What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
Chapter 24 05/12/2000 13:24 Page 1 24. Unemployment, jobs and sharing* A PROPER RECOGNITION STILL TO BE GIVEN TO THE UNEMPLOYMENT PROBLEM (Letter, Financial Times, 15 June 1993) That unemployment will not yield all that much to ‘active macroeconomic policies’ we’ve known for some time. Now, Edward Balls tells us (in his article ‘A tide that’s not for turning’, 9 June) that the active labour market policies Richard Layard was advocating in his Personal View article (8 June) don’t work either, except as political tokenism designed to show the problem is being taken seriously. So what’s left?‘Less generous unemployment benefits’?Yes, indeed, push the welfare minimum down to American levels and you will force more people into jobs - at the poverty-level wages that now characterize so much work in America. Is that what we really want? Surely we need to recognize that the unemployment problem is a result of the new ‘labour market scissors’. On the one hand are the decent instincts which have made a welfare floor of 40 per cent of average income pretty well universal in European societies. On the other are those changes in society and technology which have changed the job structure. More and more jobs are beyond the learning capacity of people who did not do well in school, and fewer and fewer jobs are of the sort almost anybody can learn to do. The exceptions are serving and caring jobs that are only slowly becoming acceptable for able-bodied males. And...
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