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Degrowth and ‘unemployment’; Guaranteed jobs?


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Degrowth and ‘unemployment’; Guaranteed jobs?

  1. 1. Degrowth and unemployment: Guaranteed jobs? Second International Degrowth Conference, Barcelona, 26-29 March, 2010, by Blake Alcott PhD candidate, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds
  2. 2. best of times, worst of times The Great Depression 1930s (unwanted degrowth): MASS UNEMPLOYMENT 1776 – 2008 economic BOOM: MASSIVE RISE in population and jobs “Last year, as the banking crisis rapidly turned into a severe recession, the great worry was about how many millions would lose their jobs.” Guardian 18 March 2010 p 32 “After Obama’s health care victory, his focus will be on the economy, on jobs.” Channel 4 News, 22 March 2010 “Upbeat chancellor promises a budget for growth and jobs.” Guardian 24 March 2010 p 1
  3. 3. Therefore: Shrinkage causes unemployment. TRUE FALSE x Distribution of work is political. Yes, jobs temporarily disappear during recession, then re-appear. But ultimately: Society, not the economy, determines how many people are out of work. We could guarantee jobs just as we guarantee primary schooling, garbage collection and non-starvation.
  4. 4. To what problem are guaranteed jobs a solution? NOT poverty……………………………… CONFLATION #1: INCOME & JOB Joblessness and low purchasing power are different. Against poverty we have the dole; or the guaranteed income. NOT ‘good’ neglected public jobs like caring for people and public space…………………. CONFLATION #2: JOB & PUBLIC WORKS (But these goals might be compatible.) Joblessness means psychological and social ill-being; it is a distinct problem on its own.
  5. 5. A Human Right? Article 23.1 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.” Millenium Goal #1 “End Poverty and Hunger” 2005: “full and productive employment and decent work for all.” NOTICE THE CONFLATIONS: ‘favourable’, ‘decent’
  6. 6. Real-world attempts • ‘communist’ bloc – East Germany, China Again: – today in North Korea wage level, material wealth, is a separate issue. • Maharashtra/India The issue is only alleviation – Employment Guarantee Scheme 1965 of the pain of not having a • Argentina since 2002 ‘job’. • Zürich – work market (‘part-wage’) – subsidized private sector jobs: as a right One argument : It’s cheaper than welfare.
  7. 7. full-employment policies indirect paths direct paths economic growth stop-gap programs deficit spending loans or subsidies shorten working-week to become self-employed to 35 (France) RIGHT to a job or 21 hours (nef) falling wages (laissez-faire) These are the economic approach. education, training These are the political approach.
  8. 8. The political approach society; debate in political rules 19th century: the ‘economy’ man vs. (of a given size) machine; jobs Say & Marx (e.g.) a just distribution of jobs
  9. 9. Rival policy: Guaranteed income • purchasing power guaranteed • no requirement to do productive work • de facto already the case in some rich countries fact is, joblessness is for many very painful at my • empty days Greenpeace • no sense of achievement actions: “What • loss of prestige • guilt for mooching about our jobs?” In ‘socially marketing’ itself, Degrowth needs the Guaranteed Job.
  10. 10. Rival (no) policy: FREEFALL • Wages down, # jobs up • No barriers to self-employment • No guaranteed income – neither for everybody (system Friedman) – nor for the ‘poor’ only • After unemployment insurance payments run out, it’s everybody for himself degrowth®: equilibrium at lower-income but full-employment level
  11. 11. Rival policy: shorter ‘working life’ • nef (New Economics Foundation) report Feb. 2010 – “the ill-being associated with unemployment” – advocates however a minimum wage, which increases unemployment • France under Jospin 35-hour week – What was the empirical result? (70,000 new ‘jobs’ in its first 5 years?) What happened to pay? – Corine Maier’s book? In 2005 CBS said unemployment was ‘undented’, remaining above 10%. • perhaps this is the wrong approach – Limits on overtime must accompany this. – Pressure to produce more per hour. Why such indirect approaches when Guaranteed Job guarantees success?
  12. 12. Rival policy: ‘welfare-to-work’ • the alliterative British ‘welfare-to-work’ scheme; privatised, e.g. to Working Links, a private company SocietyGuardian 3 March 2010 p. 5 • subsidises job-seeking; companies get £1,500 per successfully-place jobseeker. • in 10 years, 13,000 jobseekers/year were gotten jobs; profits: £1.6m, 33% of which went to an ‘in-house charity’ neo-liberal: the joblessness of some is a business opportunity
  13. 13. The suggestion • A good idea even in the best of times. • A good idea if we want support for wanted degrowth. • Treat full employment as a political issue, not an economic one. • Decouple jobs from growth. Recession is actually good – if there is income fairness and no loss of jobs . Thank you for listening. Questions and objections.
  14. 14. Literature • Alcott, Blake, 2009. At > gerecht (in German) • Echeverri-Gent, John, 1988. Guaranteed employment in an Indian state: The Maharastra experience. Asian Survey Vol. VIII (12): 1294-1310. • Jochimsen, Maren, & Ursula Knoblauch, 1997. Making the hidden visible: The importance of caring activities and their principles for any economy. Ecological Economics 20 (2): 107-112. • Mellor, Mary, 1997. Women, nature and the social construction of ‘economic man’. Ecological Economics 20 (2): 129-140. • Mitchell, William F., 1998. The Buffer Stock Employment model and the NAIRU: The path to full employment. Journal of Economic Issues 32 (2): 547-555. • nef (New Economics Foundation), 2010. 21 Hours. • Sawyer, Malcolm, 2003. Employer of last resort: Could it deliver full employment and price stability? Journal of Economic Issues 37 (4): 881- 907. • Steensland, Brian, 2008. The Failed Welfare Revolution: America’s Struggle over Guaranteed Income Policy. Princeton U. Press, Princeton. • Wray, L. Randall, 2007. The Employer of Last Resort programme: Could it work for developing countries? International Labour Office (ILO) Working Paper 2007/5, Geneva.
  15. 15. EGS Maharashtra/all of India • 1984-85: 178,000,000 work days – = 10 days for each worker in ‘rural’ work force – = 300 days for 3.4% of ‘rural’ work force – 600,000 workers (= 4,000 Rupees each) • for ‘public works’ • 2.3 billion Rupees = • 7 departments involved; expanded India-wide 2005 • “Employment becomes a political as well as an economic issue, and the articulation of political demands becomes a means of securing a livelihood.” (Echeverri-Gent 1988 p 1304) also: Argentinian programme
  16. 16. Are jobs good? • We are lazy, work is almost by definition irksome, a matter of peine. • So why on earth should we guarantee jobs? • Good question. – depression – marital break-up – drinking alcohol – boredom • In any case: Many want a ‘job’.