THE BLOG
01/25/2012 09:13 am ET | Updated Mar 26, 2012

From the Edge of Dystopia to Enlightenment

For the world to recover from the financial crisis there must be a revolution on job creation equal to the environmental revolution that has percolated into the collective consciousness over the last twenty years. It has taken that long for the world to be convinced global warming is a real and deadly threat. People have been convinced not so much by the scientific evidence but by the evidence of their own eyes. The 2008 financial crisis and the continuing aftershocks have presented compelling proof that the economy is as sick as the planet.

The ILO's Global Employment Trends Report, just released, shows that one in three workers worldwide or 1.1 billion people are either unemployed or living in poverty. The ILO report reveals that there are 29 million fewer workers in the global labor force than they forecast before the slowdown started in 2009. These 29 million people have given up looking for work and are labelled "discouraged workers."

We cannot allow them and the other unemployed to sink into a black hole of despair. The solution is a systematic investment in job creation, by growing jobs we grow demand. We have to act now and that will take all of the collaborative efforts of the world's political, business, labour and cultural leaders gathering in Davos.

"Davos Man" will be told that the financial crisis has fueled resentment and social unrest built on levels of unprecedented income inequality that may send us spiraling into a dystopian future. The 200 million unemployed and people living on less than $2 dollars a day already exist in a dystopian landscape and the rest of us are in its shadow. The answer is a fairer distribution of wealth and a new social contract. The one percent cannot be allowed to own the combined wealth of the rest.

We have the financial resources but they have to be used to invest in a sustainable future both economically and environmentally. Here the jobs and environmental revolutions intersect. Sustained investment in the green economy would create millions of jobs and push the world off its dystopian path. We have the means. In the US alone business is sitting on a cash mountain of two trillion dollars which should be ploughed back into growing the economy and not just in share buy-backs and financial speculation.

The ILO World of Work Report 2011 found that in 40% of the 119 countries covered the risk of social unrest has increased significantly since 2010. This is especially true in advanced economies including the EU. We must address the protestors' concerns by tackling a global financial system which is at the heart of the crisis and is fighting change tooth and nail. We should introduce higher income tax for top earners, a Financial Transactions Tax and a fairer system of corporate tax as well as an end to tax havens which further fuel inequalities and drain public budgets. The bankers who have committed acts of gross negligence should be brought to justice and the financial system overhauled and properly regulated. The discredited system of algorithmic high-frequency trading (HFT) should be banned.

My message for the participants at Davos is simple: time is running out and concerted action on job creation and bridging inequality is vital. Jobs have to be the global priority. It's time the 99% were given back what has been taken from them. The financialization of our economies has blinded the policy makers. We need to focus on creating millions of good quality jobs and a labor market where collective bargaining is the norm and employees feel secure to spend. Unions have a key role to play in creating this new working environment and union busting activities are not only a negative for the labor movement they are ultimately a barrier to global progress. We need to nurture talent in the workplace because it is this talent that will ultimately drive the world economy forward.

We should be realistic and not expect heaven on earth but we should show courage and leadership and take a tip from American founding father John Adams, who said, "Start some new thinking that will surprise the world." We need enlightened thinking otherwise we will continue the joyride begun fifty years ago towards a wasted planet built on the Walmart model of inflated consumerism unable to support real jobs or anything else. It is possible to change direction. In Nyon, Switzerland, last week, pressure brought by unions and the public culminating in a 2000 strong march led to pharmaceutical giants Novartis doing a u-turn on major job cuts. A small victory compared to the 80 millions new jobs needed in the next two years just to get employment back to the level before the 2008 financial crisis but nevertheless a step in a positive direction away from Dystopia.