We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this
installment we focus on jobs and income, again suggesting ways in which we, in our region, can improve the availability, range and quality of jobs and more broadly, improve the lamentable distribution of wealth and income within the city-region. Controversially we again go against the grain by arguing against the pursuit of overall increases in labour productivity. This installment needs to be read in conjunction with other sections, not least those on the role of anchor institutions and the previous section on finance and national distribution. You can also look at our acclaimed briefings on Universal Basic Income and the Alternatives to UBI. There’s still more to come! But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.
8 Jobs and income
A credible regional strategy also needs a local strategy for redistribution, especially, as we and an increasing number of scholars1, argue, growth will have to be curtailed because of its destructive impact on the climate and ecosystems. It is in any case slowing as the capitalist economy hits multiple crises of accumulation2, typically described as secular stagnation. Moreover, this entails a rethinking of the relationships among jobs, incomes, productivity and work. While the policy levers available to a city-region are limited, there are things that can be done. Proposals here should be read in conjunction with those on the role of anchor institutions in enhancing equity (section 4).
8.1 Local innovation for welfare reform.
Policy 8.1: Conduct a feasibility study for a jobs guarantee and/or a form of basic income.
The thinking behind it:
Over the last thirty years, the structure of employment has changed markedly, and it is set to change further. Certain sectors have decreased and jobs have been displaced in areas where cost savings can be made by automation, or by outsourcing the work to cheaper labour markets. Beyond the standard policy mantra of “jobs’n’growth”, there is increasing interest across the political spectrum in the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), also known as Citizens’ Income . This is an unconditional income paid to every individual as a right of citizenship3. While this might seem like a policy prescription requiring national level implementation, there have been trials in a number of cities and regions internationally. There are a number of questions that arise about UBI, however, and alternative approaches such as Participation Income4 or the Job Guarantee5 / Government as Employer of Last Resort, or the Green Job Guarantee6. also need to be considered, instead of, or for implementation in hybrid form with UBI. The participation requirement, common to Job Guarantee and Participation Income7 (and implicit in the last Labour government’s Future Jobs Fund for younger workers) could be placed under community governance enabling priorities to be set covering jobs that need doing in the local neighbourhood. Elsewhere we have also argued that such schemes could be funded via a cap and share scheme for personal carbon budgets8.
Policy 8.2: Make sectors more, not less, labour-intensive
The thinking behind it:
Mainstream economic dogma claims that one source of the economic woes of the North West is its lower labour productivity. The typical basis for comparison is the economy of London and the South East but that is inflated by the finance, insurance and real estate sector and by the disproportionate head-quartering of companies there. Productivity is actually not a particularly useful concept in many areas of the economy that we want to build upon: the foundational areas of education, health and personal care, for example, are inevitably and rightly labour intensive. In a post-growth economy productivity is counter-productive since it reduces the availability of employment9. Even within a putatively growing economy, increasing productivity is not likely to benefit the lower wage and lower skill sectors10. The policy aims should therefore be to seek and promote more labour intensive options while both reducing working hours11 (feasible since there is a pool of labour to be absorbed) and maintaining pay levels. The exceptions are where machinery and automation can reduce unpleasant and unnecessary drudgery.
8.3 Stimulate local enterprise development through civic participation
Policy 8.3: Establish mechanisms to support and fund the emergence of community enterprises in each locality.
The thinking behind it:
Many people are excluded from the labour market for various reasons, including, for example, lack of skills, lack of availability for full time work, living with long term health conditions, lack of travel to work options. In some areas there are no jobs for people to do that fit with their family commitments. Any of these reasons confine people to a life as recipients of welfare benefits and often with the associated stresses of unemployment and living on low incomes. And yet, levels of community need remain high in nearly every locality. It is possible to stimulate the development of local community enterprises, both including and not including paid work, through citizen engagement and participation. People care about their local areas and make all sorts of positive contributions to them. Building on local interests, creativity and commitments, it is possible to deliver a network of activities, grounded in local interests and local need, as, for example, the experiment carried out in West Norwood12. Local community-asset enterprise funds would be needed to catalyse the ventures.
…..to be continued, or if you want it now, download here: https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/policies-for-the-city-region-the-longer-version-v3-final.pdf
1See for example Buchanan, M. (2017). A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm. Bloomberg News. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-31/a-climate-change-economist-sounds-the-alarm
2Streeck, W. (2014). How will capitalism end? New Left Review, (87), 35-87. https://newleftreview.org/II/87/wolfgang-streeck-how-will-capitalism-end
3Steady State Manchester. (2016). Universal Basic Income (or Citizen’s Income) – a digest of issues. https://steadystatemanchester.net/2016/05/09/universal-basic-income-or-citizens-income-a-digest-of-issues/
4Atkinson, A. B. (1996). The Case for a Participation Income. The Political Quarterly, 67(1), 67–70. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-923X.1996.tb01568.x
5Tcherneva, P. R. (2012). The Job Guarantee: Delivering the Benefits That Basic Income Only Promises – A Response to Guy Standing. Basic Income Studies, 7(2). http://media.wix.com/ugd/f4c1a3_a41dc8241e4e482591b513791ef17a2e.pdf ; Alcott, B. (2013). Should degrowth embrace the Job Guarantee? Journal of Cleaner Production, 38, 56–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2011.06.007
7And distinct from “workfare”, forced labour to obtain benefits, since at least the minimum wage would be paid and the work is not for benefit of a profit-making concern.
8Steady State Manchester. (2014). The Viable Economy, p. 21 https://steadystatemanchester.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/the-viable-economy-master-document-v4-final.pdf
9Jackson, T., & Victor, P. (2011). Productivity and work in the “green economy.” Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions, 1(1), 101–108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eist.2011.04.005; Santarius, T. (n.d.). Green Growth Unravelled – Resource Governance – Heinrich Böll Foundation. Retrieved December 6, 2012, from http://www.boell.de/ecology/resources/resource-governance-ecology-green-growth-rebound-effect-15794.html
10New Economy (GM) (2016). Low Pay and Productivity in Greater Manchester http://neweconomymanchester.com/media/1703/low-pay-and-productivity-in-greater-manchester-main-report.pdf
11NEF advocate a 21 hour week. We made similar proposals in our In Place of Growth. Changes to national policy would greatly facilitate this but local initiatives could help – councils for example becoming “right length working time” employers. http://neweconomics.org/2010/02/21-hours/
12Cathcart-Keays, A. (2015). How do you create a city for all? The answer lies in West Norwood. Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/dec/02/create-city-for-all-answer-west-norwood