From Socialist Voice, June 2010

Facing the trauma of emigration again


More than 300,000 workers have lost their jobs in the last two years in what has been the biggest fall from grace this economy has ever seen. When you add to this figure the tens of thousands of resignations and retirements not replaced, the employment situation is far worse.
     Once again, this country’s young people face the traumatic prospect of enforced emigration. Only this time it’s worse. Where does one go?
     It is acknowledged by all, even if only lip-service is paid, that the creation of jobs is essential if we are to see a recovery. Job creation will increase the tax revenue for the state, reduce the social welfare bill, reduce the number of evictions, increase consumer spending, and support small businesses, among the many other benefits to individuals and communities it brings.
     Rarely, however, is a coherent plan presented for sustainable jobs that contribute socially useful results to the economy and the country—apart, that is, from the CPI’s pamphlet An Economy for the Common Good.
     A debate on jobs needs to be held. What type of jobs do we want and need to create? What do we need to produce? What services do we need to provide? What jobs will contribute to the development of a sustainable and diversified economy, protected, as far as is possible, from the irrationality of monopoly-capitalist forces?
     Jobs are not to be taken at any cost. Is it socially useful or wise to open a mega-casino in Limerick? Yes, it would create a couple of hundred jobs, but would a casino add to progress that Limerick communities are making in fighting organised crime? In an area with high unemployment, would it add further social problems?
     In this regard it is useful to have attended two events organised by the ICTU on the subject of jobs and job creation. However, as it turned out they were badly missed opportunities at best, or planned conditioning of what is to come at worst. For the presentations and speakers invited by the Congress were appalling.
     At the first event, held a number of months ago, one invited speaker was the CEO of the ESB Group, Pádraig McManus, who, in all seriousness, praised himself for how he had turned the ESB into a highly profitable and efficient business by providing a better-quality service while reducing the work force by six thousand! At a job creation conference he is praising himself for the loss of six thousand jobs; what’s worse is that there was barely a word of criticism.
     McManus went on to describe the potential for growth in the “green” economy and in the provision of services in this area. Except that his apparent view on it was that Ireland was not yet “attractive” enough for venture capitalists, and that we were missing out on huge investment potential from venture capitalists. The potential area for growth, particularly in services now provided by the state, should be made attractive to them.
     How this would create jobs is beyond me, given that the practice of venture capitalists in purchasing privatised state services is usually job reduction—aside from the hugely negative effect on the provision of services this would have for the public. It would, however, create huge profits for the venture capitalists and their investors, at our expense.
     The second, and not much better, conference was held more recently when the ICTU presented that so-called progressive economist Will Hutton and his view on job creation strategy.
     Rarely have I been so dazzled by new buzzwords and techno-jargon than at this presentation. Again, unfortunately, there was not much inspiration to take away from this; but at least this time the audience got involved!
     Hutton described what he believed is the need for Ireland to invest in the “intangibles”—note: not tangibles but intangibles—and in “manu-services.” Given that Ireland is “not competitive” from a manufacturing point of view (accepting the logic of the present system, as all these people seem to do), we should concentrate on providing services to manufactured goods. Some logic in this.
     However, returning to the usual class orientation of so-called experts, Hutton encouraged state support for private enterprise to provide this. That is to say, taxpayers pay for the infrastructure, pay for the training of the work force, and allow the private company to make all the profit.
     Indeed Hutton went as far as to say that the state should provide services only where the market is incapable of doing it. So when private companies cannot make money out of it, only then should the state provide a safety net for its citizens.
     The logic of the last thirty years, despite ample evidence to negate it, still rules. And the ICTU is now the one presenting it to us!
     For a brief look at some of the jobs that might be created, the meeting can be viewed on line at the Congress web site. It will leave you laughing, or crying, depending on your mood.
     To take just one example, one of the jobs listed is “Branding consultants for social networking sites.” Not only is this not an avenue for creating thousands of jobs, it most certainly is not socially useful labour.
     I don’t envy being a social democrat, or, worse, a Christian democrat, as some of the Congress leaders appear to be; for it’s not easy to deny the logic of monopoly capital as it hits us square between the eyes and still attempt to semi-coherently outline a strategy for sustainable economic development and scramble to the captains of industry for a job they can spare here or there.
[NL]

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