Posted: June 19, 2011 by Admin in Unemployment

by Don Franks

Mana movement leader Hone Harawira has hit the headlines with a universal work scheme for long term unemployed. Work for all currently unemployed at a rate of $520 a week.

He’s seeking to set this up in Northland before expanding it across the country.

“The people of Te Tai Tokerau are desperately poor,” Harawira says.

“Even though there are different surveys saying that everybody is slowly coming out of the recession, that is not the case in the North.

Harawira is awaiting further information from the Ministry of Economic Development before confirming how much it would cost to introduce the scheme in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate alone.

He said it had been estimated to cost an annual $1.5 billion to bring it in nationally, a figure he didn’t think was excessive.

Both the Sunday News and Stuff have titled Hone’s suggestion “Work for the Dole”.

That is an unfair representation of his position.

What Hone’s calling for is full meaningful employment at the minimum wage. That is not the same as work for the dole.

His main motivation appears to be aimed at drawing declassed broken people back into the working class. As he eloquently puts it:

“What has happened is people have been unemployed for so long in Te Tai Tokerau, that their mind isn’t even engaged in employment options or opportunities…

“Their minds are stagnating, their soul is dying, their spirit is broken.”

“The key is to get them actively engaged in their communities. If you want families to feel that they are worthy, parents to think that they are worthy and [have] honour in being able to feed their children and pay for books, you do it by giving them work.”

The destructive effects of long term unemployment are heartbreaking and decent work is an essential requirement for a decent life. In a capitalist society where the driving force is for maximum private profit, secure universal decent employment can only be a dream. No report from the Ministry of Economic Development is going to put full employment before capitalists’ profit. If it did, its writers would be sacked on the spot. Unemployment is not seen by capitalism as a social curse; it is an essential labour management technique.

I believe there is little to be gained by trying to patch up low paid work schemes under capitalist government control.

The awful and brutal truth is that there’s no quick fix for long term unemployment.

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