Decent work at the crossroads

World Day for Decent Work 2010World Day for Decent Work today is even glummer this year than usual. 34 million jobs have been lost worldwide since 2008, due to the financial crisis, and 64 million have been pushed into extreme poverty.

Yet the austerity measures that so many governments have adopted to respond to the crisis will only make things worse. Growth and decent jobs are the way out of crisis. Cutting too much too soon will stall recovery, actually harming our private sectors and decreasing the tax take our countries need to pay off their deficits.

The crisis and bailout have marked a real shift, where ordinary taxpayers’ money was used to prop up a broken system that even then refused to change. Banks still make huge profits. Bankers still make huge bonuses. But the bill is falling on the most vulnerable in society. The welfare state which took so long to build up is being scaled back, and those in less secure employment are being turned onto the dole.

All rather than contemplate redistributing a fair amount from those who caused the crisis in the first place. Here in the UK, closing tax evasion loopholes and excessive avoidance (minimum rate taxes), and introducing Robin Hood Tax style transaction taxes on speculative banking could raise tens of billions a year.

The alternative is a real entrenching of mass worklessness and poverty. If we want a world where everyone can hope for the minimum standard of access to work, of a decent standard and with fair reward, we need to do everything in our power to defeat austerity, and replace it with fairer alternatives.

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