2011-10-25

Arbetslöshetens mysterium


Högern säger att folk är frivilligt arbetslösa efter som de är lata och väljer att vara arbetslösa, folk behöver incitament, typ svältas in på arbetsmarknaden och vips uppstår som ett mirakel nya jobb och den per definition icke existerande arbetslösheten upphör att även i verkligheten. Full sysselsättning kommer att råda.

De rödgröna har teorietisk samma nyliberala ekonomiska syn även om de nog inte fördjupat sig så pass att de fattar att egentligen existerar ingen arbetslöshet då den som trots allt finns är frivillig. Alltså det är även här individens fel att det trots allt finns arbetslöshet som inte borde finnas. Individen har inte rätt kompetens, hade bara individerna haft rätt kompetens hade arbeten uppstått ur tomma intet och det varit full sysselsättning.

Iofs har nu åtminstone de senare ett problem eftersom all konsumtion är av ondo så skulle det förstås vara olyckligt om fler kom i arbete och det producerades mer. Bägge blocken är också devota anhängare av NAIRU-dogmens trossats om artificiell jämviktsarbetslöshet som måste hållas om inte landet ska få hyperinflation värre än i Zimbabwe och stödjer fullt ut att man med politisk ekonomisk styrning upprätthåller en sådan arbetslöshet som i och för sig ska bero på tidigare nämnda individ defekter. Så hur går denna ekvation med NAIRU, lathet och bristande kompetens ihop? Inte alls förstås, en salig röra av motsägelser och ren intellektuell efterblivenhet.

SD konstrar inte till det med dessa intellektuella akademiska piruetter utan håller ett rakt och enkelt folkligt budskap som inte lägger skulden på individen, i vart fall inte på infödde ”äkta” svenskar. Man säger att det är invandrarnas fel och slängs bara dessa ut kommer den infödde ”äkta” svensken att få arbete.


På tal o det där med individens kompetens defekter känns alltid trevligt när egna hemmasnickrade hypoteser får medhåll av kvalificerad akademisk expertis.

The skill shortage ruse is re-appearing
I had a meeting today with well-known personnel management professional who is keen to fund some research on skills development. It is a topic that my research group has concentrated on for many years now. It is an interesting topic because it bridges the technical and the political. There is a pattern emerging, as it always does when we have recession, which seeks to deflect attention to what is really going in favour of promoting “faux” issues. The “skills shortage” claim by business lobby groups and peak bodies is one of the perennial examples of the way the elites deny that the system is failing to produce enough jobs and helps them deflect the blame onto individuals – the victims – the unemployed.

This narrative then diverts our attention from the real causes of stagnation and unemployment – not enough spending and not enough jobs. We fall for it every time.

UK Guardian article (May 18, 2010) – Skills shortage is getting worse, bosses warn.

Then there was this article in the Telegraph (August 26, 2010) – UK skills shortages: do they really exist? – that introduced a new take on the issue:

Thousands of qualified and over-qualified candidates are looking for their next job right now. Many have built up years of experience in their specific sector or trade, with enviable skills, expertise and qualifications that young school leavers could only dream of. Why then, are they strugggling to find a job?

“Clearly, there are fewer jobs around right now. They are also a more expensive category of candidate to hire.

But of the jobs that are being advertised (and where employers are willing to pay a premium), I am finding that companies are becoming ever more picky about who they hire. It’s not actually about “skills shortages” – so many employers blame a dearth of talent for not being able to fill posts – but actually, what they mean is that they cannot find the right type of person to fill their role.

Personality, attitude, cultural fit. These are all things that are put first, above and beyond skills and qualifications on paper. If you are fully trained but won’t “fit in” with an organisation’s values then you don’t stand a chance against hundreds of other applicants. “

Intressant att notera att Gaurdian är en “vänstertidning”, även om en del radikala protesterar, och The Telegraph är utan tvekan en gedigen högertidning.

Within this context, the notion of structural unemployment arising from “skills mismatch” can be understood as implying an unwillingness of firms to offer jobs (with attached training opportunities) to unemployed workers that they deem to have undesirable characteristics.

When the labour market is tight, the willingness of firms to indulge in their prejudices is more costly. However, when labour underutilisation is high, firms can easily increase their hiring standards (broaden the desired characteristics they demand from workers) and the training dynamism driven by labour shortages is lost. Then we observe, in a static sense, “skill mismatches” which are really symptoms of a “low pressure” economy.

The full employment framework has been systematically abandoned in most OECD countries over the last 30 years. The overriding priority of macroeconomic policy has shifted towards keeping inflation low and suppressing the stabilisation functions of fiscal policy. Concerted political campaigns by neo-liberal governments aided and abetted by a capitalist class intent on regaining total control of workplaces, have hectored communities into accepting that mass unemployment and rising underemployment is no longer the responsibility of government.

As a consequence, the insights gained from the writings of Keynes, Marx and Kalecki into how deficient demand in macroeconomic systems constrains employment opportunities and forces some individuals into involuntary unemployment have been discarded. The concept of systemic failure has been replaced by sheeting the responsibility for economic outcomes onto the individual.

Even with more than a decade of fairly stable economic growth in most nations leading up to the crisis, most countries still languished in high states of labour underutilisation and low to moderate economic growth.

Further, underemployment is becoming an increasingly significant source of wastage. Youth unemployment remains high. Income inequalities are increasing. The only achievement is that inflation is now under control, although it was the severity of the 1991 recession that expunged inflationary expectations from the OECD block. Since that time, labour costs have been kept down by harsh industrial relations deregulation and a concerted attack on the labour unions.

In the midst of the on-going debates about labour market deregulation, scrapping minimum wages, and the necessity of reforms to the taxation and welfare systems, the most salient, empirically robust fact of the last three or more decades – that actual GDP growth has rarely reached the rate required to maintain, let alone achieve, full employment – has been ignored.

The skills shortage narrative is intrinsic to this neo-liberal construction of the world. Systemic failure (lack of demand) give way to individual failure (lack of skills).

Growth is hampered by ill-prepared individuals rather than lack of overall spending. That has been the dominant theme of the neo-liberal years.


The fact is that the business sector in the US (and Australia etc) have appalling records when it comes to developing skills.

This discussion relates to one of the advantages of maintaining economies at full employment (“high pressure”).

A “high pressure” economy not only maximises output but also enhances labour force participation and provides strong incentives for employers to tailor training and paid-work opportunities to attract scarce labour. When labour is in excess supply (high unemployment) employers lose this incentive and the dynamic skill-building process falters.

From 1945 to the mid 1970s, Australia, like most advanced western nations, maintained very low levels of unemployment (rarely above 2 per cent). This era was marked by the willingness of governments to maintain levels of aggregate demand that would create enough jobs to meet the preferences of the labour force, given labour productivity growth. Governments used a range of fiscal and monetary measures to stabilise the economy in the face of fluctuations in private sector spending.

During the true full employment period unfilled vacancies usually outstripped the unemployed. There was no underemployment over this period.

The sustained full employment forced employers to compete for workers as they sought to expand market share. The upshot was that for every job that was offered, a corresponding training opportunity was also created.

Firms were forced to offer training slots with paid-employment opportunities because they had to scramble for scarce labour. Once governments abandoned full employment as an objective firms started to abandon training and relied on the government creating a surplus pool of labour that they could pick and choose from.

The dual instance of high rates of labour underutilisation and skills shortages reflect a monumental policy failure to generate enough jobs overall – the two problems are two sides of the same coin.

The reality is that training is also most effective when combined with a paid-work opportunity. Firms that expect a skilled workforce to be provided to them are avoiding their responsibilities to develop skills within the paid-work context – with ladders of apprentices and teachers being created.

I have been reading an interesting book that crosses this terrain. It is written by Gordon Lafer – The Job Training Charade (published 2002).

Lafer exposes many of the myths about job training, which has replaced direct public sector job creation as the answer to unemployment. That is, the focus under the full employability framework shifted to so-called “supply-side” measures in denial of deficient demand.

The Job Training Charade categorically exposes these myths and demonstrates that the reason there is unemployment (and underemployment) in the US is because there are not enough jobs created rather than a deficiency of skills.

Lafer exposes the so-called link between human capital development (education) and wage outcomes saying that the “the relationship between education and wages is extremely weak”.

So the Occupiers have another strand of orthodoxy to attack and disassemble. The skills shortage narrative is part of the overall strategy that the elites use to maintain their denial that the economic system is producing enough jobs. It entrenches their power and broadens the smokescreen surrounding corporate failure – by blaming the victims.

As Lafer says in his book:

Workers are encouraged not to blame corporate profits, the export of jobs aboard, or eroding wage standards—that is, anything that they can fight—but rather to look inward for the source of their misfortune and the seeds of their resurrection.

He suggests that the “skills gap” narrative is a “political strategy” rather than a “policy issue” designed to garner public subsidies for business. That is, it is part of the overall strategy to glean as much public support for private profits as is possible while at the same time denying public support for job creation.

Lafer’s overall conclusion is exemplified in this passage:

Whatever the problem, it seems job training is the answer. The only trouble is, it doesn’t work, and the government knows it … Indeed, in studying more than 40 years of job training policy, I have not seen one program that, on average, enabled its participants to earn their way out of poverty.



Job training has long been promoted as a central policy response to poverty and unemployment. Both Democrats and Republicans have trumpeted training as the answer to everything from welfare to NAFTA. The Job Training Charade provides a comprehensive critique showing that training has been a near-total failure. Even more dramatically, the book shows how politicians have ignored repeated reports of the program’s failure, and have kept funding a policy they know cannot work.

The author concludes that job training functions less as an economic prescription aimed at solving poverty than as a political strategy aimed at managing the popular response to economic distress.

The Job Training Charade is a landmark book showing how a bipartisan consensus may coalesce behind a phantom policy that serves political needs while ignoring economic realities.

Och förstås att flytta folk från arbetslöshetsstatistik till något annat som t.ex. så kallade kunskapslyft så de så småningom kan förpassas in i pension eller åtminstone förtidspensionering. Eller i vart fall inte ha den dåliga smaken att visa upp sig i arbetslöshetsstatistik när det egentligen är deras eget fel.












3 comments:

Björn Nilsson sa...

En förklaring till denna "kompetensbrist" kan vara något som jag såg skrivas om i en artikel på HuffPo: VD:arna vet inte hur man höjer löner. Jag läste inte själva artikeln, men det torde handla om att när man betalar dåligt får man inte bra personal. Man får vad man betalar för, inte mer, och då uppstår en skenbar "kompetensbrist" när erbjuden lön ligger under acceptansnivån.

Det är klart att om lönenedpressningarna fortsätter och bolagen helt enkelt nekar att betala bättre ens för kvalificerade personer kanske en del av dem kommer att ge upp och ta arbete till struntlön - men kommer de då att lägga sin själ i arbetet? Det slog mig att företagen alltså inte är beredda att betala den "utbildningspremie" som exempelvis fackliga organisationer för akademiker har larmat om.

Teckentydaren sa...

Förmodligen så att när de får många sökanden och vet att det ska vara köparens marknad pga hög arbetslöshet stiger kraven och de tror att de som de väljer ska uppfylla närmast utopiska krav, de konstrar till det så mycket att de missar russinen i kakan och gör fler fel än om ”slumpen” eller de måste ta vad som bjuds gäller. Typ det är så svårt att hitta bra folk. Om sen chefen eller de som anställer hamnat på den positionen är där på samma ”kriterier” blir läget än värre.

Är det en viss brist situation får de skärpa sig och anstränga sig mer för att själva se till att det som bjuds får rätt träning och utbildning så de passar in och kan inte bete sig som bortskämda barn som snart inget är gott nog eller passar när det är överflöd. En viss brist på arbetskraft är bara bra för företagens och chefernas moraliska daning så de förstås att uppskatta vad de har.

Kerstin sa...

Men det är ju helt sant. Bara de arbetslösa är beredda att gå ner tillräckligt vad gäller lönekravet så visst, då kan det skapas hur många jobb som helst.

Jag är beredd att anställa en piga/städerska och en snickare för ett mål mat om dagen (resterna från vår middag), en sovplats i magasinet kallgrader på vintern men ändå, 100 kr/månad och en avlagd jacka och ett par avlagda skor och byxor/år.

Jaså inte, nej det vore jag nog inte, men säkert finns det en massa stenrika personer som skulle anställa en hel kader på de villkoren.

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