Full employment? It’s just an illusion!

Call_center

It is no longer a secret: full employment as was possible during the days of the ‚economic miracle‘ is an illusion in our time. Our economy has long exceeded the point of saturation. More and more people are affected by structural unemployment – in many cases despite good or excellent qualifications. A departure from the old paradigm is sorely needed.

Automatization

Due to the massive technological progress in recent decades, more and more traditional labor-intensive jobs have been partially or completely rationalized.

A small example:

A modern harvester can now generate the revenue which still required the work force of about 1.500 people at the beginning of the twentieth century. Modern IT systems in the office each replace an estimated 60 classic accountants of the same period.

What should be a boon to mankind, actually relieving us from unsatisfying, monotonous and possibly harmful work and opening time for personal development and the improvement of life quality, has deepened our bondage instead:

Rather than shortening the working hours of all employees by the amount saved, the number of workers is reduced and even more workload heaped upon the remaining ones. Here the principles of business management and national economics collide. For companies, every strategic dismissal produces an improvement in the balance sheet. In simplified terms the profit can thus be increased, yet the cost is being carried by the general public, who must now provide for the “redundant” worker.

Pressure

Yet another effect inevitably results from this race against reduction:

The number of jobs on offer diverges wildly from the number of candidates. The selection criteria are consequently toughened increasingly, and the pressure – if you were lucky enough to snatch one of the coveted jobs – to give it one hundred percent and more at all times, drives ever more employees into depression from exhaustion – better known under the slogan ‘burnout’.

The cost of care for the burned out and exhausted jobholders, of course, are yet again not taken over by the companies that have benefited from their performance – it is once more us, the general public, who is left to pay the bill, while all the company has to do is pick the next in line from a virtually inexhaustible pool of hopeful applicants. This sickening downward spiral already has social consequences, some of which quite dramatic.

In Austria, the cost for the care of burnout sufferers amounts to around seven billion Euros per year, according to WIFO. Other studies show that 30 to 40 percent of employees have already detached from their jobs internally. 43 percent of employees aged from 35 to 55 years would immediately go into retirement if they could. Diseases that are caused by mental stress, were the third leading cause of sick leave in 2013.

Source: www.wirtschaftsblatt.at

We can no longer accept that workers must live with the constant existential threat of immediate substitutability – a condition damaging to the psyche and overall health of the individual, but also to the atmosphere in the workplace in general. We allow for our joy of life to be taken away, for any feeling of security to be sacrificed on the altar of sacrosanct competitiveness and – on the same spurious grounds (competitiveness) – for actual wages having declined so strongly that many of us inexorably drift off into poverty despite full-time employment.

Threatening to deprive people of their livelihood in an environment where, as in our latitudes, there is an abundance of all relevant things, is repressive, inhuman and has absolutely nothing to do with democracy or freedom. But what are the reasons for this?

Since the 90s, productivity in Austria has risen by about 37%

Source: Arbeiterkammer Burgenland – 2014

In some cases real wages even declined in Austria since the 90s

Source: OECD Statistics 2015

This enormous discrepancy between productivity growth and stagnant or declining wages is socially explosive. Here, the question of fairness of the system as a whole is unavoidable. A view of the distribution of wealth in Austria (as in almost all countries of the “western world”) can shed some light onto the topic.

5% of the population own 45% of total assets
While the bottom 50% of people do not even have 4% at their disposal.

Source: Oesterreichische Nationalbank: Facts about wealth distribution in Austria .2012, p 261.

In the last 25 years a gigantic upward redistribution of wealth has taken place. This concentration of capital in the hands of few was and is a threat to democracy, our peace and achievements of civilization in general.

To keep up this unspeakable condition, several perfidious psychological tricks are used. For one, the structures of power and ownership are hidden in our day. There is no obvious mechanism of redistribution. Diffuse concepts like “the markets” or “the laws of economy” obfuscate the systematology.

A further means of manipulation is the artificially upheld economic survival struggle. In our society of abundance, people are excluded from the services and goods they need, because they can not, or have difficulty to comply with the artificial pressure. This manipulation method deeply interferes with human consciousness, since on some level we feel that the neverending hours of meaningless and bleak work are not really necessary, yet must not object let we be called lazy.

Before the industrial revolution, and since the dawn of mankind, life had indeed often been very much a survival struggle. This mechanism is now being applied to the economical plain, despite the material abundance progress has granted us. Basically, this is nothing more than an indoctrination in favour of the existing power structures and strongly resembles the methods of so called “poisonous pedagogy”.

We do not enjoy the fruit of our progress to the extent due to us, we are merely running on the spot or even moving backwards.

The assumption that the loss of jobs, or rather the decline in demand for working hours must necessarily lead to depletion, is however a perfect fallacy. This relationship exists only as long as we accept what has been hammered into us for centuries … that we only have a right to live if we put our energy in the service of this aloof machinery.

Whoever is not needed, well tough luck for you. This is madness. The gains from rationalization, meaning layoffs, must be shared. But would it be fair to reach into successful entrepreneurs’ pockets to provide for everybody?

Stigmatization of the losers of the predatory competition

Neoliberalism, by means of complex instruments of indoctrination, is poisoning people’s thoughts and playing them off against each other. It brings the weak to attack the even weaker and causes entire societies to view the poor, weak and sick as ‘parasites’, ‘roman-style decadent’, ‘envious’, ‘lazy’or more along the same lines, actually despising them. The dignity of the unusable is constantly threatened. Not exclusively by, but also including the Left who feel compelled to speak of ‘socially weak’ in the fight against poverty, thereby supposedly representing their interests.

Magda von Garrel, political theorist and special education teacher

Second class people

Bad enough how the labor market presents itself – even more inhuman, however, is the macchination that has to be endured by about ten percent of working age persons at any given time these days, because they had the misfortune of losing their jobs. Floating over it all, there seems to be the unspoken credo that first and foremost we must protect the public from the wily and tricky laziness of those affected.

For them life is therefore made as uncomfortable as possible in many ways to make sure that the state of unemployment does not appear as desirable under any circumstances. That way, anyone will think twice about daring to end an exploitative, sickening employment. This tactic is particularly cynical when it comes to burnout victims who, coming fresh from a collapse, are faced with a life already in shambles and lack the capacity to deal with this kind of malicious stress.

The harassments are manifold: In ever new ways, it comes to payment delays or accidental discontinuation of payments and insurance – mostly due to subpoenas not received (which are mysterious piling up, since the AMS is no longer obliged to deliver notifications via certified mail) or unexplained misunderstandings concerning the end of sick leaves between AMS and health insurance.

People who live by subsistence and have no reserves, are hurdled into serious trouble by such “carelessness” on part of the AMS, for if they can not transfer their fixed costs at the beginning of the month, default charges and miscellaneous fees will be added. Whoever is an inconvenience, may at any time be plunged into disaster – and this mere possibility is deeply frightening.

Whether these incidents occur maliciously or accidentally – they are simply too commonplace to be excusable. A good source for getting an impression of what transpires, are sites like http://www.soned.at as well as the experiences of any given unemployed person, who ever attended a class surrounded by other fellow persons affected, only to find that the problems and delays described happen on a regular base.

The entire attitude with which the system meets unemployed, is reckless and deeply inhumane, notwithstanding the sincere commitment often present in individual AMS employees.
"Motivational poster" in a course institution (“I don't have to be ashamed to be looking for a job. I'd only have to be ashamed if I didn't”) – pointlessly sending out applications week after week (And for a good portion of those concerned it is abundantly clear that they have no chance because of age, education or other factors), to avoid being cut off from supplies, is bad enough. Now on top of it you are being guilt-tripped, if you eventually can’t bring yourself to do it any longer.
“Motivational poster” in a course institution (“I don’t have to be ashamed to be looking for a job. I’d only have to be ashamed if I didn’t”) – pointlessly sending out applications week after week (And for a good portion of those concerned it is abundantly clear that they have no chance because of age, education or other factors), to avoid being cut off from supplies, is bad enough. Now on top of it you are being guilt-tripped, if you eventually can’t bring yourself to do it any longer.

The fact is, there are people whom the labor market neither wants nor needs. “Teamwork skills” and “stress resistance” are not given to everyone – anyone who is, for example, a rather introverted personality type, will quickly get overwhelmed when constantly forced into social situations, rather than being allowed to simply engage in their task untroubledly.

People who suffer from chronic health problems, or need sick leave more than one or two times a year for whatever reason, will eventually be replaced, no matter how well they may do their job. Anyone who is unable to cope with constant stress or a harsh working environment – yet might thrive under the more manageable and less hectic working conditions our parents and grandparents knew – is now left in the basket and finds him/herself confronted with the cliché of the lazy, antisocial and unwilling holdout, someone trying to make a beautiful life for themselves on others’ expense.

For how many of those registered as unemployed, might this blanket condemnation be true? Is it permissible to stigmatize, marginalize and victimize all those who simply can not keep up, in the hopes of punishing a few, who perhaps really could, but won’t?

And more importantly – at least viewed from the economic point of view – is the expensive bureaucracy truly pulling its weight? The endless frustration and humiliation, adding low self-esteem and depression to the many problems of unemployment persons – resulting in a poor general state of health which subsequently means yet more expenses at the cost of the public – is any of it really helping anyone?

Authors: Nikolaus Manoussakis, Serena Nebo

Credits

Image Title Author License
Motivationsposter Nikolaus Manoussakis, Serena Nebo CC BY-SA 4.0
Claas Combine in Denmark Lars Plougmann CC BY-SA 2.0
Polen, Bäuerinnen und Bauern bei Feldarbeit Heinz Rutkowski CC BY-SA 3.0 de
Call_center Call_center Abmpublicidad CC BY-SA 4.0