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Jobs for all – a necessity
Peace and democracy can provide only the foundation for stable and productive social life, not its fulfillment. For that, political security has to be complemented by economic security and a blossoming of individual and cultural potentials. Yet here our optimism seems to flag. Our thoughts of the new millennium do evoke images of greater peace and stability internationally, more individual freedom and democratic rights, growing international co-operation, exciting new technologies, increasing cultural interaction. But they also evoke images of more people and less work – meaning fewer jobs! No sooner has the threat of nuclear annihilation receded, than the specter of chronic unemployment and unrelenting poverty has risen to replace it, giving renewed justification to humanity’s deepest anxieties by transferring them to a new source of apprehension.
In recent years, unemployment has emerged as a major cause of concern for governments around the world. In industrial countries, the subject evokes pessimistic prophecies of a fast-approaching future in which tens of millions of people will never find jobs, technology eliminates the need for human labour, cheap imports replace domestic jobs, welfare systems collapse under an unbearable burden, children have less economic opportunity than their parents, a widening abyss divides the rich and poor, and both markets and governments are powerless to do anything about it. In developing countries, it dashes hopes of ever conquering hunger, eradicating wide spread rural and urban poverty, and bridging the gap that separates these nations from the prosperous West.
The very same deterministic mentality that until recently made us feel that a nuclear war was inevitable now leads many to conclude that rising unemployment, chronic poverty and social alienation are unavoidable. Yet the enormous gains of peace and democracy that we contemplate cannot be secured and brought to fruition if this other apprehension is allowed to become a settled reality, as war between nations has been during past millennia. The peace and security we seek internationally depend directly on our ability to promote and maintain domestic peace and tranquility within nations, which in turn are dependent on the ability of countries to provide food and economic security to their people. Poverty and unemployment are closely linked to most instances of social unrest – tribal wars, civil wars, urban crime, drugs and violence. There is clear evidence from the US and UK that crime is economically related to lack of job opportunities. Unemployment is also a major cause of massive migrations, both to urban areas within countries and across borders, which has become a highly destabilizing factor in many regions. Without sufficient purchasing power for food and other material essentials and non-essentials, there can be no assurances of lasting social peace and political stability.
The linkage between peace, political stability and economic development will be even stronger in the future than in the past, due to the democratic and social revolutions that are in the course of encompassing the globe. The greater access to information and freedom of expression which characterize democratic societies and the rising expectations of people at lower economic levels combine to generate a powerful pressure on society to provide economic opportunities as well as social freedoms to every citizen. If the greater freedom and higher expectations are unable to find means for their positive fulfillment, they can lead to rising frustration, tension and violence, which threaten the prosperity of those at higher levels and the stability of the society as a whole. Democracies can only thrive and the revolution of rising expectations can only fulfill itself peacefully, when economic opportunities are provided to every human being. The recent rise of the political right, ethnic unrest and opposition to immigration in Western Europe, and the surge of crime in the United States, are sufficient evidence of the corrosive impact that unemployment can have, even on mature democracies. Increasingly, those excluded from the benefits of modern society reject its standards of justice and ignore its laws.
The end of the ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism leaves the market system exposed at its weakest point – its impersonality and insensitivity to human needs and suffering – with no longer any lesser alternative to point at in self-justification. Having rejected the inadequacies and abuses of authoritarian socialism as a solution, we are compelled to find other methods to achieve social equity. In the present context, employment is the most effective way to distribute the fruits of development among people. The world is now capable of producing sufficient food and other basic necessities to feed clothe and house everyone; but without opportunities for employment, people lack the purchasing power needed to buy them. Economic entitlement, rather than a shortage of food or food production capacity, is the key to global food security. Lack of employment opportunities is also directly linked to destruction of the environment, both rural and urban. The destruction of tropical rain forests has been one result. The greatest security challenges of the twenty-first century are economic, not military or political. Employment is a sine qua non for meeting these challenges.
A thorough examination of facts and a dispassionate analysis reveal grounds for hope and opportunities for action. The possibility of more rapid economic growth and rising incomes in both developed and developing countries – spurred by further substantial reduction in defense spending, the diffusion and application of new technologies, economic liberalization leading to growth of international trade, the globalization of financial markets, and the emergence of new engines for global expansion among developing countries – indicates that our apprehensions need not prove justified, provided society acts courageously and decisively to meet the challenge. A global overview of employment cannot do full justice to the special circumstances, problems and potentials of specific regions and countries, but it can dispel the growing concern that employment has become a problem beyond the means of governments or the global economy to eradicate or even contain.
In the final analysis, creation of jobs for all is not a question of possibility. It is a question of necessity. Neither logic nor self-interest justifies a detached attitude or a half-hearted effort to address this issue. As in the case of the recent global response to the threat of global warming from depletion of the ozone layer, it simply is not acceptable for us to remain indifferent or claim that we are powerless to act where the entire world’s vital self-interests are at stake. When war threatens a nation’s borders, technology threatens its environment or unemployment threatens the livelihood of its people and the fabric of its social existence, there is only one acceptable response – that is, action.
The greatest achievement of this century has not been technological, economic or political, but rather the growing concern and intolerance for the slaughter, persecution or impoverishment of other human beings. This marks the awakening of our collective, human consciousness to the full value of human life and the consequent rejection of physical strength, political power and money as the governing values of society. This evolution of consciousness has led to monumental changes in the accepted rules of social existence. Slavery and colonialism were abolished because society evolved to the point where it would no longer tolerate them – not for economic reasons, but because they were a disgraceful blot on the conscience of humanity. Similarly, the acceptance of famine, poverty and unemployment as necessary or inevitable by-products of economic life should no longer and need no longer be tolerated. Social charity and welfare were necessary inventions to mitigate the worst effects of economic development over the past few centuries, but they are signs of a defective system that humiliate the recipients and deprive them of self-respect, rather than equipping them with the capacity and self-confidence to help them selves. As freedom has finally been recognized as an inalienable right of every human being, we are fast approaching the time when society must recognize and ensure the right of every individual to gainful employment. Given the right leadership and policies, ‘Jobs for All’ is an achievable goal for all industrial nations within a decade and for all of humankind early in the twenty-first century. A change of attitude is the prime necessity for this accomplishment.