Getting Ireland Back to Work Feb06


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Getting Ireland Back to Work

Getting Ireland Back to Work by Ben Aherne

Getting the people of Ireland back to work requires a combination of positive and
negative incentives, and a re-evaluation of how we define “work”.
First of all let’s raise the incentives: A negative incentive is one which punishes
people for not working. Of course this negatively impacts on people who are
genuinely looking for employment but it also forces those who sit idly on their dole
reserves until the end of the recession is announced to look for a job because the
benefits of their laziness no longer outweigh what little extra money they would earn
on minimum wage. There are, in my opinion, two such incentives: A reduction in
the value of social welfare to, at the very least, a point where a person on minimum
wage minus his transport costs is not likely to earn more on welfare, and a decrease
in pensions for persons under the age of 70.
A positive incentive, on the other hand, is one which encourages people to work
without negatively affecting their lives. Campaigns, local employment-seekers
groups and an increase in job-seekers allowance for people who are shown to be
obviously and vigorously seeking employment are examples of these incentives.
This would introduce a new system where job-seekers are issued a special booklet
and employers a special stamp. If a person attends an interview, regardless of
whether he’s successful or not in it, he will present his booklet for the interviewer
to stamp – provided he feels this person was genuinely applying for a job and not
attempting to abuse the system – to be evaluated at the end of each month by a
trained public servant. If a person makes a serious attempt for at least one job per
month he receives a reasonable increase to his allowance. Each subsequent stamp
after the first also increases his welfare, but at a decrementing amount to a point
whereby more than ten interviews nets a zero increase to his earnings. A system like
this can be expanded into online applications also, and the creation of the system
would itself create jobs for both the development of the card-and-stamp system and
for the training of public servants who will authenticate the stamped booklets at the
end of each month.
The final big step is to re-evaluate how work is defined. This involves removing the
idea that work means employment in the public or private sector and the creation of
a new, charity driven sector.
The duty of this new sector is to augment our previous (and far too generous) social
welfare system. In essence, the “charity sector” builds on the previously discussed
substantial cut to welfare. By seeking ‘employment’ in local or national charities – full
and part time options, strict working weeks and contracts – an individual can have
his social welfare increased to a larger value nearing, but not exceeding, the current
minimum wage. The more hours a person works, the more money that person
can ‘earn’ from his welfare.
Because this new sector is an extension of the welfare system and not an
obligation for charities to pay should-be volunteers a wage, there is only a very
small expenditure increase for them, mostly revolving around book keeping, and
management of contracts of individuals working hours, etc. of their hopefully
significant influx of volunteers. This of course means charities are under no extra
fiscal pressure to try and find extra funding to cover both employee costs as well as
their own endeavours.
Of course such a system requires a certain level of co-operation from charities and
fail-safes must be met for those physically or mentally unable to work at all but the
long term advantages greatly outweigh the initial planning-and-setup hiccups. The
government revenue spent on welfare should not increase markedly – those people
earning more than while on welfare and those earning less because of their refusal
to work, should reach equilibrium with those who are earning the same as while on
welfare (those ‘working’ part time, for example).
Young people coming out of school or college will find plenty of work opportunities.
While the money may not be ideal it is better than unemployment for numerous
reasons and gives them valuable experience in both life and the workspace and
gives them that little bit more to write on their C.V for when they try to acquire a real
job. Older members of society, who find it difficult to re-join the work force have a
way to work out their last years before retirement with pride; pensioners could even
find auxiliary income to counteract the reduction of pensions to the under seventies.
There are always places available for people looking to help – people with physical
and mental disabilities can even be made useful in a way they may have felt they
could never be before, youth from troubled areas will be kept off the street and if
their work involves communal help, like cleaning graffiti off the streets, they will not
graffiti property themselves, will try to prevent their friends doing it and they will be
given a productive and constructive way to spend their time and burn their energy.
Charity exposure is also increased. People working with charities will encourage
friends to donate, and charities, up to now very understaffed, will have countless,
year-round volunteers, improving quality of life and community spirit in the country all
This system would make charities truly relevant and beneficial; it provides a perfect
entry point to the working world for those who want it, and provides both work and a
fulfilling past-time for those for whom employment is not possible.
Finally, such a system takes off much of the pressure of corporate pandering and
softens the blow for those suffering redundancies. Charities are not businesses –
they can always use whatever helping hand is offered to them.