“Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorableconditions of work and to protection against unemployment
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, September 24 1948.
“The political revival of free-market ideology in the 1980s is, I presume, based on themarket’s remarkable ability to root out inefficiency. But not all inefficiencies are createdequal. In particular, high unemployment represents a waste of resources so colossal thatno one truly interested in efficiency can be complacent about it. It is both ironic andtragic that, in searching out ways to improve economic efficiency, we seem to haveignored the biggest inefficiency of them all.”
Unemployment rates in almost all OECD economies have risen and persisted at higher levels since the first OPEC shocks in the 1970s. Since the end of World War II, mostOECD economies have gone from a situation where the respective governments ensuredthere were enough jobs to maintain full employment to a state where the samegovernments use unemployment to control inflation. Full employment has beenabandoned by governments in these economies. In the midst of the on-going debatesabout labour market deregulation, privatisation and welfare reform, the most salient,empirically robust fact that has pervaded the last two decades is that the actual GDPgrowth rate has rarely reached the rate required to achieve full employment (Mitchell,2001a, 2001c). The pro-market policy agenda has failed to restore full employment.Over the last 25 years, the political system, abetted by business and academic economists(for example, Layard, Nickell and Jackman, 1991; OECD, 1994), has relinquishedresponsibility for reducing unemployment and has, instead, shifted the blame to other groups in the economy. The supply side shift initially targetted the trade unions as thescapegoats after the wages breakouts of the mid 1970s and early 1980s. As evidenceaccumulated to show labour costs were not influential, the emphasis shifted to explainingunemployment in terms of the shortcomings of the unemployed themselves. Theunemployed allegedly lack competitive skills or exhibit attitudinal deficiencies. Allegedexternal constraints imposed by the global currency markets are also invoked to explainwhy governments can afford only minimal financial outlays on labour market policiesand general welfare provision (see Burgess and Watts, 2001; Mitchell, 2001a).