From Socialist Voice, June 2011

Real jobs needed, not welfare cuts

Getting the people back to work, along with the debt issue, is of paramount importance to the future of this country and its people. The live register of unemployed now stands at 439,200, an increase of 300,000 since the beginning of the so-called crisis—an unacceptable and untenable figure.
     The establishment parties have failed to realise the severity of this issue. Seeing themselves as managers rather than controllers of the economy, they prefer to tinker with cuts, VAT, and other taxes. It’s an attempt to make a more conducive environment for private capital and transnational investment to provide jobs.
     Like the mainstream media, they seem unperturbed by the fact that private capital is in its weakest epoch in living memory. Taxpayers the world over have bailed out banks and finance capital, which is the heartbeat of modern capitalism. This is not to mention the profitable transnationals that continue to cull their work-force.
     At long last the Government has attempted to address the spiralling unemployment problem, but it’s just too little. Take the extra €30 million to be used to finance building and repair works in about 380 schools, which is expected to create about 2,400 direct building jobs and 480 indirect jobs. It is pretty irrelevant when one considers that the “Programme for Government” aims to axe 25,000 public-service jobs.
     Meanwhile the Minster for Enterprise, Richard Bruton, showed the Government’s true colours with his proposed changes to wage agreements for some 250,000 workers, using the fear of unemployment to hammer down workers’ wages.
     Meanwhile the mainstream media prefer to occupy themselves with blaming low-paid workers, the unemployed and trade unions for the mess while cheerleading utterances from right-wing groups such and IBEC and the economic think-tank of the OECD. The latter recently urged the Government to cut welfare payments to the long-term unemployed, which now regrettably makes up half of those out of work, as an incentive to find work.
     The logic behind this idea is spellbinding. Are they seriously suggesting that more than 300,000 people have decided over the past few years that they no longer wish to work? This is just nonsense: the jobs are not there.
     There is a bigger picture: laying the blame for the ills of the powerful and wealthy on those who have least and suffer most, and to roll back hard-fought reforms and improvements in ordinary people’s lives.
     This article doesn’t propose to answer all the issues involved in alleviating unemployment, but obviously creating new “real” jobs would be a start. Instead of hoping for foreign and private investment we should be creating employment through direct state involvement in the economy, i.e. new, sustainable state-run companies.
     Other important factors include taking back control of our natural resources and refusing to pay back the debt that has been put on our backs by the EU-IMF deal, both of which have previously received extensive exploration in Socialist Voice.
     A more controversial but simple plan would be the introduction of a jobs rationing scheme. In times of national emergency, resources such as food, fuel and energy are rationed. With close to half a million out of work in the Republic, surely the idea of one person one job is feasible.
     It is surely worth examining how many jobs are filled by those in receipt of another full-time income, pension (not the state old-age pension), or separate investment or income.
     Perhaps the process could begin in the civil service, with the state leading by example. If there are significant numbers in this bracket, the plan could get any number of people back to work with minimum cost.
     The present situation is a joke. For example, of the 4,866 jobs created for the census only 15 per cent went to those on the live register. Meanwhile the Gardaí, not content with their recent €30 million stimulus package from Elizabeth Windsor’s visit, are demanding a change in the rules to permit them to do second jobs. These jobs, as with others, should go to those who need them most: those who find themselves out of work.
     While it is not the role of the left to fix the mistakes of capitalism within the capitalist model, there is a need to put forward alternative realistic and understandable arguments for providing employment, beyond populism and slogans.
     Action is needed sooner rather than later. So far emigration hasn’t occurred en masse, but every person’s forced leaving is a tragedy. If proposed cuts to welfare are introduced and the prospect of future employment doesn’t become any brighter, many more may be forced to follow.
     We hear time and time again about what we can’t afford, but one thing is certain: we can’t afford to lose yet another generation to emigration.
[BH]

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