Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Do Job Guarantee enthusiasts want the entire workforce raking leaves rather than doing something useful?

Reason I ask is that it’s not entirely clear where JG enthusiasts stand on this one. For example Pavlina Tcherneva is one of the more vociferous advocates of JG, but in the opening paragraphs of an article of hers (Levy Economics Institute Policy Note 2012/2) she criticises conventional stimulus and sings the praises of JG type employment.

So how far does she want to take that point: abolish all forms of conventional employment, and instead have the entire workforce raking leaves, planting trees and doing the other assortment of jobs normally given as examples of what JG / make work scheme employees can do?

Strikes me as pretty obvious that the optimum policy here is to boost demand as far as possible, and get as much of the workforce as possible into conventional types of employment (public and private), and then use JG to deal with the remaining and unemployed members of the workforce. But there is no hint in her article of the latter idea.

More evidence of the dim view she takes of conventional forms of employment comes in this tweet of hers where she castigates dangerous car factories. Well the solution to that is proper and properly enforced health and safety laws, not closing down every car factory in the country and putting redundant employees onto raking leaves and planting trees.

Amazing that it is even necessary to explain this, isn't it?

Factories that produce cars and other items produce what people actually want and are prepared to pay for (shock horror). JG work is inevitably less productive because if a given JG job really was more productive than the less productive regular jobs, market forces would bring the former into existence and dispense with the latter, all else equal, i.e. assuming a constant level of aggregate employment.

Moreover, it’s not as if there is a total absence of injury and death on JG projects: a significant proportion of the JG scheme which operated in the 1930s, namely the WPA, involved constructing buildings, roads, bridges and so on. That sort of work is inevitably quite dangerous.

In contrast to today’s deluded JG advocates who will get precisely nowhere under the current Republican administration, the JG ideas I was advocating about 20 years ago have actually been put into effect, albeit in a small way.  One idea I advocated was that JG type work should be with EXISTING employers rather than on specially set up projects, as per WPA. Second I advocated that there should be no preference for public sector employers as compared to private sector employers (or vice-versa).

Those two ideas are in fact inherent to the only JG type scheme up and running in the UK, i.e. the Work Programme.

For my latest ideas on this subject, which have not changed substantially from 20 years ago, see my recent paper in the journal below. This is an exercise in tidying up and bringing things up to date.


  1. To: CEO of JG Implementation Bureau
    Dear Prof. Mitchell,
    I am hereby exercising my statutory right to be provided with a job under the new Job Guarantee Act.
    I am fully qualified since I am currently part of the buffer stock of unemployed lumpen proletariat.
    I am very keen to start my new job for the following reasons:
    1. Living wage. As promised, this must be sufficient for my spouse and seven young children as well as myself.
    2. Flexible hours. The promised flexible working hours of JG jobs will enable me to assist my wife with some of the burdens of childcare. One of our children is a quadriplegic.
    3. JG Job close to my home. JG jobs are promised close to people’s homes. We live in a remote barren area. There are zero local jobs - the old mines closed several years ago. My previous jobs were in the closest town over 100 km away and there is no public transport. In the past I had to stay in expensive and overcrowded dormitory shacks and was only able to go home on non-work days.
    As an alternative to providing a JG job close to our current home, the Bureau could provide us with a new house at a better location and cover our relocation expenses.
    4. JG job compatible with my physical and mental abilities. My previous jobs were back-breaking and unpleasant. I quit labouring at a slaughterhouse due to the stench of blood and strains from lifting heavy carcasses. Then I worked as a geriatric nursing assistant but I became a victim of the neoliberal mainstream elite. I was sacked due to alleged absenteeism and low intelligence. In fact I suffered from backaches due to obese patients, while my IQ is a good 85.
    5. Re-training. My ambition is to become an airline pilot, so I intend to take advantage of the promised retraining opportunities.
    6. Socially worthwhile work. The JG scheme offers productive employments for thespians, musicians and surfers, which are deemed beneficial to society. Likewise my own preferred JG employment, kite-surfing. This could be the basis for science and character building classes in schools, and for a shark early warning system for popular beaches. Moreover, pay-per-view podcasts could be profitable.
    7. Inflation Anchor
    My new guaranteed job will benefit the economy by providing an anchor for inflation. I hope to kite-surf over the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans, and could drop an additional inflation anchor there.


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