Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unemployment is not rational and not necessary

Letter to Guardian

Your Leader ((The mounting scrapheap, August 13) lays out the dire human costs of unemployment, but like the Government, offers only symptomatic relief. The political problem lies in the social security system, which grants benefits grudgingly, and withdraws them at the point when a claimant has the amazing luck actually to find some work. It is utterly irrational to pay people on condition that they do no work when there is so much good work that needs to be done in the green sector of the economy - in energy conservation, renewable energy technologies, energy efficient goods manufacture, pollution control technology, waste minimisation, repair, recycling, water management, sustainable agriculture, forestry and timber use, countryside management, housing - new building and refurbishment, improvements to visual environment, public transport, education and training, counselling, caring and healing, community work, leisure and tourism, innovation, research and development, and any business which passes a certain threshold in its environmental audit. In 1996 I identified between one and two million jobs to be created in this sector. Work can be created in these areas by assessing enterprises, public and private, for positive outcomes in terms of the health of environment and society, and giving those that are so accredited a license to take on new labour from the Job Centres. The incoming workers will bring their benefit in to work with them. The new employer will bring their wage up to the going rate for the job.

This will amount to a Wage Subsidy for environmental and socially beneficial work, stimulating the green sector of the economy, which is generally labour intensive. There will be no extra cost to the public finances, since the benefits would have been paid in any case. This measure would enable a gradual transition to Citizen's Income, which is a far fairer and less complex approach to social security than the present system.

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