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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

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September 11, 2003

I noticed this CIS response to the problem of long-term unemployment. The public policy proposal is by Peter Saunders and Kayoko Tsumori, and they say it woudl be a good idea to place time limits on unemployment benefits. The limit mentioned is six months duration. After six months full time participation in a work-for-the-dole program would be compulsory for anyone capable of working after the six months expired. This proposal, they argue, could reduce the incidence of long-term unemployment by 50%.

That proposal means the unemployed enter a low skills job market with low wages. They will be trained to work for Coles or Woolworths on the checkout on a casual basis. That means more working poor. That means more disaavantaged workers with low skills and education and little individual bargaining power in the marketplace. It's more of the same.

That is seen to be acceptable. The embrace of economic liberalism over the last two decades has seen greater use of markets and individual choice to achieve social ends. This neo-liberal mode of governance has witnessed the turning away from egalitarianism. Efficiency and competitiveness has replaced egalitarianism.

Redistribution of income by governments is seen to impose rising efficiency costs, and it is held that redistribution is becoming increasingly less affordable. As the media release for the CIS Report states, their proposal would "save up to $2 billion per year." It is an argument presented in terms of costs and benefits. Sitting inside the utilitarian calculus is the promotion of individualist values----indicated by the words 'self-reliance' and their sense of 'self-worth.

Behind the talk of means sits the end of public policy. Self-reliance is their ethical value and they are willing to sacrifice some market efficiency to foster the policy end of individual self-reliance. The CIS is actively promoting particular social goals and values.

And Australia has become a less egalitarian society as a result of a neo-liberal mode of governance. And a quite aceptance of inequality has settled in. John McVey over at The Usurer writes in response to an earlier post of mine on employment and Whyalla:

"The short answer is that regional centres such as Whyalla wont get far precisely because they are only regional centres and will have little to offer beyond whatever geographically-specific benefits are available - hell, even Adelaide's size has been questioned. Whyalla's chronic unemployment problems wont be fixed by any labour market policy whether Coalition or otherwise (not in a manner that maintains the size of the population anyway)... Some place somewhere has to have the worst figures, and at present Whyalla happens to be it."

The short response is reskilling for the new information economy and new green industries that takes advantage of Whyalla's natural advantage (plenty of sunshine for solar power ) and industrial base (manufacturing windmills for renewable energy) That kind of intervention is premised on egalitarianism (equality of jobs, educational opportunities and the wider distribution of the benefits of economic growth) and the sacrifice of some market efficiency.

Hence the disagreement is not about economic relationships or about how the political/economic system works: it is a conflict about values and the ends of public policy (the weight given to different values) in a liberal democracy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:42 PM | | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (3)

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference your time is up:

» Inflation-made jobs from The Usurer
Heh - I managed to scoop Gerald Jackson somewhat by few days :) Here's what I wrote back on 11-9: Much of it appears to be a post-SARS bounce-back, and to that extent fair enough, but the extra is what... [Read More]

» Inflation-made jobs from The Usurer
Heh - I managed to scoop Gerald Jackson somewhat by few days :) Here's what I wrote back on 11-9: Much of it appears to be a post-SARS bounce-back, and to that extent fair enough, but the extra is what... [Read More]

» Labour reform and values from The Usurer
Further referring to Gary's piece on labour market reform, Gary managed to read into a piece of mine something that wasn't there, though nevertheless has managed to get my beliefs right. I am not at all a fan of egalitarianism,... [Read More]



As opposed to non-working poor?

Having been through the unemployment mill myself, I think you underestimate the value of even a Coles type job in giving people that have been unemployed self respect, and Coles does pay a better wage then the Dole. I know this because I've worked there.

I think you dismiss this too lightly, myself.

We can't all be doing the jobs we'd love to do. I'd much rather be a paid writer then be working in a plastics factory, or a network engineer, but I can't, I'm not talented enough for either. So I accept what work I can get, rather then be unemployed.

I have nothing against casual jobs myself having done them for years when going to uni.

What I am questioning is the Howard Government pouring money into a failing Job Network for intensive or customised service; yet providing little in the way of a variety of bridges for the long term unemployed to acquire educational qualifications.

The Jobs Network agencies directing people to casual retail (where there are jobs) plus the lack ofeducational bridges, coupled to recent policies tto make higher education far more expensive leads to Australia becoming a low wage country.

It's that public policy----and I would say that is what the hard line free market economists are proposing----is what I'm questioning. It's a dumb future.

I'm questioning it on egalitarian grounds.

i have regular and frequent dealings with Centrelink, the Job Network and the Hanover network (who run PSP, a program for long-term unemployed who have social issues that prevent them from finding employment)..

in my experience, few if any people working for Centrelink are familiar with the rules according to which they operate.. Centrelink have improved their operational procedures, but this has been offset by a larger? and uneducated employer base - making it easier for people to abuse the system.. Centrelink employees also have little regard for providing accurate information, ensuring the unemployed are blamed for any payment or procedure errors..

The Job Network is a completely futile organisation funded by the government (to reduce employment figures?).. they perform no useful function - being no better equipped to find work for a client than the client can for themselves, and their programs to assist the unemployed are typically unresearched and run by poorly educated workers who have little concern for the skills or qualities of the client..

The Hanover network provide an exemplary service, despite their lack of funding.. the government accuses them of under-performing because their success rate finding work for those on PSP is the same as for those on the dole.. but this should be seen as an amazing success (or equally likely, a spectacular failure of the Job Network) due to the less probable nature of finding employment for those on the (PSP) program..

i also find it poinant to point out that of the %6 that count as unemployed, up to half of these are either unemployable (no company would or will employ them) or they are uninterested in working (no company would or will employ them)..

i wonder what is thought of the idea that there are members of the unemployed who contribute to society in ways that they would be unable to if they were working??

You have re-written this post which makes my original point out of context. The correct procedure is to UPDATE a post.

Sorry.When I rewote it there was no comments. You must have added your comments whilst I was rewriting it.
I will use update in the future.