What is Work?

Work is another of those Humpty Dumpty words. So let’s clarify what work is and what it should be.

Work seems to have a bad reputation and many want to get rid of it. ‘Emancipation’ they cry from the rooftops.

But why would you want to give up an activity that you enjoy, gives meaning to your life, serves others well, is a wonderful social environment and stops you getting bored during the day?

If your work isn’t like that, don’t you think it should be?

Organisational psychology along with the techniques of Job Design and Job Enrichment all suggest it can be. So why isn’t it in many cases?

The problem is the lack of jobs. Beveridge (1944) makes the point that the labour market should always be a seller’s market.

The proposition that there should always be more vacant jobs than unemployed men[sic] means that the labour market should always be a seller’s market rather than a buyer’s market. For this, on the view of society underlying this Report — that society exists for the individual — there is a decisive reason of principle. The reason is that difficulty in selling labour has consequences of a different order of harmfulness from those associated with difficulty in buying labour. A person who has difficulty in buying the labour he wants suffers inconvenience or reduction in profits. A person who cannot sell his labour is, in effect, told that he is of no use. The first difficulty causes annoyance or loss. The other is a personal catastrophe. This difference remains even if an adequate income is provided by insurance or otherwise, during unemployment; the idleness even on an income corrupts; the feeling of not being wanted demoralizes. The difference remains even if most people are unemployed only for relatively short periods. As long as there is any long-term unemployment not obviously due to personal deficiency, anybody who loses his job fears that he may be one of the unlucky ones who will not get another job quickly. The short-term unemployed do not know that they are short-term unemployed till their unemployment is over.

Only when there are more jobs than people are firms forced to compete for labour. Only when competition is brought to bear will the offering by firms improve, and the parasite firms in the parasite economy eliminated.

The private sector is incapable of creating sufficient jobs on its own. We’re just too damn productive. It cannot complete its task of automating drudgery and driving forward the standard of living unless you relieve it of the duty to create jobs.

That means that the public sector must step in and help — with a Job Guarantee. The Job Guarantee is a guaranteed job offer, working for the public good and paid the living wage, providing the security necessary to participate in the economy.

What is the job you’ll be asked to do?

The Job Guarantee job is an exchange of labour hours for a living wage. So in UK terms you would be giving up 35 hours a week, during standard working hours, on weekdays, in the local area where you live. All what you would reasonably expect for a job paying the minimum socially acceptable wage. The traditional contract of 8 hours labour (commuting is work), 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest is restored.

Once you have given up your hours, done your work you will be paid. Just like any other job, you’ll be paid after doing the work, not before.

What work will you be asked to do?

The Job Guarantee is an extension of social care. It is a positive social provision to lift you up, dust you down and move you forward. It is there to allow you to meet your rent for your room here on earth — serving others.

Work is simply something that you find an acceptable activity, that is useful to others and that others also consider useful.

This means that work is a bilateral relationship between you and society, not something you can determine unilaterally. There has to be a dialogue and a negotation with the representatives of other people in society to determine the social value of your proposed activity. It’s not complicated or onerous though. It goes something like this:

You: I was thinking about doing X as a job

Others: That sounds great. We’ve got just the place for you where you can do X and its very near where you are. When can you start.

You: I’ll be there on Monday

Of course it is a negotiation, so you may not get your first choice:

You: I’d like to do Y as a job

Others: That’s an interesting idea, but Y isn’t something that people are happy with on the Job Guarantee. Do you have a second choice?

You: Well I suppose I could do X.

Others: That’s great…

You’ll notice this is completely different from a normal private sector job. Normally, a task needs to get done, a job is designed around that and a person found to fit the job.

With the Job Guarantee it is the other way around. It creates Jobs for the People.

What if I’m not 100% fit?

Many people approaching the Job Guarantee for assistance will not be in the best of health, may have permanent disabilities, or other issues. That may be why they have been rejected by the traditional jobs market.

The Job Guarantee is an extension of social care that provides an enabling environment. It is there to allow you to be the best that you can be. We provide this assistance when people are at school or college so they can achieve their best, and the Job Guarantee would carry that in to the work environment.

Support and assitance for the disabled and disadvantaged are of course service jobs that others can do. Many people would leap at the chance of a job helping others achieve their best.

Not only does the Job Guarantee create jobs, but the jobs in the Job Guarantee create further jobs for other people who wish to work in social care.

What about the private sector?

The Job Guarantee is a job liquidity provider. It is a guaranteed job for all that want it at the living wage. That means if you are stuck in a job you hate you can finally get out of it. Which frees up that job position for somebody who hates their current job but would quite like your old one. And so on.

The increase in liquidity allows the job market to reshuffle around. If there are more jobs than people then nobody has to be in a job they are unhappy with. Poor jobs in the private sector are eliminated. People blocking jobs you might like move on. Good firms flourish as the parasite operations are eliminated by simple competition. The matching process becomes more effective and more efficient leading to greater job performance overall.

With the private sector forced to compete, there can be no more 60 hour jobs, miles from where you live, paying a pittance. They simply won’t get the staff. Jobs have to change, become high quality and become better suited to people’s lives. The economy starts to serve the people rather than the other way around.

Business will have to learn to compete again by providing fulfilling jobs. Those that have become flabby and corpulent and whine about ‘skills shortage’ will be put out of their misery by firms that quietly get on with doing more with less while treating their staff with respect. And that leads to the productivity improvements we’re currently lacking.

So what is work?

A Netflix subscription costs money. Seeing a football match costs money. Going out anywhere costs money. How far would a small stipend really stretch after you’ve paid the rent?

Or you could undertake a valuable social activity in the company of colleagues for the service of others and receive a much bigger income for doing so.

Leisure is work you pay to do. Work is leisure you get paid to do.


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