Employment

Research shows that having a job is good for you. Also, it shows that having responsibility and being able to make decisions is good for you. And for most people, work is linked to income, and research shows that having an income at least a little above basic needs is good for you, but probably because of  the same reason as for work itself: having a little bit above the basic means you can make some decisions.

So what we want our leaders to do is to have policies which mean most people have work, the work is meaningful and fulfilling, at least to some degree, and it provides an income for the person and their dependants a bit above the basics.

Mostly, employment changes slowly, jobs come and jobs go, with some periods of more rapid change, those periods being the scary times as they tend to lead to revolutions.

Employment might look like a simple matter of economics, and often it is presented like that, some kind of ratio of available money to employment costs and market demands and hey presto, we have jobs.

But more complex realities of society present a different picture.

Looking after the elderly, for example, seems to be work in one country and a family affair in another. Similarly, looking after the young, and that includes finding them work, is work in one country and a family affair in another.

In one country trading outside of a taxation system is part of every day life, in another it is a moral and legal crime.

When wealth is accumulated, in one country it is highly taxed, in another it is offered as a philanthropic act as gifts to charities and in another it is simply accumulated and accumulated.

Employment is really a slow changing, collaborative and complex issue for society, and as such needs the kind of thinking that works best with slow changing collaborative and complex issues.

So first, we need to drop the simplistic vision of employment as a set of numbers, with this number in full-time work and this number in part-time work and this number on benefits and this number unemployed and another number homeless and unemployed.

If we have a complex problem we should start by recognising that it is complex, or it will not get better.

Complex problems are best worked on with holistic thinking, which means getting away from centrally driven cost/benefit driven initiatives, this much money gets this number of jobs.

It means seeing the problem as related to people as individuals in families and in communities, not sets of categories such as rural people or city people or young people or old people. Employment is really created by people wanting to work with other people.

Slow changing problems are best dealt with by the kind of thinking which recognises that evidence will also come slowly, so evidence needs to be dealt with carefully. Without this a kind of employment unemployment resonance is built into the system where job creation schemes bring jobs at the time jobs are growing anyway and nothing becomes available when jobs are shrinking, as seems to be happening now in 2011.

Slow changing problems are dealt with best by building foundations which allow the change to evolve slowly and beneficially. It is more like an organic garden than a factory floor. Seeding and nurturing not force feeding and cropping.

Collaborative solutions also need collaboration not competition, surprisingly enough. Networks between companies and between companies and communities build strong collaborative projects. Instead of a process for winning bids to win all, communities can develop their own projects slowly with available resources, so resource allocation becomes an enabling process not a directive one.

The economics of competition does create efficiencies, but those efficiencies exist where the solutions can be reduced to simpler frameworks, products and services. As production by robots increases, that kind of more simplistic delivery of goods and services needs to be augmented by more complex products and services, which may deliver not only work itself, but meaningful work, and rewarding work, financially.

It might be too simplistic to see the wealth and employment creation of the creative industries as being proof that holistic, collaborative thinking delivers what we now need, or maybe not, maybe it is the  kind of social structures that exist within the creative industries that represents the future of employment.

These industries do have highly competitive elements, but these are complementary to the process, the world of the creative arts has long survived on the kind of open patronage and open collaboration that seems to be needed in a world of more and more global production, same product same service everywhere you go.

So the Advice to The President, or Prime Minister, or Union Boss, is to lead with a culture of collaboration, to stand back and allow resources to nurture futures without being directive, to reduce monitoring by numbers and increase self monitoring through networks, to take the long view, to have a vision but have that separate from some kind of fervour for creating some kind of mission.

People like to work, normally. People like to create, and people like to collaborate. If people are not doing this something is wrong. And it is not simple, it will not be solved by playing with numbers.

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