popularity over the decades. “Everyone used to be called Hans or Peter,” wrote one commentator, but the decline of some traditional names has been matched by a surge in babies named Liam and Matteo. For girls, Heidi is down from its former heights, replaced by, among other names, Emma. Earlier in August, the team looked at the geographic spread of the most popular Swiss surnames.
Europe’s Nuclear Reactors
Nuclear power provides nearly 10% of energy consumed in the European Union but the block’s nuclear facilities are aging. Most of the 109 reactors in the UK and the EU were built in the 1970s and 80s, according to this in-depth report by Reuters, and were initially only intended to last 30 years. Reporters use data to show the energy mix of different countries in the region, many of which survive off a mix of fossil fuels, renewable energy sources, and nuclear energy. The interactive also explores shifting public opinion on nuclear energy, details how these plants operate, and explains the pros and cons of extending the lifespan of these facilities. The question of prolonging the life of some of the region’s older facilities became even more vital following the loss of Russian natural gas imports since the invasion of Ukraine.
Bonus: Moon Missions
There’s a new moon race: India just became the first country to land a spacecraft on the moon’s south pole, mere days after Russia’s Luna-25 probe crashed on the moon’s surface. The South China Morning Post’s graphics team took the opportunity to visualize all lunar missions — both successes and failures — from the first failed attempt by the US in 1958 to India’s recent moon landing.
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Laura Dixon is an associate editor at GIJN and a freelance journalist from the UK. She has reported from Colombia, the US, and Mexico, and her work has been published by The Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has received fellowships from the IWMF and the Pulitzer Center.
Eunice Au is GIJN’s global team manager based in Budapest, Hungary. Previously, she was a correspondent for Singapore’s The Straits Times , and a journalist at Malaysia’s New Straits Times. She has also written for The Sun , Malaysian Today, and Madam Chair.