With the world gearing up for a year of economic pain like no other, the media has taken to the usual strategy of documenting the devastating effects — usually on the upper-middle classes of white bread enclaves like New York’s Upper East Side (or, erm, Mosman).

Now, we’re not saying that a reduction in the number of maids or a decision to cut back on caviar doesn’t warrant a few pars in the glossy rags that proudly serve the AB demographic. But as the unlikely duo of the World Bank and Barbara Ehrenreich highlighted this week, the impact of an economic downturn is usually disproportionately felt by those at the bottom — those that have the most to lose when the casual shifts dry up or when governments slash social spending.

Accordingly, Crikey presents the following compare-and-contrast cheap shot on the sob stories utterly aloof from the baron wastelands where capitalism’s ill winds blow hardest.

Brides ditch maids. The big fat white wedding has been downsized as budget-conscious brides ditch bridesmaids in favour of their dream dress. Glenn Findlay, of the Australian Bridal Service, said more brides were choosing to have just one attendant, as the economic downturn continued to bite. “Over the last couple of years, couples have cut back on guests, taking a ‘quality not quantity’ approach,” Mr Findlay said. “But it’s only in the past few months that we have seen them take the same approach to their bridesmaids.” — Herald Sun

Tennis courts under threat. The backyard tennis court on which John Alexander played as a boy is now home to a stack of apartments. He was on court when Australia was on song in world tennis, striding the baseline from sun-up until school. Coaching lessons were on Saturdays, competition tennis on Sundays. The thwack of tennis ball on taut strings was a constant, until the court was razed for residential units, the tennis overrun by that other great Australian passion, property development. — The Age

Netflix, dry cleaning have got to go. So my husband and I sat down and analysed every line of our credit card statement. What we discovered was about $200 in monthly expenses that we could do without. Everything from a Netflix subscription that barely gets used to more than $100 a month in dry cleaning. – Washington Post

Nannies get the flick. With a demanding job working for a multinational company, 27-year-old Ding Ting must now come home from the office and cook, care and clean for her children after being forced to let her nanny go. “It’s a difficult time — every bit counts. After all, it’s not a small amount for employing a nanny,” Ding said, having relished the services of her nanny for the past two years. “The possibility of being made redundant has been a sword of Damocles hanging over me since the crisis broke, and the problems are just starting. “This has brought a huge stress to daily life.” — China Daily

…as yummy mummies steal their jobs. Susanna Draycott, 35, never thought she would be cleaning other people’s houses to make ends meet, yet she now does. When her two children leave for school, she takes her mop and bucket to her first job at a house nearby. For the past 10 years, she has been a stay-at-home mum. When her husband’s job as a land manager was downsized, Susanna went back to work. “I can’t work full time, I need to be here for the children when they come home from school,” she says. So it had to be well-paid, part-time work. “And it came to me that I’m really good at cleaning. People comment on how clean my house is.” – Telegraph

..and if it all gets too much, there’s always Gossip Girl. Great Depression? More like Great TV! The world may be going to hell — and it surely is — but that hasn’t stopped shows such as Gossip Girl and 90210, which both chronicle the ennui of the filthy rich, from being among the most talked-about shows currently on television. These shows offer an escape from the fact that soon we’ll all be eating pork and beans for supper each night. Enjoy them before you have to sell your TV to pay the rent. – National Post

Meanwhile…

Slums expand. Chinese rubbish collectors are the poorest of the poor, living an unending struggle amongst the filth of Beijing’s worst slums. They are part of the global economy, but it’s kept them at the bottom of the heap, and now the effects of the financial crisis are crushing any dreams they had of a better future. It’s a story that’s bigger than China. By some estimates, the financial crisis will push another 40 million into poverty this year. World Bank chief Robert Zoellick recently warned that the “man-made catastrophe” will hurt the world’s poor the most. — Sky News

Poverty on the warpath. Efforts to eradicate global poverty have come under threat as governments grapple with the financial crisis, international development secretary Douglas Alexander said. He urged governments and the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to act together to help developing countries cope with the twin shocks of the financial crisis and high food and energy prices. The World Bank has identified 28 countries vulnerable to hikes in food and fuel costs and estimates 44 million more people will suffer from malnutrition as a result. — The Independent

Global inequality multiplies. The International Labor Organisation finds the gap between the world’s rich and poor is vast and growing, despite economic growth that has produced millions of new jobs since the early 1990s. ILO Institute for Labor Studies Director Raymond Torres says excessive income inequality can be counter-productive and damaging for most economies. — Voice of America

Peter Fray

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