Tom Drake-Brockman

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A proposal for massive reduction of unemployment.

All employers, large and small, private and public, should be obliged to provide part time work for unemployed people. Each workplace would be given quotas scaled to its size. The unemployed would be free to choose their preferred workplace (providing a quota was not already filled there) and their employer would pay the equivalent of their work relief benefit as a wage for the time worked. That might only be 2 or 3 days a week, depending on the award rate for their industry. Private businesses would be fully reimbursed by the government but all employers would be expected to provide on the job training in return for the free labour. If permanent employment was not offered within say, three months, the job seeker would have to move to another workplace of his/her choice.

This scheme would have multiple benefits. It would:
• provide invaluable work experience and enhanced opportunities to showcase personal skills,
•fast-track people into real jobs providing real social justice to those genuinely seeking work
•eliminate passive welfare, restoring dignity to the unemployed
•remove any incentive or opportunity for rorting or loopholing the system,
•slash welfare and bureaucracy costs while massively boosting national productivity,
•help entrench a new ethic of mutual obligation that Western democracies so urgently need to counter a pervasive culture of greed and entitlement.

Am I dreaming or is this not a viable solution?

  • Jan 26 2013: good point Tom. After Econ 101
    I am surprised that the same mistakes are being repeated; however, I do remember reading or hearing that the Great Depression didn't start really getting serious efforts to improve things until "the bankers started being afraid."
    Hopefully that is not true.
  • Jan 25 2013: All I want to know is, where does the money come from? How does the government get the funds to subsidize the companies? Higher taxes on the companies? I guess you could do away with capitalism altogether and take all the rich people's money away. But that would be communism, which the Soviets proved doesn't seem to work in the long run.
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      Jan 26 2013: Scot having studied and taught modern history and having run my own business for 35 years, I can assure you I am no communist.

      No more money would be needed. The government simply pays a company the person's unemployment benefits and the company then passes it on to the person as a wage.

      Far from raising taxes, they could probably be lowered as billions would be saved. Here's how.

      Bureaucracy would be slashed as the unemployed would not need agencies. They would go directly to the workplace of their choice, checking online first to see if there is still quota vacancies there.

      The scheme would also slash welfare costs as many people would no longer gain any benefit from rorting the system and seek full time employment. Many others would be able to find regular employment given this hands on opportunity to impress the employer. In the process, unemployment would drop and productivity would be massively boosted.
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        Jan 31 2013: I kind of like the idea, I had seen work/welfare programs before but the jobs were picking trash and similar work that provided no work experience continuation. The only issue is that current bureaucracy
        supporting unemployed will not go away. An instructor once said " in the event of total nuclear annihilation the only survivors would be cockroaches and bureaucracies".
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          Jan 31 2013: So true Mike but our politicians keep telling us that spending cuts will be directed at overblown bureaucracies so hopefully some would get the chop or be retrained to do something more useful like school teaching or monitoring at risk children.
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      Jan 26 2013: I think your voluntary scheme has merit Kate but what I am striving for here is a mega solution to (especially youth) unemployment that is over 55% in some countries and threatens to bring down western civilization!

      Nor would a volunteer system prevent so many Aboriginal Australians from rejecting work offers in favour of the dole to which they have become addicted- like the alcohol they consume to fuel a self destructive spiral of worthlessness and despair.

      My plan may seem radical but its not really- I think its the least any sane, civilized society should do.
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          Jan 27 2013: The Australian Employment Covenant and Generation One have over private industry 60000 jobs available for 'job ready' Indigenous people. Here is the website: http://www.fiftythousandjobs.org.au/
          Less than 15% of these jobs have been taken up because the training provided by the government is not job specific and because the dole is a far easier option. My proposal would resolve both those problems.
          I agree that many Australians are racist but probably no more so than any other nationality and a good deal less than some.
          As for others pointing out the 'financial and logistic' difficulties to my scheme, you must have seen something that I missed. Have you really read my responses to these disputants? I get the strong impression that people do not seem to be interested in solving major problems like this as much as in venting their own preconceptions and scoring points.
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  • Jan 25 2013: Don't forget that the masters of the universe in pursuing their own agendas created this problem esp. in the United States. The World is Flat is just a catchy title, I'm sure Tom Friedman doesn't really believe that one.
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      Jan 25 2013: I tend to agree George but those Masters better watch out as 55% youth unemployment in Spain, Greece etc is a powder-keg that could soon blow the whole capitalist system apart. I can't see how it can be sustained much longer within democratic systems.
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    Jan 24 2013: Thanks for your comments Edward
    Having run my own business for 35 years, I can say that I would always welcome additional staff, especially if they were hard working and keen to get a regular job.The reason businesses don't employ more people is pretty obvious I would have thought: cost. My scheme would cost them little or nothing.

    Bureaucracy would be slashed as the unemployed would not need agencies. They would go directly to the workplace of their choice, checking online first to see if there is still quota vacancies there. Reimbursing employers would not add cost as it would be simply redirecting the payment from the unemployed person to the employer.

    The scheme would also slash welfare costs as many people would no longer gain any benefit from rorting the system and seek full time employment. Many others would be able to find regular employment given this hands on opportunity to impress the employer. In the process, productivity would inevitably increase.
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    Jan 24 2013: If you want to do some analysis yourself, you could begin by looking at the history of programs of this kind that have been operated on a massive scale, like the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (late 1970s), the Jobs Training Partnership act, the Targeted Jobs Tax Credit, and so on.

    These programs provided incentives for private firms and nonprofit agencies to hire unemployed people and also created public sector jobs in the fashion of the WPA. You will be able to find data, I am sure, about how the money was spent- what proportion on program administration and so forth.

    What these multi-billion dollar programs did not do that you propose is to force employers to hire (with subsidy) people they would never otherwise choose to train because of the size of the gap between what the person knows and can do and what would actually be useful to the employer and his customers. Another issue that was less prominent then but is relevant today when you talk about forcing such costs on businesses is the question of moving businesses abroad. Some businesses can move, of course, and some cannot. The ones that can't, like the local sandwich shop, can only raise its prices to cover new costs, pay the proprietor less if there is "give" there, or close.

    As you consider how this might look on the employer end, just to understand how this might play out, I think it is useful to consider businesses really specifically. Some work requires very little training, so the training costs and issues would be small. There are such jobs at, say, a Big Box store (though there may be no productivity gain). Other operations hire mainly highly skilled people with years of education and training behind them. What happens when someone shows up the door of such a place with not even a GED? Does the business need to train the person to do high level work that normally requires years of education and training, or will the firm soon have a better tended physical plant than it needs?
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      Jan 24 2013: Fritzie I think you are correct about those earlier schemes being multi billion dollar programs. Mine would cost little or nothing.

      But why would you assume an genuinely unemployed person seeking work in an organization of his/her choosing would not be "useful to an employer"? Millions of unemployed people who have huge potential are now unable to even get a job interview. My scheme would put them straight into work and give them the opportunity to fully display that potential to employers.

      What are these onerous "costs" you refer to? If the person was highly productive, it would be worth providing some on the job training and that cost would be minimal as they would be keen and quick to learn. If the person was lazy or disinterested, the training and productivity would of course be minimal but at least that person would have to clock on and off for 2 or 3 days a week and not be able to rort the system as so many now do. I should also add that if the employer felt a person was a liability to his/her operation, that employer should be able to dismiss the person immediately.

      Re your last question, employers could also immediately reject anyone who did not have the standard qualifications and or experience to do the work required, just as they would in any job application situation.
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        Jan 25 2013: I would not be useful to a university as a professor of Chinese, nor to Microsoft as a program manager.

        The cost to a university of taking me in to teach Chinese is that I would have to be taught Chinese, to teach Chinese, and to do the research expected of a professor of Chinese.

        Microsoft would have to teach me eveything I would need to know about programming and technology, as I don't know anything.

        I may be keen and quick to learn as learners go, but the gap between what I know and what these organizations need suggests a lot of effort and time to instruct me that pulls the staff doing that away from other work.

        This has nothing to do with lazy or disinterested.

        I thought you were saying people could work at the organization of their choosing. I don't see how this is compatible with letting employers immediately reject someone who did not have standard qualifications to do the work required.

        I have not seen your demonstration that this program would cost little or nothing.
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          Jan 25 2013: I was a retail manager in the building industry. If I was unemployed, I would be seeking work at a hardware store or manufacturer of building products. Why would I seek work at a university teaching Chinese?

          The program would cost little or nothing because bureaucracy would be slashed as the unemployed would not need job agencies. They would go directly to the workplace of their choice, checking online first to see if there is still quota vacancies there. Reimbursing employers would not add cost as it would be simply redirecting the payment from the unemployed person to the employer.

          The scheme would also slash welfare costs as many people would no longer gain any benefit from rorting the system and decide to seek full time employment. Many others would be able to find regular employment given this hands on opportunity to impress the employer. With millions of new workers doing this, national productivities would inevitably increase.
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    Jan 24 2013: Justify your premise that companies have a ligitimate, ongoing need for part-time employees. (If they have such a need why wouldn't they fill it from the ample supply of unemployed people. Why use the government as an Employment Agency?)
    Justify your assertion that your plan would slash welfare and bureaucracy costs. (The government will administer the program, that is added bureaucracy. The government will fully reimburse the employers, that is added cost.)
    Justify your assertion that this program will massively boost national productivity. (If productivity is suffering due to lack of workers, why are so many workers unemployed?)
    You ask two questions at the end of your post. A "yes" answer to both of them would indicate that you are dreaming and this is not a viable solution. Is that the wording you intended?