Tuesday, July 03, 2012
By The Post
Tue 03 July 2012, 13:25 CAT
UNEMPLOYMENT is truly a time bomb for us. And this observation by Michael Sata needs to be taken very seriously. We need to address the issue of unemployment with renewed seriousness, vigour and tenacity. While some may be more worried about terrorists planting bombs and blowing up places, our worry, our bomb should be unemployment. This is what is going to tear our nation to pieces.
This is so because jobs, jobs and jobs are the dividing line in many families between a decent life and a wretched existence. 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 saw last week how those young people broke down, lost hope, were helpless when they failed to join the army. It wasn't because of their love for the army, it was simply because this was their only hope, only opportunity of getting a job and they don't know when, they have no idea when another opportunity may arise.
We must also bear in mind that there is more to the question of unemployment than just its economic and social costs, severe as they are today in our country. Even if unemployment did not impact negatively on the economy, and even if it was not a cause of the social problems our people are today facing, it would still be a denial of an essential element of human dignity.
Work 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 fulfilment. 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.
Unemployment, lack of opportunity, insecurity, inequality, hopelessness are the terms that could well define the situation or the conditions under which a great part of our population is living. While poverty is the very basis of the present situation in our country and is directly related to the serious problem of low income for the great majority of our people, it is in turn closely linked to our unemployment situation.
The phenomenon of unemployment in our country cannot be seen as a mere quantitative issue, that is, as a simple non-use or inability of our economy to use the entire labour force, but as a qualitative result of the irrational and unjust nature of the existing economic policies.
From it stems the paradox that productive human capacity is not fully used in a country where there is so much poverty and where the most basic needs of millions of human beings are not being met.
The phenomenon of unemployment in our country today is also being aggravated by the growing migration of large rural masses to urban areas, due to extremely poor living conditions and to the lack of employment in our rural areas. This they paradoxically attempt to solve by crowding into shanty townships where living conditions are not so different, thus also swelling the vast army of urban unemployed.
A comprehensive approach is required to fight this situation and to struggle for diminishing unemployment.
Unemployment is caused by unjust political and economic and social structures. Every person has a right to work, and this right must be recognised in a practical way by an effective commitment to solving the tragic problem of unemployment. The fact that unemployment keeps large sectors of our population, notably the young, in a situation of marginalization is intolerable.
For this reason, the creation of jobs must be a primary social task facing individuals and private enterprise, as well as the state. We must find work for these unemployed young people. We have to find a way to take away their despair and give them hope.
Our talk of democracy, political participation will be meaningless if it does not result in increased economic participation by our people. That is why we must affirm that work provides a legitimate and primordial title of property over goods.
It is clear that the economic policies and the way we have been managing our economy over the last twenty years has failed to provide our people the necessary jobs. And two decades is not a short period of time. But it seems we are not ready to move away from failed economic policies and practices.
Why? It is simply because there are powerful people who are benefiting from us pursuing such policies and practices. And their interests clash with those of our people.
It is good Michael has been talking a lot about this problem of unemployment. We should all talk about it and try to provide solutions. Every one of us should have their views heard on this issue, and respectfully so, without anyone feeling they are the owners of the absolute truth.
Today we have economists in this country whose only discernible job serves the interests of transnational corporations and parrot the paradigms of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank as if they are the only ones who know how to run economies and what is good for every country in the world.
It should no longer be just a matter of saying nice things so that one can win the praise of these powerful institutions and their backers. We don't want to offend anyone but we have observed politicians, economists who simply say and do what these powerful institutions and those who control them want to hear or see. There is a lot of play-acting.
But it is criminal to play such games with people's lives, with the destinies of whole nations. But one can see how demagogy prevails, along with a submission that sometimes borders of slimy flattery and weaknesses in many of our politicians and economists.
There is need for us to learn what others have done to make the progress they have made. We should ask ourselves: what is it that the Brazilians, Indians, Chinese, Singaporeans, Malaysians, and many others have done to make the progress they have made?
We are not being nationalistic in saying what we are saying - nationalism is not our basic idea, although we deeply love our country. We consider ourselves internationalists and internationalism is not at odds with the love of one's homeland, the land where a human being is born or where millions of human beings are born.
Our problem of unemployment will not go away by itself, by pursuing policies that are irrational. We need to find out what needs to be done to create jobs and to create them at the speed Michael is suggesting. The economic policies and practices we have so far pursued have failed to create us the quantities of jobs we are looking for and at the speed we desire.
It is worth continuing on that path. If we carry on the way we are carrying on, how many jobs are we going to create over the next twenty years if what we have created over the last twenty years is anything to go by?