July 2014        

Inequality to continue?


When Government ministers wax lyrical these days about “recovery just around the corner,” “green shoots,” and “light at the end of the tunnel”—beware! They are far from talking about a return to the “good old days” of the Celtic Tiger, when the Irish capitalist economy boomed (for some).
      What they are talking about is the prolongation, if not intensification, of this era of super-exploitation, when the resulting super-profits are to be divvied out among our rulers’ parasitic sociopathic pals: the super-rich.
      As the International Labour Organisation points out in a recent report, never was wealth more unequally distributed. At present 0.5 per cent of the world’s population possess a third of the world’s wealth, they say; and this situation is deteriorating. The ILO warns that we are facing a serious risk of a macro-economic recovery without a recovery of either employment or adequate salaries.
      This is the kind of recovery that Kenny, Noonan and Co. are touting. Since 2008 workers know that the international financial collapse has eroded the greater part of the social gains made through generations of working-class struggle. Our present rulers are far from planning to bring them back in the sort of “recovery” they have in mind.
      In fifteen of the economically advanced countries the ILO points to an increasingly unequal and unfavourable remuneration of labour, in spite of the fact that there was an appreciable margin that could have been used to increase the quality of jobs created in that period and so reduce the gross inequality that has in fact resulted.
      From the ILO’s viewpoint, the prospects for the world’s working class look bleak. According to their data and calculations, in 2012 the number of unemployed was 197 million; now it has risen to 202 million—including 74 million young people—and in 2018, following the present tendency, it will have risen to 221 million. The outlook is clear: existing inequalities will grow and sharpen.
      At the same time, more than half the world’s population now has no social protection, and only a fifth of the world’s labour force has adequate cover.
      The ILO draws attention to the problem of child labour, an activity that has entrapped 168 million boys and girls around the world. More than half of these, according to ILO data, are employed in dangerous work, in mines, in workshops, or on farms, with ruinous effects on their health and danger to their lives. One out of nine minors in the world is now working.
      However, the ILO sees as positive the apparent fact that the number of enslaved youngsters has been decreasing over the last ten years. In 2000 up to 246 million child workers were recorded. The ILO aims to eliminate this practice as soon as possible; but, given the global reach of an increasingly profit-hungry capitalism, this is more easily said than done.
      On the other hand, the ILO report points to the emergence of a generation of youth “marked by a dangerous mixture”: high unemployment, growing idleness and precarious work in the developed economies and an increase in the number of impoverished workers in the so-called developing world.
      This is a result of the fact that capitalism in this so-called developed world can only reboot itself by screwing production costs (including wages) downwards to match those of the developing world. North Africa, the Middle East and the European Union (including Ireland) are the areas with the worst prospects in this regard, the ILO says.
      These are thoughts to be borne in mind as Kenny, Noonan, Gilmore and Co. try to lull us with promises of pulling out of the recession and with the mantra that with a little patience and sacrifice the good ship Ireland will soon leave the harbour under full sail. Maybe; but the working class won’t be aboard on that journey to the promised land of macro-economic recovery.
      Employment, job security and an equal slice of the social product, rather than this diet of empty promises, is what every worker needs—needs that can only be met by socialism.
[TOM]

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