05/17/2012 09:13 am ET Updated Jul 16, 2012

It's Not the Economy, Stupid... It's Employment

We all eat breakfast in the morning, we all go to sleep at night, and we all want our kids to have opportunities that we didn't.

Recent elections in Europe have confirmed that governments who don't create jobs will feel the anger of voters.

The public is losing faith that their children will be able to find work at all, let alone have a better life than their parents.

Today the G20 Labour Ministers will meet in Guadalajara to discuss their response to the economic crisis.

The issue of jobs is the top item on their agenda.

Because every year, for the next ten years, 42 million young people in G20 countries are going to be looking for their first serious job.

This influx of talent and enthusiasm should be a huge boost for the global economy -- but in many countries they will join older workers in a fruitless hunt for a good, secure job.

In the U.S., graduates are scrambling to find work, while trying to working out how to pay off a student loan. In parts of Europe, youth unemployment rates are above 50 percent.
Unemployment is not just a symptom of an economic crisis; for society, it IS the crisis.
Economic growth is not good in itself; it is good because it provides work, incomes and opportunity for people.

The searing memory we have of the Great Depression is that of unemployment, the social effects it had, and the rise of fascism, because of the feeling that liberal democracy was incapable of solving the crisis.

Anyone who has lived in an area with high unemployment knows how it erodes social bonds, lowers the resilience of the unemployed and their families, and damages the prospects of the next generation.

No country can afford to lose a generation to unemployment.

Election results in Greece, France and local elections in Italy and UK are showing that voters do not believe what they are being told by governments and are looking for an alternative.

Governments that fail to provide jobs to those who are willing and able to work begin to lose their legitimacy and will face the anger of the electorate.

A dangerous gap is appearing between G20 Leaders' commitments on jobs and G20 governments' failure to prioritize employment in their economic policy-making.

The focus on austerity recognizes the economic issues, but does not look at the long-term social effects. Governments have shifted their policy to austerity and short-term deficit reduction. Yet the rise in unemployment now represents the biggest obstacle to deficit reduction.

Families with no breadwinner will not have the confidence to spend. Companies operating in an atmosphere of high unemployment will not have the confidence to expand and invest their capital in new ventures.

A fundamental change in policy is needed to avoid self-defeating collective deflation and mass unemployment.

A second problem, on top of the high unemployment rate, we have seen a growth in insecure kinds of work, leading to high rates of underemployment as well.

Even during the boom times there was a growing class of workers -- dubbed "the precariat" -- often low-paid and low-skilled who had periods of short-term employment, alternated with unemployment.

The push to flexible labor markets boosted profits but created inequality as risks were shifted on to the shoulders of low-income workers. It led to a systemic underinvestment in training for these workers -- after all why bother improving their skills if they weren't going to be at the company next year?

Now we are seeing the outcome of this shift and the effects of the global financial crisis and austerity on this group, many of whom had few or no savings, is now starting to be felt. To restore trust and confidence, working families require quality jobs. The gap between the commitment of governments to jobs and the necessary investment must be addressed.
Serious investment in infrastructure, particularly enabling green infrastructure and green jobs and the care economy is a priority.

This is a policy shift that could happen over breakfast if Labor Minsters and Finance Ministers sit down together and plan a jobs revolution.

Recent Millennium Institute research shows that 2 percent of GDP each year over five years in just 12 countries would create up to 48 million decent jobs.

We need to invest in skills for both the unemployed and workers, promote job-training programs for young people, improve the school-to-work transition, and adoption better social protection policies.

We need to consider things like a Financial Transactions Tax which can not only raise revenue, but can be designed to reduce speculation, which simply creates instability, and reward the transactions needed for real investment.

We need a jobs revolution which makes the creation of sustainable long-term employment its main goal, not just a by-product of austerity measures.

Leaders need to let their people know they understand that unemployment wrecks lives and corrodes society, and that job creation is their number one priority.