Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Who was missing from the jobs summit?

There has been a heap of discussion both in blogs and newspapers about who was missing from the job summit. There were just about 200 people there and only 30 of them were women, 2 were people with pacific island heritage, and only one person was Asian (and Asia is a big continent).

But I think that way of looking at the summit misses the point. The jobs summit was full of people who had cut jobs over the last 12 months, and empty of people who had lost them. The reason it was short of women, Pacific Islanders and Asians, is because it was short of workers, and 14 union leaders are not a substitute for that. The number of Maori at the jobs summit was about representative, but the Maori who attended were not.

The discussion about whether there were enough women there distracts from the main question, which is whose interests are being served here?

I found it grotesque that a bunch of people whose average income would have been considerable over $100,000 thought that cutting people who earn considerably less than that wages by a tenth was an acceptable option (the government has already ruled out making up that extra day's pay).

The proposals are about making life better for businesses. Which when it comes down to it was the entire point of this summit: trying to maintain the fiction that the interests of workers and the interests of businesses are one and the same thing.

PS (just because it's been bugging me): A cycle/walk way the length of the country may provide 4,000 temporary jobs (and more on the nature of those jobs in another post). But geographically many of the jobs created are going to be a long way from the jobs that were lost. I wonder if that's a design feature of the plan, rather than a flaw. I'd be surprised if the idea of punishing the job-less has entirely disappeared, and this plan could end up resembling the work camp (and one of the other suggestions from the job summit was to up the intra-national market for labour)


Julie said...

Thank you for writing about this. I agree that with the discussions about the unrepresentative delegation, based on gender, ethnicity etc, the argument you make got lost. I was thinking about it this morning on the way to work - who knows more about the support that the unemployed need than those working directly with them, yet they were left out.

Anna said...

I actually share your unease about the cycle track stuff, although I'm the one who originally wrote in favour of it (largely from my own point of view that if my means of supporting my family were taken away, I'd probably leap at any available job).

Depending on how it plays out, the labour force needed to build the track could be a bunch of disaffected young men working under difficult conditions in remote places. Or, it could be guys separated from their families and remitting their wages home, while mums run those families without support.

Having said this, global fashions around capitalism have changed since the Nats were last in govt, and I think this is reflected in what we're seeing at the moment. I think the punitive approach to unemployment has waned a bit (in favour of a notion that the state should support individuals to be entrepreneurs - alarming in a different way).