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Work for a Brighter Future

By staff - International Labour Organization, 2019

New forces are transforming the world of work. The transitions involved call for decisive action.

Countless opportunities lie ahead to improve the quality of working lives, expand choice, close the gender gap, reverse the damages wreaked by global inequality, and much more. Yet none of this will happen by itself. Without decisive action we will be heading into a world that widens existing inequalities and uncertainties.

Technological advances – artificial intelligence, automation and robotics – will create new jobs, but those who lose their jobs in this transition may be the least equipped to seize the new opportunities. Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete. The greening of our economies will create millions of jobs as we adopt sustainable practices and clean technologies but other jobs will disappear as countries scale back their carbon- and resource-intensive industries. Changes in demographics are no less significant. Expanding youth populations in some parts of the world and ageing populations in others may place pressure on labour markets and social security systems, yet in these shifts lie new possibilities to afford care and inclusive, active societies.

We need to seize the opportunities presented by these transforma-tive changes to create a brighter future and deliver economic security, equal opportunity and social justice – and ultimately reinforce the fabric of our societies.

Read the report (Link).

Jobs Guarantee or Universal Basic Income? Why Not Both?

By Alyssa Battistoni - In These Times, June 20, 2018

The argument about a universal basic income (UBI) versus a job guarantee (JG) has become one of the liveliest and most contentious debates on the Left. Each has been touted as a solution to all ills: the way to decrease depression, close the racial wealth gap, recognize historically undervalued forms of work, transform the economy, save the planet.

Though UBI and JG are typically counterposed, it’s entirely plausible they could coexist. If paid work is as important to well-being as JG advocates say, most people would want a job even with UBI. In particular, the black freedom movement, from civil rights leaders to Black Lives Matter, has called for both a basic income and guaranteed jobs.

Whether both can do all the things proponents promise—in particular, the essential work of transitioning quickly to a low-carbon economy—is a different, harder question. Whether it’s possible to achieve both is yet another.

A UBI program could actually be a danger to the climate if, in distributing revenue from publicly owned resources, we rely on profits from destructive industries such as oil, as in Alaska. But there are alternatives: a depletion tax on companies that degrade so-called natural capital, a tax on carbon and other pollutants, or a land value tax targeting large landowners—all of which foster environmental conservation and make public claims to natural wealth.

Take This Bullshit Job and Pretend to Love It

By Shaun Richman - American Prospect, June 11, 2018

The British economist Joan Robinson once remarked, “The misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all.” What kind of misery is it, then, if your particular form of exploitation is being asked to do nothing particularly useful?

David Graeber explores this question in his thought-provoking and hilarious new book, Bullshit Jobs. Five years ago, he wrote an essay for the radical magazine Strike!, asking why people in the United States and England are not working the 15-hour weeks that John Maynard Keynes had predicted would be the result of technological advancement? In our post-scarcity society, he argued, only a tiny fraction of the population actually has to labor in order to provide for the material needs of all. “It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working,” he wrote.

The essay went viral. Millions of people read it and thousands wrote him to vent about their own pointless jobs. Those first-person accounts enliven and flesh out Graeber’s book.

He breaks down these jobs into five major categories: Box-tickers, Duct tapers, Taskmasters, Flunkies, and Goons. While humorous, it’s also a well thought-out system of categorizing pointless work by the dynamics that create them. A Duct-taper, for instance, is hired because an existing employee (very likely a full-of-it supervisor) either skips or botches one essential part of his assignment and so an entire extra employee is hired to make sure that that one small task gets carried out. That task may be essential, but it hardly amounts to a full-time assignment. 

A Box-ticker, on the other hand, exists mainly so an organization can claim it is doing something that it doesn’t actually take seriously. Much of this involves researching and compiling reports no one will read to comply with a regulation or to document progress on a mission or goal.

Flunkies, meanwhile, are employees hired purely to make their supervisor appear more important. A receptionist whose main function is to place phone calls for a middle manager just to say to the party on the other line, “Please hold for Mr. ____,” is a perfect example.  

These bullshit jobs make up an astonishingly large portion of the global economy. Inspired by his initial essay, one U.K. poll found that 37 percent of respondents did not believe their job made “a meaningful contribution to the world.” A similar poll of Dutch workers found that 40 percent of workers didn’t think their jobs served a useful purpose.  

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