The world’s top labor leaders are urging the world’s top government leaders to make the global unemployment crisis the No. l priority on their agenda.
It is imperative, the labor leaders insist, that the government leaders turn their G20 summit next week into a jobs summit. “As regards unemployment, the worst is still to come,” says labor’s Pittsburgh Declaration, after the city in which the summit will be held September 24-25.
In releasing the 14-page declaration on September 16, Gus Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), said: “Governments must do much more to arrest the plunge in jobs.”
Although the G20 summit is a meeting of governments, about 50 union leaders from every continent will be in Pittsburgh to lobby their government officials on the urgency of the unemployment crisis.
According to the OECD, the number of jobless people is likely to reach 57,000,000 people this year in its 30 member-countries. Counting the whole world, 200,000,000 may be pushed into extreme poverty this year.
And yet a New York Times headline announced on September 5, “In Unemployment Report, Signs of a Jobless Recovery,” juxtaposing two opposing trends: a continuing decline in employment and a seeming improvement in some sectors of the economy.
“Many experts,” the Times explained, “envision a jobless recovery, in which the economy grows and job losses persist.”
Whatever the future holds, there’s something we should get straight right now. A jobless recovery is a contradiction in terms. It is an oxymoron. Failure to recognize it as such prolongs a dangerous delusion about the economy: that it can work fairly well even when unprecedented millions of men and women are without work.That delusion reinforces policymaking that concentrates on improving financial markets, to the exclusion of the labor market. How much confidence can we place in an economy whose growth is unconnected with work when so much work is left undone?
‘Inequality’ identified as the root of global crisis
While the Pittsburgh Declaration has a long inventory of specific reforms to be adopted, it also calls on world leaders to “build a new model for a balanced economy,” for this fundamental reason:
“It [the new model] must bring to an end the policies that have generated massive inequality between and within nations over the past two decades and that are the root causes of the current global crisis. A fairer redistribution of wealth is the only sustainable route out of this crisis – and the only way to restore the trust of working people in their economic and financial systems.”
To build a new model requires leaders to “muster the political will to break with the policies of the past so as to ensure that there is no return to ‘business as usual’.”
More specifically, it requires them to “turn away” from a model they embraced at the London G20 summit early this year when they endorsed the current model of “an open world economy based on market principles.”
However, the Declaration adds, workers and unions “have no confidence that this time governments and bankers will get it right.” To get it right, “it is essential that the voices of working people in developed, emerging, and developing countries are heard in the G20’s discussions.”
The G20 does heed the advice of bankers and their organizations. When will the G20 start listening to the voices of workers and their organizations?