June 10, 2006 The Future of Employment The most recent Bureau of Labor statistics tell us that a mere 75,000 jobs were created by the so-called “Bush Boom” in the last reported month (March) of this year. This number is far below the

The Future of Employment

The most recent Bureau of Labor statistics tell us that a mere 75,000 jobs were created by the so-called “Bush Boom” in the last reported month (March) of this year. This number is far below the number of potential workers who naturally enter the labor force and nowhere near the number of new jobs required monthly to begin replacing all of the American jobs lost since 2001. But, wait, there is more.

In China, 4.13 million university and college graduates will enter the labor force this year and only 40 percent of them will find jobs. “Employment pressure will be difficult to resolve,” says the Minister of Labor in the understatement of the year, as China continues to shed manufacturing jobs. As for India, the highly touted Indian IT sector provides but 1.3 million jobs in a workforce population of 400 million; each year, India graduates 441,000 technical students, 2.3 million other graduates and more than 300,000 postgraduates. Only if India took off on an unprecedented heavy industry manufacturing boom would its economy be able to produce significant numbers of jobs — and that prospect is not at all in sight. (The Economist, June 3, 2006)

What’s my point? Simply that, even, or especially, with the globalized capitalist system, the economy will not and cannot provide the number of jobs that are currently assumed to be necessary for social stability. This goes for America as well as for China and India and every other place in the world. All the (ecologically destructive) economic growth possible won’t provide enough jobs, and increasing worker productivity will, as usual, go into high profits for the top “one per centers.”

Is there a way out? Yes, if you believe in miracles. In his 1980 book, “Farewell to the Working Class,” Andre Gorz recognized that modern industrial and managerial technologies were making redundant most actual and potential workers. With exponentially decreasing units of human labor, science and technology could provide the basic food, clothing, shelter, education, and medical care for humanity and enable us to escape from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom — that is, a very short workweek and no anxieties about necessities.

The required miracle requires us to transcend global capitalism and replace it with a democratically controlled and supervised economic system in which the necessary work of providing essentials would be done by all and in very little work time. Peoples’ identities and self-esteem would be anchored not in their jobs but in their leisure, their intellects, in their cultural and volunteer activities, in their “play.” Some miracle, eh?

Gerald Cavanaugh



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