Tuesday, 22 May 2012

TASC submission on unemployment

Sinéad Pentony: In a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Social Protection and Education, TASC has looked at a number of key questions.

The submission provides an overview of unemployment, which clearly illustrates the scale of the crisis and who is being most affected. There are clear inequalities in the labour market within and between generations. Those previously unemployed in craft and related areas represent over one third of those who are on the live register and this group is more likely to have lower levels of education and skills. Almost one third of young people are unemployed. The reasons for this include a lack of jobs, low levels of education and training coupled with limited work experience and the fact that young people are more likely to lose their jobs in economic downturns.

The submission also considers the measures that Government is taking to address the problem, which includes reform of labour market activation policy – Pathways to Work, and the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs. These measures include some long over-due reforms, but they will not address the unemployment crisis, as it is primarily a demand-side problem – the demand for labour is less than the available supply of labour and addressing this issue requires a targeted programme of investment and economic growth.

Finally, the submission considers the issue of youth unemployment and puts forward a number of recommendations that include improving the quality of existing policies aimed at providing young people with valuable work experience and training; assessing the feasibility of providing a ‘Youth Job Guarantee’; assisting young people to become entrepreneurs; and targeted education and training initiatives aimed at young people with no formal qualifications.


Paul Hunt said...

Well done. High time to hammer home the reality of the dreadful human and social cost of unemployment. people have been getting fixated on high-level macro and fiscal amtters that are almost totally out of their hands. No harm getting the message out there but an Oireachtas Cttee is hardly the best means of getting it into the policy-making domain - even if it should be (but that's another story).

All this needs financing, but I'm afraid I don't buy your proposals:
"Potential sources of financing for such an investment strategy include the National Pension Reserve Fund, fast-tracking projects funded by the European Investment Bank, accessing a
proportion of private pension fund investments, and harnessing the capacity of state companies to borrow for investment."

The problem is - and this is true throughout the EU (even if it applies in spades in Ireland) - that in almost all of the sheltered sectors, but particularly in the infrastructure and utility sectors, the 'producer interests' (comprising investors/owners, managers and workers and their unions) have captured governing politicians, policy-makers and regulators. The vast majority of citizens are being hosed and this is either keeping nominal pay levels high or squeezing disposable incomes or both.

A new model of infrastructure and utility services is required. Government should sell the semi-states and act as the commissioner of the capacity required (e.g., electricity generation capacity, electricity, gas and water network capacity, rail network, port and airport capacity, etc.). The state would provide an utlimate assurance of investment recovery which would ensure a low cost of capital. Economic regulators would set annual revenues and tariffs by balancing the interests of owners/onvestors and those of final consumers/users - with vigorous statutory representatoon of thier collective interests in regulatory hearings.

This would lower the cost of service provision which would increase disposable incomes and business profitability and the sale proceeds would produce resources to invest in re-training, up-skilling and retro-fitting etc.

This provides a proper commanding role for the state in these sectors, effective independent regulation, proper representation of consumers' collective interests, affordable reliable services, a framework for productive negotiation between owners/managers and worker/unions and significant resources to reduce unemployment.

But this would be far, far too difficult to contemplate by those who prefer to raid, tax and spend.

Anonymous said...

Whilst this is a reasonably useful Submission, I fear it falls into several neatly-laid neo-liberal traps.

Firstly, there is far too much emphasis on those that are denied their fundamental right to work - the implication always, and offensively, is that somehow it is *their* fault. The terminology used is far too passive - "unemployed" suggests someone did it to themselves, when in fact more correctly they are *disemployed*, in a society enslaved to destructive, elitist neo-liberalism.

"Out of work" and "without work" are also unacceptably passive phrases; in truth, a significant part of the population is being systematically and deliberately *denied* work.

There is almost no obligation on employers to *provide* or indeed to *share out* work - in fact they face no penalty whatsoever for not doing so. It is conversely routinely and falsely presented as the obligation on the disemployed person to "find" work - as if it were provided in abundance.

Employers are very rarely taken on and challenged to provide more positions in their companies or organisations. Instead they mostly enrich themselves, taking resources which could be used to create more employment. The recent Hireland project indirectly exposed a very disturbing arbitrary element to the issue, in which several employers were "persuaded" to employ staff which they otherwise would not have done. This challenges the idea that employment is mainly dependent on financial resources.

Systematic disemployment is a historical feature of Irish society and is a function of deliberate inequality, elitism, discrimination, greed and meanness. It has a much greater social and cultural aspect than is currently being examined. Irish society is profoundly abusive, and deliberate disemployment is a key component of this abuse.

It is also regrettable seeing references to "growth" in the Submission. "Growth" as a concept is finished; it has been comprehensively discredited in the last 20 years. The current global economic crisis is due in the main to the desperate attempt to preserve this failed economic ideology.

It's time to have the courage to reject false ideas and to take a much more insightful, and indeed unconventional approach to these issues.