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Guaranteed Employment: A Necessary Proposal in the Face of Unemployment and Precarity

Guaranteed Employment: A Necessary Proposal in the Face of Unemployment and Precarity

Adoración Guamán / Alberto Garzón / Francisco Trillo / Eduardo Garzón / Héctor Illueca

Akal Editors – ISBN 978-84-460-4259-4 – Dimensions 14×22 – Number of Pages 160 – Edition Year 2015 – Price without tax 11,54 €

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Synopsis: The current unemployment rate and the growing level of precarity that is spreading among an ever greater portion of the workforce are the principal problems of our time. The solutions to these cannot be realised by means of partial reforms of labour regulations, and, of course, they must not continue the pattern of restrictive measures taken against labour rights, as has been the case to this point. An adequate response to both problems demands widespread measures that affect both the current productive model and the system of labour relations, and which are capable of serving as an emergency break in this extreme situation in which so many find themselves in a state of unemployment or precarity.

One measure capable or responding to this wide proposition is Guaranteed Employment. This involves a proposal in which the State serves as a motor for the creation of respectable and adequate jobs, in certain productive sectors of particular social utility, for those unable to find employment in the private sector and/or the public sector. This offer, which should be realized along with a gradual expansion and betterment of jobs in the public sector and an elevation of general labour standards, would mobilize and employ a group of currently unemployed manual labourers who are prepared, capable, and disposed to work, but who have found alternatives offered neither by industry nor by the public sector.

There is no employment, but there is work; it is a matter of recognising and regulating it.

Guaranteed Employment: A Necessary and Achievable Proposal. By: Adoración Guamán y Paco Trillo – 30/04/2015 – The data from the latest Working Population Survey, relative to the first trimester of 2015, show a desolate tableau. In the first three months of the year of “recovery”, the number of people who have been expelled from the job market has grown, and precarity among salaried workers has grown as well, even as ever fewer work independently. According to the most recent data, employment is declining, particularly among women (the gap is growing again) and youth, unemployment is rising, to a grave 23.4%, and seasonality continues to be higher than in the EU, and it continues to rise incessantly. Corollary to all of this is that the working population is shrinking month after month, showing that emigration and discouragement are infecting the Spanish job market.

Given this situation, it seems evident that the central theme of any political proposal that pursues the wellbeing of the society at alrge should be Employment. Employment (in upper case) goes beyond the concept of “employment”, and goes also beyond the salaried and precarious relations toward which business interests steer us today. On the contrary, Employment should be thought of in a wide sense, understanding it as the social relation that should permit a majority of people to satisfy their fundamental needs, transcending the dynamic of increasing business gains to focus on achieving a better social wellbeing, on overcoming gender discrimination, on regenerating dynamics of solidarity, etc.

This does not at all deal with a terminological change, nor with a fixed, theoretical reflection. In fact, the failure of the business class to permit the recuperation of levels of employment compatible with social wellbeing demonstrates the worn-out nature of the current concept of employment. It is not to be overlooked that the National Institute for Statistics tells us that, in the final trimester, private employment has been reduced by 143,500 people, leaving 14,498,100, while public employment has fallen by 29,200 people.

Faced with this situation, it is necessary to move toward proposals which, without losing sight of the objective of creating jobs (respectable ones), permit a redefinition of employment and the overcoming of the situation of precarity and the devaluation of labour, which specifically effects women and youth. Along these lines, the proposal of Guaranteed Employment (GE) is particularly interesting, and it has the virtue of breaking with the structure and the red lines of a business class which, in collusion with public power, has been benefitting from this situation of social disaster.

The basics of the proposal of Guaranteed Employment have been developed in the economic field in previous articles. This proposal passes to the State the responsibility of guaranteeing respectable employment to those who are not able to obtain it in the private or public job markets. To this end, the first objective of the proposal is to act as a hand break for this exceptional, emergency social situation in which millions of people find themselves. Evidently, the magnitude of the problem is such (we have reached a terrible statistic of 5,444,600 unemployed) that this objective will have to be developed gradually, focussing first on the goal of guaranteeing a million jobs during the first year of its implementation. According to economic studies, this would entail spending equivalent to 1% of the GDP, which would obligate not only a reconsideration of tax laws, but also of the enormous sums of money that companies receive for the (never proven) creation of quality jobs. The second objective, of similar importance in the middle and long term, is the ability of GE to politically redefine Employment, beginning with the confirmation that, faced with the scarcity of employment, there is an ever more unattended need for the undertaking of a social project. As a third objective, GE hopes to recover the political value that employment has in itself, overcoming the concept of employment and giving it a social character that urges a move toward a productive model that benefits the people and not the economic and financial interests of big corporations.

Naturally, in accordance with these objectives, the implementation of the proposal should be realized along with a series of measures oriented toward assuring, on one hand, the dignity of salaried employment and, on the other hand, the expansion of public services. Thus, it is necessary that GE not be proposed as an actual alternative to either of these job placements, but rather as a transitory instrument to solve the problem of unemployment that also serves as a point from which to begin the reconceptualization and redignification of employment that we demand.

The development of the proposal in juridical-labour terms is an interesting challenge. The proposed labour relation has some very specific characteristics, and, therefore, a contractual modality is created specifically to this effect, whose contents can be summarised in the following notes: A work week of 35 hours, a salary fixed by state regulation at the level of the minimum wage, 25% of working hours dedicated to professional development, and a duration of the labour relation according to particular necessities of each person and his or her relation with other work relations or social security benefits.

There are various points of the expression of the proposal of GE that should be treated with special attention, and we can leave here only notes for the debate. On one hand, it is necessary to articulate the details of the entity or organisation that should manage the huge task of organising GE. In order specifically to involve local agents, one could propose a state regulatory framework with development at the level of the Autonomous Communities and fundamentally local implementation. The involvement of public services of employment, associations, social movements, NGOs, trade unions, etc., would be essential in this implementation, as would be the creation of participatory councils that would collaborate with the development of the proposal of GE.

In addition to the regulation of the instruments of implementation, it is essential to consider in which sectors the jobs to be offered within GE will be located. Herein lies one of the possibilities of the proposal: the recognition of the “invisible” jobs which women habitually accept, the organised and remunerated recognition and value of which continues to erode the traditional gendered division of work. Given the lack of active employment policies, GE would offer a social investment in a specific selection of activities, by means of direct citizen participation, that would address the most urgent social needs. In this way, the political meaning and value of employment would be reinforced, completing the third objective of GE.

That the theoretical elaboration of this proposal is already fairly advanced would allow for a relatively immediate implementation at least of its first phase. We conscious of the fact that, beyond the success and advancements of said theoretical elaboration, there are two factors that will provide resistance. The first has to do with the obsessive understanding that the current model of labour relations, as much so in the private sector as in the public, continues to be a reference to which to return once the economic and financial crisis is overcome. The second uncovers in turn a feeling that employment, especially salaried work, is an environment in which involvement is restricted to the collective subjugation of the representation of the workers. Both factors must be considered – as already they are in practice – abandoning certain dogmas that could be impeding a political representation of Employment in keeping with the current moment. This task, we repeat, should take as its objective the achievement of wellbeing of society at large.