Full Employment is Over (and Noone Notices)
An Attac Commentary by Andreas Exner
[This article originally published August 1, 2003 in the Austrian Der Standard is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://derstandard.at/Text/?id=1386701&.]
All signals are on red. News about the increasingly tense situation on the labor market mount up. The situation appears more depressing in the US, the former job wonder country, after the bursting of the New Economy bubble. Leading high-tech firms plan massive transfers. This time highly skilled IT-personnel will be affected. Something similar may be imminent in Europe. Our German neighbors are now experiencing the grandios Hartz plan and Schroder's Agenda 2010 to solve the "question of the unemployed": undermining the reasonability rules, reducing unemployment benefits and repressing the unemployed. The reasonability rules are also targeted in Austria. Emergency assistance threatens to be reformed.
What has happened? If the "end of the work society" was discussed everywhere in the eighties, not a word about this is heard today. The problem is more obvious and striking today than ever. The neoliberal brainwashiing seems to obscure the sense of reality.
The satiation of the domestic markets and the revolution of microelectronics have long finished the "economic wonder" of the post-war era. Since then, full employment is past. People thought they could deceive themselves about the precarious situation of the real economy through state indebtedness and a boom of the stock market. However this fraudulent trip has now ended. Only forced work programs like "Hartz" are left to the pilots of the degenerate national economies. Not a single forced measure will bring a solution where every prerequisite for a return to full employment is lacking. No wonder that the neoliberal history of lies where the unemployed themselves are responsible for their fate becomes increasingly shrill.
Utter Madness Comes out of the Work Religion
This situation is incredible. The work religion becomes pure madness as though the mere idea of a policy of reducing working hours, a life in rest and leisure, were erased. Our society was never as rich as today. Nevertheless a feeling of national emergency prevails. Abundant free time only appears to us as mass unemployment.
The unions are hypnotized. Even the harshest weapon, the strike, seems to fail more and more. Any trace of an innovative perspective beyond full employment is lacking. Unions fight a losing battle amid structural unemployment and long-term economic crisis. This explains their zeal for the competitiveness of the national economy at the expense of the competitively weak. Governments and unions will still try for a while to bring the economic oil tanker on a course already passed: full employment.