Friday, February 18, 2011

This year’s elections should be about job creation

This year’s elections should be about job creation
By The Post
Fri 18 Feb. 2011, 04:00 CAT

Good leaders must be interested in the welfare of those in distress. And in the run up to this year’s elections, we should demand that all those who are aspiring for public office tell us how they are going to deal with our country’s tragedy of unemployment. We expect them to feel the distress of many of our people who are unemployed. Unemployment is today a scourge in our country. It deprives our people of their God-given right to work. It undermines their human dignity. It is a terrible frustration and humiliation for a parent to be unable, due to unemployment, to provide for the family.

It is equally demoralising for young people to find there is no work waiting for them when they leave school, college or university. We therefore can’t leave this issue to chance. We know, and no one can cheat us, that the problem of unemployment is a difficult one for any government to face. But to solve it, we need hardworking and public-spirited politicians in government, in Parliament and in our councils. We need people of courage who will defend the truth and demand justice for all.

Everyone has the right to work. And the right to work imposes an obligation on those in government, in Parliament and in our councils to design policies that promote full productive and freely chosen employment. They are required to work hard and ensure that there is work for all who are available for and seeking work. And such work should be as productive as possible.

And this right, the right to work, is increasingly becoming important in our country because our government has continued to withdraw from the provision of basic services in many areas of human endeavour, leaving these to market forces and non-governmental actors.

The path towards the enjoyment and exercise of the right to work requires a critical analysis of our economic structures and how they lead to the problem of unemployment.

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that there is more to the issue of employment than just its economic and social costs, severe as they are in our country today. Employment concerns not only the economy but also, and especially, personal values. Employment is rooted in respect for human dignity.

The effect of unemployment is degrading and making employment available is most important. We are all called to use our talents through our employment in order to build the good of our society. If others are denied this opportunity, society cannot develop. Employment provides an opportunity for each of us to show our humanity. The right to employment should be construed against the conceptual background of the meaning of work. Other than being a means to livelihood, work expresses and enhances a person’s dignity.

Even if unemployment did not impact negatively on our economy, and even if it was not a cause of social problems, it would still be a denial of an essential element of human dignity. We say this because through employment, we co-operate with the Creator in bringing to fulfillment the created world; we exercise our God-given abilities and talents as co-workers with God in the great task of transforming the material world.

Employment is not simply an onerous necessity, coincidental with our physical existence, a burden which we should try to escape. It is a vital part of our humanity, the manifestation of our creativity, an opportunity for our growth and fulfillment. Indeed, work is nothing less than a constituent dimension of the purpose for which the world was created and for which we ourselves were brought into being.

What is needed, therefore, is not just employment, but humane and dignified employment. Nevertheless, we are concerned for the present purposes with the need for work itself to be available to all our people, work which however humble or exalted it may be, satisfies our innate desire and responsibility to reach fulfillment. That so many of our people are denied this opportunity is a shameful injustice, especially since it is so often the result of excessive pursuit of profit or of economic policies which fail to take adequate account of the inherent value and dignity of the human person. Work is indeed a right, a right which, as a nation, we fail to respect at our own peril.

In this regard, it is disturbing to note the current tendencies to lay the blame for unemployment at the door of the unemployed themselves. The oft-repeated charge that our people are unemployed today because of the high wages they demand without commensurate increases in productivity is responsible for the inability to create more employment. It is a lie. We have many skilled and highly trained people who are on the streets. And those who are highly educated and experienced don’t like to be known as being unemployed, they would rather refer to themselves as consultants. We have many people with post-graduate degrees in this country who have no jobs, who are unemployed. And this is not because they are looking for very high salaries. In many cases, this is simply because the owners of capital have brought with them their own employees at the expense of our people. It is not unusual to see even labourers being brought in from the home countries of capital. And those who try to question this are denounced by our government and accused of frustrating foreign investment and scaring away foreign investors.

Clearly, the issue of employment should be topmost on our campaign issues for this year’s elections. Every candidate and their political parties should be taken to task on the issue of employment because it is at the centre of our people’s dignity. And as Dr Mutumba Bull has correctly observed, our country faces a huge challenge of creating jobs for the many unemployed citizens, especially the youth. The challenge is how our political leaders, with the support of our people, are going to create jobs. For this reason, this year’s elections should be about tackling unemployment. And only those leaders who are seen to have a commitment and a convincing way of tackling the issue of unemployment deserve our people’s votes. There is no need to waste our vote on candidates who are not interested in the common good and are just obsessed with power.

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