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Unemployment during economic crisis
ADDRESSING UNEMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF CRISIS
This is the time to be sure that there is work for all who need it, that this work pays a living wage and that it comes with training that prepares each person for present and future employability.
We believe this is the soundest way of taking care of the most vulnerable.
Our present economic situation is rightly described as crisis. If we allow it to be accompanied by widespread unemployment we will have global tragedy. If we act wisely, compassionately, preventatively and immediately this need not be.
Each country can become a leader in this bold initiative. We have resources to draw on. Some of these are material. More importantly, we can come to this challenge with goodwill and generosity of spirit, characteristics necessary to triumph over apathy.
Our present crisis is not only economic; it is a profound ethical challenge, a vital human rights and social justice issue. Article 23 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now enjoying its 60th Anniversary, says:
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
We have accepted this obligation. Now is the time to fulfill our promise.
ALL HANDS TO THE WHEEL
To address expanding unemployment, every section of our society has an important role.
Many support the concept that in times of need government must intervene with its own employment programs.
Now government action must be immediate, because every incidence of unemployment creates unemployment.
So, knowing we are on the right track, we can support wholeheartedly all responsible plans for infrastructure funding by national, state and local governments.
For some projects, government will be the direct employer; in others only the indirect employer. In either case, when governments invite submissions a standard question may well be: "What immediate and future, short-term or long-term employment, will this bring?" This response should be a major factor in decision-making. We must give priority to plans which will benefit employment prospects immediately, rather than only in several years time.
This much-needed infrastructure could well include projects that address climate change, energy and water efficiency. These are equally urgent. Why not get them to the top of the agenda right now when we need job opportunities?
Politicians in opposition as well as independents already agree on the urgent need to put the focus on jobs. It needs to be a top priority so that they cooperate in planning and advocacy. We need to encourage a truly multi-partisan approach. Government should be pulling together, not apart on this one.
Employers whether in civil service, the corporate sector, medium or small business also have a role in social responsibility on this. How can we support them to protect jobs, expand employment opportunities and share the obligations of training?
Trade Unions and Professional Associations, employees and the unemployed themselves each have a valuable perspective to include in decision-making.
Community Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) also have an important role. For example, they could establish and train mentors to those in transition and build up "buddy" systems for employers and individuals.
The Media can operate in basic support of employment programs, by taking the focus off divisiveness (especially on issues irrelevant to this central one). Of course they should explore in detail the many very real problems we face. The media helps also when they bring us the good news stories on employment and the economy. We need equal opportunity for optimism. Many of our present issues have been driven by doom and gloom stories, which impacts consumer sentiment and causes people to hunker down, hoard their savings and thus slow the movement of cash through the economy.
Global responsibility sharing needs a focus too. Each country could keep contact and share information with the International Labour Office (ILO) of the UN, so that effective measures get shared around. A worldwide network of Ministries and Departments of Employment could liaise constantly, preferably by email and video conferencing rather than face-to-face meetings. (We need to save the oil.)
Each individual has something to contribute. Each has their unique position to spot community needs and notice where jobs need to be done. We must dispel the myth that there is no work needed. Everyone, children included, can act as our national research team. Local government could be one avenue for processing this information. Tell them where the public tap in the park is dripping. Lobby for better local government services to the infirm. Where is the latest pothole that no one has put on a worksheet yet?
There is sound economic reasoning which advises governments to build up surpluses in good times and to balance this with deficits in times of adverse economic conditions. This regulates the machine of the economy to minimise excessive speed-ups and slow downs. From an economic point of view surplus budgeting is not the only good. It depends on the circumstances!
Early intervention to avert serious unemployment is our best chance of moderating the cyclical swing into deficit.
Yes, it costs. Yes, we will probably go into deficit. And if so, we'll need to borrow. Who will be our lenders? We need dialogue on the comparative virtues and penalties of borrowing overseas and/or borrowing from ourselves. There are many options for how this can be achieved.
You personally can be a leader in this. None of the ideas by themselves are new and still this requires fresh thinking throughout the whole of society.
If a strategy comes to mind, please share it. It would be great to "get the word out". just click onto reply and email us or phone.
If it inspires you to write a letter to the editor, a learned article or an email to your cousin in Toowoomba, go for it. Most of all, please talk about it, not only about how bad the situation is, but also what we can do about it.
Let us consider this as a new era of sharing, a time when we all take responsibility for each other.
Stella and Helena Cornelius
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