February 14, 2012

Jobs or profits?

Young workers have the highest levels of
unemployment of any age demographic 

People's Voice Editorial

     With the next federal budget looming, the question must be asked: will the Harper Tories put jobs or profits first?

     The so-called "recovery" from the crisis of 2007-08 is sputtering to a halt across the capitalist world, including in Canada. Yes, stock prices and corporate revenues have rebounded, but the ominous signs of slowdown are mounting, including an alarming loss of full-time employment.

     Officially, unemployment in Canada ticked up to 7.6% in January, significantly higher than the 6% levels in mid-2008. This figure only includes the 1.4 million who are "actively looking" for work. Add in those waiting for a recall from a previous employer, who have given up looking for non-existent jobs, or who are stuck working part‑time, and the real unemployment level would soar to 10.6%, or some two million people.

Back in 2008, only 12% of unemployed workers spent six or more months looking for a job. By 2011, 21% cent were in this category. The average length of an unemployment spell has jumped from 14.8 weeks to 21.1 weeks. Why? According to Statistics Canada, the ratio of unemployed people to job vacancies stood at 3.3 to 1 last fall. If every job opening was filled tomorrow, over 1.5 million Canadians would still be looking for work.

     Several policy options could address this crisis. One is an emergency plan to build low-income housing across the country. Another would be to shorten the work week with no loss in take-home pay. A third idea would be to roll back post-secondary tuition rates and increase education and training for jobless Canadians. Number four: start processing raw materials here in Canada, instead of exporting jobs.

     But the Harper Tories, as hardline ideologues of unregulated capitalism, will use their budget to help the bosses inflate profits at the expense of working people. As the saying goes, "Tory times are hard times." It will take a big dose of "people power" to save the country from their disastrous agenda.

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