Home > economics, Off Blog > Note from Tom Walker: The jobs are not coming back

Note from Tom Walker: The jobs are not coming back

September 27, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Tom Walker gives his short take n the jobs crisis:

… [T]he jobs aren’t coming back. At least they’re not coming back in the form they were previously. The raison d’etre of capital is to lower labor costs by using improved technology and embedded labor (capital) to reduce the current and total expenditure of labor time. It is, of course, possible to create “positions” and call them jobs. It is possible to divide up any given amount of work (whether or not that amount is “fixed”) into fewer or more jobs. And it is possible to generate an endless array of “new wants”.

One consideration must be borne in mind, however. Each of the three possibilities mentioned above is predicated on EITHER a huge shift of claims on future income streams away from returns to capital or a huge enlargement and perpetuation of debt that must, in principle (as well as in “principal”!), ultimately be unredeemable. Of course if the debt becomes explicitly “never-to-be-repaid”, what’s the advantage (in terms of jobs created) in maintaining the fiction of debt? More loan officers and tax collectors, I suppose. Overgrowth of the soulless bureaucracy.


At the present time there is not the political will to create jobs because there is not the political will to fundamentally redistribute income along the lines indicated by the unsolved riddle of social justice. So, no justice — no jobs. Events are likely to unfold very rapidly, though.

The G20 in its final communique yesterday has now officially acknowledged the “jobs crisis” as had the ILO, the OECD and the International Trade Union Confederation. There is a lot of talk about “doing something” along with a absolute terror of stating the magnitude of what needs to be done. Blah, blah, blah… job training, blah, blah… income supports, blah, blah, blah … active labour market policies, blah, blah… green jobs.

The ITUC declaration, it is true, mentions the “three decades of neo-liberal economic policies” that need to be undone and the need to build a “more sustainable and just future.” But its shopping-list catalog of ‘imperative’ actions and principles leaves it vulnerable to death by lip service. Governments will cynically ‘commit’ to a plethora of principles while gleefully doing the opposite. The ITUC needs to come around to a position more like the UK Sustainable Development Commission’s report, “Prosperity without Growth?” that focuses on a “12-step program.” But more importantly it needs to also outline a strategy for enforcing their objectives.

General strike? Maybe that’s too scary for the labor bureaucracy to even contemplate, let alone mention. But for Global Unions to “be given a seat at the table”? WTF? So their pork-chop asses don’t miss out on the banquet food and champagne? (I have it on very good authority that the OECD economists in Paris drink an impressive amount of the bubbly stuff). What we will begin to see as the job crisis continues and intensifies will be both organized actions of civil disobedience (strikes, factory take-overs, squats) and disorganized outbreaks of civil disorder (riots, vandalism, inchoate acts of violence). Trade unions will have to choose between supporting militant direct action or actively opposing it (and in the process effectively abandoning their stated principles).

The OECD is holding an Employment and Labour Ministerial meeting in Paris this Monday and Tuesday on the theme “What can governments do to prevent the jobs crisis becoming a full-fledged social crisis?”  Just a thought: I wonder how many unemployed people are being invited to the Policy Forum?

And, from the New York Times, “U.S. Job Seekers Exceed Openings by Record Ratio”:

Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking open positions in 2000. According to the Labor Department’s latest numbers, from July, only 2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open, with 14.5 million people officially unemployed.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat…

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