Jobs for the jobless

Government and the unions are discussing a national minimum wage that, if implemented, will substantially increase the total number of unemployed people in this country. With the current total now at 8.7 million (a new high), it is time to remind government about the proposal put forward in the bookJobs for the Jobless: Special Exemption Certificates for the Unemployed for which the Free Market Foundation won the international Templeton Freedom Award in the category Free Market Solutions to Poverty in 2009.

This FMF publication put forward a simple but effective way to decrease unemployment in the country by a huge number without reducing the high level of job security enjoyed by people who already have jobs. This was an important consideration and also that other existing protective measures contained in the Labour Relations Act, such as measures relating to unjust dismissal, would not be affected.

The job creation proposal has the following elements: (1) Give unemployed people who have been unemployed for 6 months or more, Job Seekers’ Exemption Certificates (JSECs), valid for 2 years, that give the holders the right to enter into any employment agreements with an employer on any conditions with which they are comfortable. (2) Require sworn declarations from the unemployed to confirm their period of unemployment. (3) Appoint municipalities to issue the JSECs. (4) Make written and signed JSEC agreements covering basic conditions required evidence, together with a copy of the exemption certificate, for compliance by employers.

A 6-month waiting period would prevent employers from firing employees and re-hiring them once they have JSECs. Local authorities are the logical issuing agents as they are easily accessible across the country. JSEC holders would have all the protections offered by the common law. JSEC holders should be allowed as much scope as possible to obtain jobs. A 2-year validity period would give holders adequate opportunity to find jobs, change jobs, consolidate their positions, build up track records and make themselves so indispensable that they are taken on as permanent staff members. A written contract is necessary to ensure that there is no uncertainty about the terms, but in the interests of the unemployed all the terms must be freely negotiable.

Laws should not prevent people from exploiting their ability, through their own labour, to earn wages. Employment requires measures that increase the demand for labour not those that reduce it.

Job Seekers’ Exemption Certificates would put the power in the hands of unemployed individuals to be able to fan out across the country and find willing employers, people who are willing to give them a chance; a chance to show what they can do; a chance to regain their dignity by taking care of themselves and their families. Who will deny them that right?

Author: Eustace Davie is a director of the Free Market Foundation and the author of Jobs for the Jobless. This article may be republished without prior consent but with acknowledgement to the author. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation. 

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