Monday 11 February 2019

Harrowing Statistics: The Left’s Supposed To Shrink The Social Hell Of Joblessness – Not Expand It.

The Politics Of Kindness?  Such work as young workers are able to get tends to be indifferently rewarded and undertaken in conditions of considerable precariousness. Even those with impressive tertiary credentials struggle. Those without credentials find themselves consigned to social limbo. A  living purgatory, inhabited by persons of no economic value beyond that of holding down the wages of the working poor.

THE RISE in the unemployment rate, from 3.9 to 4.3 percent, may not sound like a lot – but it is. Not only because it represents a further 10,000 New Zealanders officially without work, but also because it’s the sort of news no genuine progressive government ever wants to hear. If progressive government is about anything, then it’s first and foremost about constantly expanding the number of citizens in good jobs with good pay. Any progressive government confronted with a steadily rising tide of joblessness should expect to drown.

Nor is it simply the raw percentage figure of 4.3 percent confronting the Coalition Government. Much more significant is the concomitant rise in the number of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEETs). This number now stands at just under 100,000 15-24 year-olds, or 14 percent. A record quarterly rise.

The picture painted by these statistics is not a pretty one. It shows a country in which secure, well-remunerated employment is fast becoming (if it has not already become) the preserve of people over forty. Not only that, but a labour market which has effectively become “grandfathered”.

There is an ever-decreasing layer of the workforce which enjoys good money and good employment contracts – and will go on enjoying them until retirement. For the rest of the workforce, however, simply growing older and more experienced no longer guarantees better pay and conditions. That particular conveyor belt: the one which their predecessors in the workforce rode to a secure prosperity, has been dismantled.

Such work as these younger generations of workers are able to get tends to be indifferently rewarded and undertaken in conditions of considerable precariousness. Even those with impressive tertiary credentials struggle. Those without credentials – the NEETs mentioned above – find themselves consigned to social limbo. A place of living purgatory, inhabited by persons of no economic value beyond that of holding down the wages of the working poor. Those who have not become criminals, addicts or mentally unwell, float like ghosts through a society which has been taught not to see them – because they are not real.

There is absolutely no long-term future for a progressive government which allows this state of affairs to persist. The joyful and unanticipated resurrection of the Left and its ascension into government – which forms the core of Jacinda’s redemptive political narrative – has unmistakeable echoes of the “Harrowing of Hell”. This is the religious tradition that has Christ, in the period between his crucifixion and resurrection, “descending into Hell”. According to the tale, the Son of Man prevails against the Gates of Hell, overcomes its infernal defenders, frees the imprisoned souls, and leads them into the light.

Nothing less is expected of progressive governments. Those locked-up in the social hell of joblessness, mental illness, addiction and economic impotence are supposed to be the very first item on the Left’s “to-do” list. The infernal defenders of Capitalism are supposed to be confronted and defeated, and the imprisoned ones uplifted into the dignity of labour. Only then can the Left’s resurrection be considered genuine.

In the most prosaic political terms, it means that the number of people out of work; and most assuredly, the number of NEETs; must fall – and fall decisively – if the Left is to rise, and stay risen.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 8 February 2019.


Plugger said...

I suspect this Labour govt could be around for one term.

They just couldn't get stuff done. ie didn't have the talent in cabinet.

greywarbler said...

Those figures are a kick in the guts Chris. There seems little news of mass mobilisation of the unemployed into schemes of work, Councils being able to get jobs attended to with paid supervisors and mentors for instance. And my favourite, getting numbers of young people into apprenticeships building houses. It would be slow, but it would be steady, and it would be something to point to that was solid and could never be accused of being make-work.

But the young people of today.... are surrounded by a bubble of technology if they are doing well. Are hypnotised by its power to transform their lives with one text or phone call and hardly ever look up or round them if they are not doing well. Unless some older people who have both kindness, practicality and boldness come forward to help them and advance their case, I fear they will be left sitting on the kerbs which seems to be an in-thing for youf. And some will be lighting fires for something to do, or in a druggy haze and very suggestable. And we have seen what can result in Nelson recently.

The other way to ruin the country is not to keep the young healthy and happy and not to ensure that our natural resources aren't the same. We are falling, failing dismally and turning into a faux modern civilisation, all pretence and superficial, with blinkers in any colour that you wish, made as you wait.

Yet? (Nov 22 2018)

What about Mrs Turia's suggestion in 2009, still fresh for 2019:
Associate Social Development and Employment Minister Tariana Turia said schemes such as the Project Employment Programmes (PEP), which were axed in 1985, should be brought back temporarily while the current recession lasts.

We CAN do this. So let's get off the pot! But the article notes that there were abuses. The way of assessing how well it worked would be to look at outcomes, and allow for some over-spending. Don't be spooked into running away because it cost more money than budgeted. Remember the millions that have been lost from ugly computer fraud, poor quality designs, poor quality planning - we managed to carry on despite. And we will save money with falling jail numbers won't we! There appears to be no realisation that this mass un- and under-employment is like another nationally-felt disease; not plant, not animal, but a depressive, debilitating, shrivelling disease robbing people of life, meaning, joy and respect for not only themselves, but for all of us who don't lift a finger.
There was a childhood taunt, 'Don't care was made to care'. We are seeing signs of that hardness of heart from young offenders. Why be surprised, they have learned it from us!

Nick J said...

A society that does not set out to create meaning and belonging is terminally sick. One that allows people no inclusion nor security has already failed. Thank you Chris for making a case for a caring society.

KJT said...

Is this really a rise.
National's welfare policies, meant a lot of joblessness and precarious employment, simply went under the radar.

Ultimately for a sustainable future a lot of environmentally and socially useless jobs, need to go.

Time to de couple the need for a job and survival.

Certainly better for everyone if we paid many in financial services, speculation, booking, and advertising, to stay home.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" If progressive government is about anything, then it’s first and foremost about constantly expanding the number of citizens in good jobs with good pay."

Then when was our last progressive government? Because I can't remember a government that really gave a shit about this since 1984.Well not so much didn't give a ship, but bought into the bullshit that the market will solve it. It hasn't. And I'm sorry to keep harping on about this, but we were promised a high skill/high wage economy by Roger Douglas at least, the National party had the sense to keep their mouse shut, because they don't give a stuff about ordinary workers, just their own. And it's still not there.
Sorry, just had to pick up my son from the railway station because he's so tired he's dangerous to damn well drive. He's basically had one day off to recover from working during the day and start working from midnight till eight in the bloody morning. Now I have to walk down to the station and pick up his car and bring it back. As if a retired old fart like me hasn't got better things to do.:) No wonder there's so much movement towards extremes. Particularly the lower middle class who have expectations and yet are being shafted. It's very similar to the 1930s, and Godwin be damned!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"They just couldn't get stuff done. ie didn't have the talent in cabinet"
I often wonder how people judge the effectiveness and talent of government ministers. I've never been able to with certain very rare exceptions. And I suspect that anyone who pretends to is spouting bullshit. It's just a political statement that says I" don't like the labour cabinet."
As if National is bursting with talent – Maggie Barry, whose sole claim to fame was running a garden show. A very good garden show from what I can gather, but I don't see her as tremendously talented. But again that's just an impression I don't really know. How do you tell? I'd love to know.

Big Dog Talking said...

What did you expect, a government that pursues an employer unfriendly environment and wonders why there are no jobs?

Employers create the wealth, (you may think they keep too much of it but that is still the fact) they are not obligated to create jobs. Trying being nice to them.

And don't tell me the state could create jobs, point to anywhere anytime where that actually worked (sustainably)

Any way at 4% this is just structural unemployment.

greywarbler said...

I think I know what you are getting at but it could confuse.
You say stop having 'jobs' as necessary to be able to keep living. Fair enough.

Our government and Treasury chose to get rid of our domestic economy by cutting tariffs so they could press for acceptance of our milk exports overseas. They didn't need a job, they had a career, but the rest of us needed the jobs in the businesses they abandoned. So now we want a place in the country's alternative domestic economy, one where we support each other, not the steely-eyed import/export exploiters in this country and overseas.

We want work that enables us to have a good life, all of us doing something, inputting into the country's fabric. Let's get going on that sustainable stuff. Some might like to see the country from a caravan, and go round on a seasonal work route. It's already being done but needs to be expanded. The young unemployed men could be kept in part-time education, part time weight and fitness training, and go off for seasonal work seeing the country also. In between they could learn new skills, be tradesmen, keep fit aiming for elite sporting contests. All vital, all positive - creating work and earnings and profits - ie the sporting contests would attract paying spectators. If you can help them past the teenage years without them becoming habitual drunks or druggies, and give them opportunities to plan their future, to make achievable goals that they are helped to carry through, 50% of our welfare and criminal troubles would be gone.

Money going round in the multiplier ripples, each $ getting diminished by taxation, labour costs etc as it was respent till 'spent'. That would be such a good result from good lifeplan policies. Not just regarding people as human cows, running people like a dairy herd; overstocked, polluted and unhappy.

But I see the problems as being larger than rising numbers of unemployed young people. Them being helped to be active and in so doing creating new jobs and business would be matched by a change for everyone. Everyone would be doing some work, in all age groups. The very young will be working at learning the skills of reading, writing, and critical thinking, all much needed in NZ.

And also they will be taught about this country and its spectrum of values, and philosophies including religion in that, doing art work, learning creativity, music and also and especially, practical skills
including in that technology and its systems and uses. We would also adopt the Jewish, also in other traditions, that are similar to bar mitzvah, when the teenagers become apprentice adults respected, and not treated as children any more.

Many of the retired are unemployed, not volunteering for even a few hours weekly, receiving from society (that borrows internationally each day to balance its economy), and putting little back. Eventually running up large medical bills perhaps for years, and too often living in the twilight world of dementia or being overtaken by arthritis or Parkinsons etc. Others are bearing the burden of having to work very hard, grandparenting their family without much help, and the carers need support financial and physical. So
all doing something, mainly for a group, mentoring, teaching skills, a few hours a week, by each older person, might be all they could cope with but pass on so much of value. That value is lost at present. Old NZ ways have not worked. We have to change and do better fast, the future is unclear.

Ian said...

The idea that there were near permanent jobs for everyone started when the industrial revolution needed a large workforce. While machines destroyed many jobs, they also led to the creation of more jobs than were destroyed. Having a demand for labour led to unions (who demanded and got better working conditions and wages) and to more progressive governments (who created pensions and other welfare systems). Protectionist trade policies, capital controls and a limited number of international companies concentrated these benefits into a small number of countries populated by white people.

Now it is easier to be an international company. Trade barriers are down. Shipping costs are low. There a no barriers to moving money around the world (so long as the amount is measured in millions of dollars). The potential workforce is the entire world. The nature of the industrial revolution has changed, it is no longer true that more jobs are being created than destroyed and conditions which created and gave power to unions are rapidly vanishing. So new jobs are unlikely to be created with the same pay, security and working conditions as existing jobs. Governments have little need, inclination or ability to protect their economies or their workers. For decades management has seen reducing headcount as one of their most desirable goals.

When I joined the workforce generous redundancy payments were the preserve of existing employees only in most companies. Come the 1990s, the Employment Contracts Act saw a legislative attempt to destroy the idea of the permanent job in NZ, an idea only slightly ahead of its time.

The Left needs to ask itself: are the trends of the last 40-50 years reversible? Is it a case of the Right getting too powerful and the pendulum needs to be nudged back the other way or is it a more fundamental change? Is it possible to change the world (not just NZ) back to the way things were pre-1970? Or should it be accepted that paid work will become a shrinking part of the economy because the trend is for the supply of labour to exceed the demand?

If the later is accepted then KJT is right, the strategy of a caring government should be to decouple the need for a job from the source of money needed to survive. This being a social change that makes equal rights for women, abortion rights, gay marriage and giving up petrol cars seem as radical as changing your underwear.

Chris Harris said...

As with most aspects of Aotearoa/New Zealand's social neglect, there is of course an ethnic dimension to this: "over forty" codes for "Pakeha," as does the element of grandfathering. Also, I hope KJT is right about some of the rise due to being easier to sign on now. Any truth to that?

peteswriteplace said...

No, the figures aren't good. Not sure what is going on. Grandfathered? Back in the 90's older workers, including myself found it difficult to get a job. This continued into the new century. We have a coalition government, not a Labour one. If it was a Labour Government there would be stronger policies in employment and job creation. This govt is slow in getting rid of National created social policies.They are actually being unfairly criticised and even condemned by ignorant people.

Geoff Fischer said...

Chris wrote: "If progressive government is about anything, then it’s first and foremost about constantly expanding the number of citizens in good jobs with good pay"
Yet even this little is too much to expect of any New Zealand government, whether of the right or the left.
As for the "harrowing of hell", the poor must look to themselves for their own redemption. Not to Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson or any other politician.
Those who are waiting for salvation from the left will wait forever while those who choose to awake and walk out through the gates of the colonial Hell will discover that what they may have thought substantial and impregnable was merely illusory.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I'd like to know what these bloody "employer unfriendly" policies are. Because it seems to me that the coalition has changed very little. How about a list? Because I think that's just another one of those statements it says "I don't like this government!" Employers crap their pants and scream whenever a Labour government gets in, yet they are hardly inconvenienced by them it seems to me.

greywarbler said...

Big Dog Talking
Are you sniggering while you write your guff, or barking mad? It is hard to believe that people still believe the stuff you are giving out for free.
No thanks, I don't want any, I already gave to charities making up for the faulty or maliciously planned policies to enable inferior businessmen and women to operate. You just manage to run your businesss with state-based aid; your main problem is the big companies and corporates crowding you out of every niche you find. The main thing for micro business is paying the money to pay tax lawyers so they can avoid paying what is due.
tax - the IRD tends to track that obsessively; and operating to the satisfaction of Health and Safety Agencies, and preumably the ACC whose goal is to have zero-free accidents in NZ so they never have to pay out anything.

John Hurley said...

It is sad to see small bus owners loosing out to Chinese migrants. Tiger Tours even advertises in China that they will have a Chinese driver and guide. An owner I spoke to says he is giving up. He has a jet boat, lives on the Coast and will go fishing but the Chinese migrant and their sons will go on working.[0]=18743&tl_period_type=3

Guerilla Surgeon said...

It is sad to see small business owners going out of business – but that's capitalism right? The market sorts out who succeeds and who fails. In the market has obviously decided here that as Chinese people can't on the whole speak English, they probably need someone to speak at least Mandarin if not other dialects on their tours, and small business owners in New Zealand either can't be bothered employing Mandarin speakers or learning Mandarin.

Unknown said...

Even when advanced economies are going at full steam the unemployment rate rarely drops below 4%.

There is a trade-off between rates of employment and rates of inflation.