Workers Against Unemployment

      1. International Day of Action – 3rd October

        World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), the only class oriented International Trade Union, has called upon the working people to observe its foundation day – 3rd October – as the International Day of Action. This year the call is to observe the day as a Day of struggle against unemployment.

        The slogans for the observance of the day, as finalized by the Presidential Council, in its meeting in Rome, in February 2014, are of crucial importance to every workers, in different parts of the world. “Fighting against unemployment and for dignified work, demanding protective measures for unemployed and also for permanent and stable work”. These slogans being raised in the present day situation of the world of work demands total involvement of the working people to make it people’s demand.

        Unemployment and under employment continues to be one of the most crucial issues confronting every section of working people – For those who are already employed and for those who are in search of a job.

        International Labour Organisation in its World of Work report 2014, pointed out that over the next five years, there will be an estimated 213 million new labour market entrants – 200 million in developed countries alone. The same report also underlines the critical aspect of youth unemployment as a serious offshoot of the crisis.

        As is well known, capitalist system exists on the basis of keeping a large chunk of job seekers as unemployed. With the crisis that broke open in 2007-08, situation has become grim. In every part of the world, unemployment has become the most serious issue confronting the society.

        As the General Secretary of WFTU, George Mavrikose pointed out in his report to the 16th Congress of WFTU - “the capitalist financial crisis, which unfolded in all developed capitalist countries has dramatically worsened the situation for the working class in all aspects of lives.” In his report to the Presidential Council in Rome, General Secretary noted that “Capitalism is condemning millions of workers to unemployment, poverty. The system is unable to meet even the basic needs of the people”.

        In the developed world

        Europe, which generally is bracketed with the developed world is witnessing massive protest actions against the policies of the ruling class. Unemployment continues to be a major issue. Unemployment figures, especially youth unemployment, are shooting up. It is 57% in Greece, 54 in Spain, 43.3 in Italy and 36.1 in Portugal. In the 34 countries coming under OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) there were 10.7 million unemployed youth in April this year. This is about 25% of the total unemployed in those countries, i.e. about 45 million registered unemployed are there in those 34 countries!

        This is how an Indian Financial Daily very recently noted on the situation in Europe – “In much of the Euro zone, the toxic combination of high public debt (it is over 100 percent in large parts of the region) and high unemployment persists”. They are sure that “there is little doubt that the euro zone is not emphatically out of crisis”. And so, the toxic situation prevails!

        Identical situation exists in USA. In an article published in Washington Post on 1st September in connection with the Labour Day in US, it is noted that “ever since the 2008-09 financial crisis, job market has been in a state of heart breaking weakness”. The article itself was titled “Workers at the mercy of Markets”. It quoted a poll by Gallup which said, “19 percent of workers still fear of being laid off”. Read with this, another report which said 62 per cent of Americans judged jobs `difficult to find’. A report by news agency Reuters on 5th September says that US job growth in August 2014 is weakest in 8 months.

        On the quality of jobs in USA, a report in Economic Times dated 8th September 2014 noted that unemployment rate has `fallen’ to 6.2% “but the experts are wary of the strength of US economy”. It noted that “participation rate of US labour has fallen to 62.9%, the lowest figure since 1980. The participation rate shows the share of working age population either employed or seeking job. The chief reason assigned to the drop of participation rate is lots of people who are jobless for 3-4 years have stopped searching jobs! A drop of work force saps the largest economy of the world of manpower needed to boost economic expansion”. In simple terms it means that in addition to those working and those searching for a job there are huge number of men and women who have stopped searching for a job, as it is “difficult to find”!

        Freelance Workers

        Here, we are not going into the problems of those who are working. Washington Post in an article on 1st September said that `Since late 2009, hourly earnings have risen at an annual rate of about 2 per cent, but when corrected to inflation, wage increase vanish’. They also say that `bargaining power has shifted to employers. With jobs scarce, workers just take what they get’. Washington Post also notes – “Companies have controlled costs through lay-off, skimpy wage increases and greater reliance on independent contractors, which often pay less and provide fewer fringe benefits’. American `experts’ have now started writing about freelance workers! – A worker who has no job security, no statutory benefits and who will work whenever, wherever he or she gets a job. A really free person at the mercy of the free market – the, liberated freelance worker’.

        Though all the above said are about the situation in USA, this applies to almost all countries under the capitalist system to-day.

        India to-day

        The census report of 2011, details of which were released in July 2014, says that the unemployment rate in the 25-29 age group was nearly 18 per cent and more than 20 per cent of Indians in the 15-24 age group were jobless and seeking work. Times of India on 2nd July 2014 reported that “the army of unemployed youth is staggeringly huge – around 4.7 crores of which 2.6 crore were men and 2.1 crore women”.

        Over all unemployment rate among the working age population in 15-59 age group was according to Times of India “a worrisome 14.5 per cent, including marginal workers seeking work. In the 25-29 age group, the unemployment rate was nearly 18 per cent. Even among those in 30-34 age group, nearly 6 per cent were unemployed, number over 1.2 crore”.

        As per reports, unemployment rate among the socially oppressed sections likes Dalits and Adivasis was higher with 18 per cent among Dalits and 19 per cent among adivasis in 15-59 age group.

        Lack of any worth mentioning Social Security Scheme in our country is exposed again when the Census report mentions that 18.5 lakhs persons of age over 80 years are still working and another 6.5 lakh octogenarians eke out a living as ill paid marginal workers.

        In absolute terms, 46.9 million of India’s youth, of whom much is being discussed nowadays, as demographic dividend to the country, were in search of jobs in 2011 compared with 33.5 million in 2001. This 46.9 million works out to 20 per cent of our youth population!

        Govt. and the unemployed

        As far as the Govt. of India is concerned, the only effort on job guarantee was on rural employment with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA). This was confined to `guaranteeing’ – a misnomer in practice – 100 days of work in rural areas. After almost a decade, the data shows that barely 9% house holds allotted work under the scheme have got work for 100 days! Now, the Modi Govt is after the scheme, by reducing the fund and trying to dilute the scheme in various methods. This so-called flagship scheme itself is facing serious threat.

        Vulnerable employment

        World of work report 2014 from ILO says that `more than half the workforce in developing world numbering 1.45 billion are in vulnerable employment and this presents a formidable challenge’.
        It is well known that the same is the situation in India, where the huge majority of workers are without a guaranteed income, social protection etc putting the future of the young generation in jeopardy. The latest NSSO (National Sample Survey Organization) report says that “68.8 per cent of workers across India in 2011-12, neither had a job contract or were eligible for paid leave, compared to 63 per cent in 2004-05”. The report also point out that “95 per cent of casual labourers are without any job contract”. This makes it clear that these workers, who are involved in asset building for the country, did not even exist in any records so as to get at least some statutory benefits!

        These facts are again confirmed by the World Bank’s World Development report 2014, which shows that “during 2001-10, people with a regular wage and salaries were only 17% of India’s total employed population”. World Bank also says that the so-called high growth years following 1990s “have failed to create jobs”.

        Planning Commission

        Recent analysis on the employment scene in India point out to the facts that even among professional people unemployment is increasing. Planning Commission, which will soon be extinct had said – “India needs to create 1 to 1.5 crore jobs per year for the next decade to provide gainful employment to its young population”. The Commission has also noted –“Large Indian business – both in the Public and Private Sector – have not generated significant employment in the past few decades and are unlikely to do so in the coming decade or two”. The Commission also noted that `Public Sector and Govt. employment has declined in the past few years’ and `large private sector firms have also been slow in generating employment which is unlikely to change due to increase in automation, digitalization and productivity gains!’

        Magic Wand!

        So, it is a vicious circle – no jobs and even and if there are we get only vulnerable jobs. And all the gains of productivity and profit to go to the corporates. It is in such a situation, World Bank, International investors and the Indian ruling class have found out that the only magic wand to increase employment is the labour reforms – immediately amending labour laws to take away almost 90% of the existing workers out of purview of labour legislations! Our Labour Minister told the Indian parliament recently that “World Bank suggested simplification and modernization of labour laws to encourage higher productivity and employment generation in India”.

        It is in this situation Indian workers should be shoulder to shoulder with the unemployed youth and also join their brothers and sisters all over the world, demanding employment and security of jobs.

        The demands raised by WFTU are demands of the huge majority of the world population. But, the efforts of attaining these demands will raise many questions about how and why of the present social set-up.

        Comrade B.T. Ranadive, founder President CITU, reminded us – “It is the law of the capitalist society that unemployment must increase, that there must be an army at the disposal of capitalists to keep down the wages of workers when the need for more labourers arises. In the competition all capitalists try to surpass their rivals to economise labour, use less labour and these lead to increased unemployment”.

        It is not the observance of a day or a protest week that is going to make a change. These issues need to be constantly taken up and people mobilized in support of the demand for job for all and make the right to work a fundamental right.

        Considering the basic character of capitalist state, this struggle for right to work and jobs for all has to be taken up as a struggle against the policies of the Govt. to be developed into a struggle for a change in the social set up!

        The mobilizations on 3rd October should reflect the reality of our arduous task before the Indian Working Class.

 - A.K. Padmanabhan

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