Being a daily witness to the battles of the unemployed who cross this continent in order to secure work and a decent life for their families, I often wonder to what extent globalisation really is to blame for the shortage of jobs. I hear the fear both of those who move and of those who stay. I see accusations directed towards big business who take jobs elsewhere and towards unscrupulous employers who give jobs to foreigners when the local population is struggling. And I understand the reality of being driven out of competition by cheaper staff at home or abroad. It fuels the anti-immigration feeling that currently dominates the public discourse in several European countries and which is being endorsed even by people who are not poor and have not lost anything in this race. I don’t mean the politicians who are trying to attract votes. I mean ordinary citizens with ordinary professional jobs.
Sometimes I pause and look at the world as one big community. And think about the sheer amount of people who live in Asia and in Africa and about all the jobs that have been outsourced over the years to poorer countries. And I wonder, has the number of these jobs been enough to save entirely at least one other national population from unemployment? The answer of course is no. Even if we outsourced as many jobs as possible out of the ones that we have, they would be far from providing employment for everybody in the developing world. And the European population would remain, of course, unemployed.
The problem is of course the shortage of jobs full stop. Not just in our own little country, whatever that might be but everywhere on the planet. There may be pockets of higher economic activity in certain places but overall the picture is grim. The Swedish journalist Andreas Cervenka reports that there are five billion adults in the world at the moment. Out of these, it is estimated that three billion would like to have full-time employment. And how many actual full-time jobs are out there? 1,2 billion. That leaves 1,8 billion unemployed or under-employed. Is it any wonder that human movement is on the rise? And is it any wonder that people feel threatened, regardless of whether they are on the move or stay put? Where does that leave Article 23 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Globalisation is a symptom. Let’s look at population growth and let’s look at advances in technology. Natural resources might be enough if equally distributed but what about jobs? How do we create those and should we be directing energy towards this? Or should we start thinking differently about the concept of earning a living?