Thursday, 1 May 2014

International Workers' Day /Labour Day

Comment: work is a topic that I feel is important - maybe it is one of the main challenges society is facing today - that I want to write about, yet I do not know where to begin or how to formulate myself, so these thoughts will be scribbled down in some sort of order. Hopefully they will make some sense. 

Work. Work is the core of human activity, I don't think it's something we do just because of the money, but it is essential for the survival for most of us. When looking around us, there is so much work that needs to be done. A lot of the work is done well, some of it poorly. Some jobs, we ask, why do they even exist? And why do some professions (such as athletes) make so much money when their profession has no real importance for humankind? And then there are jobs that are extremely important, where people are expected to do their share, and the share of one more person, with lousy pay. 

Society looks very different than it did when Socialists and Communists fought for the improvement of the working and living conditions of the working class in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nowadays we are faced with new challenges: jobs are transferred eastwards (it seems they always move east), globalization has multiplied the chances and ways of increasing the flows of money. While the welfare state manages to guarantee a set of rights and security for all people within its borders (who are there legally), international and global challenges are catching up. 

Most people without a job want to work. The point is that the requirements and structures sometimes make it very difficult. It makes me so angry to hear people speaking about unemployed people as "lazy", usually they are not lazy. Of course there are free-riders - there always are - but it's so easy to cast the blame on people who are under you on the ladder. There are so many factors that affect human behaviour and their perception of things. For instance, how long will a young person who doesn't get "chosen" for any of the jobs s/he applies stay motivated? Where will s/he find the motivation? Will the motivation increase if people spit on him/her, calling him/her a free-rider?

As a tax-payer I have certain expectations on the state. The state and I (the tax-payer, existing within the larger context of community) are in a relationship that we cannot get out of (unless one of us - and that would be me - decides to move), the state has a set of expectations on me, as well. However, I sometimes ask myself if I really get what I pay for? Does reality really match my expectations? See, I am more than glad to work and pay taxes. However, some of the things that are not OK include corruption, unproportionally high salaries for people employed by the state (just because they are employed by the state), the state and regional authorities encouraging solutions that worsen the work conditions for citizens as well as the spending of money on "ridiculous" things. NB: Ridiculous is a perception. I find it ridiculous that states spend billions on weapons, someone else thinks it's ridiculous to spend money on foreign aid.  

There are forces in Sweden that would like to introduce a 6-hour working day in order to guarantee more jobs. I actually haven't read too much about the topic, so maybe I should be quiet about it. However, my instinctive reaction is no. This would mean that people in jobs with low salaries would earn even less. With the risk of generalizing, I think that those people who could actually afford working only 6 hours a day work a lot more than the normal 37,5/week anyway and that those are jobs that cannot be shared or divided. And. If everyone is trying to save money now - what's the likelihood of them paying more (which two persons instead of one would entail) in salaries?

What to do, then? Unemployment is increasing, it seems. I fear that when unemployment rises (and the welfare state fails) the risk of societal unrest increases as well. I do not understand actors, whose main motivation is to make as much money as possible. Without an understanding of economics, I get that companies should make money. Of course, I do. But why as much as possible if it worsens the situation for people? Where are they planning to sell their goods if nobody can afford buying them? At the same time, it is not only the responsibility of companies to keep employment high. But - a high employment with decent salaries - that's a good thing, isn't it?

Summary: I probably need to take a class or two in economics. 


Natalie said...

Interesting thoughts, as usual. And you definitely do need to take economics because I support everyone ever taking economics. :)

One of my professors is a labor economist. If you're interested, I can give you some recommendations for reading.

Zsuzsi said...

Hi Natalie, and thanks for the comment.

I would be very thankful if you'd recommend me some literature on the topic - I feel like I'm too much at loss to have an enlightened opinion on the matter :)