On the road to Birmingham
from The Jobs Letter No.75 / 24 March 1998
British Chancellor Gordon Brown: "Employability is the key to a cohesive society which offers opportunity to all its citizens. Better education and higher skills, combined with reduced burdens on business are the way to guarantee the high and stable levels of growth and employment which are the core goals of our economic policy"
The Finance and Social Affairs Ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States, met in London late last month at a special conference on "Growth, Employability and Inclusion". At the conference, the G8 set itself a new agenda based on seven principles for action. The Ministers are now going away to work on their own individual "jobs action plans" which will be presented at the Birmingham Summit in May.
Brown: "A new employment agenda is vital given the background of intensified global competition and technological advances we all face as the 21st century approache. We must ensure that the important messages of this Conference are heard by policy makers around the world and that we continue to share best practice"
British Education and Employment Secretary, David Blunkett is particularly pleased with the G8 Communiqué. He says it is the first time at an international summit that the principle of "lifelong learning" has been specifically endorsed.
Blunkett: "G8 members share the priorities we have set for our domestic employment policy - promoting employability and adaptability and tackling skill shortages. We all face the challenge of change. We need to improve the skills of everyone in the labour market and to bring those excluded from employment into the world of work..."
Guardian economics columnist Larry Elliott, commenting on the London conference, writes: "Full employment is back on the agenda... and those who call for it are no longer treated as social pariahs. The fact that finance and employment ministers from eight of the world's biggest economies spent a weekend discussing it is good news
"The rise in unemployment was not the result of some freak of nature an El Nino effect but the consequence of governments following deflationary macroeconomic policies and putting up with distortive tax and benefit regimes at a time when the most vulnerable workers were threatened by technological change.
"So it is welcome that the G8 called for enhanced employment opportunities for the young, the long-term unemployed, lone parents and the disabled; that it urged reform of tax and benefit systems to foster work incentives; and that it sought to encourage lifelong learning and equal opportunity..."
"The problem now is that the G8's forward-looking approach to the supply-side is not matched by its approach to the demand-side, where the thinking seems "...stuck in a 1980s time-warp.
"G8 ministers agree they want to see more growth in their economies, but their new remedy sounds very much like the old monetarist nostrums. The first three principles set out in this week's communiqué _ sound macroeconomic policies, structural reforms to labour, capital and product markets, and fostering entrepreneurship could have been written any time in the past two decades.
"This is 1984 doctrine, hardened into an article of faith: Macroeconomic policy is designed to keep inflation low and stable, while microeconomic policy creates the right conditions for faster growth and employment. Mention an expansion of demand to any Western finance minister or central bank governor and he recoils in horror. The priority, they insist, is to avoid boom-bust. But, for most countries the problem is bust-bust...
"It is still taboo to suggest that the G8 would be better off in these deflationary times setting targets for unemployment rather than for inflation. It is a sign of derangement to argue that governments should accept responsibility for directly creating jobs in the public sector. And it is utterly beyond the pale to suggest that one reason for slower growth since the mid-1970s has been the volatility caused by unfettered capital flows..."