Essential Information on an Essential Issue
16 December, 1998
- 50th ANNIVERSARY of SIGNING OF UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Special feature by the editors of The Jobs Letter.
- GUESS WHO PAYS FOR WORKFARE
an essential summary of an article from Professor Robert Solow's new book Work and Welfare
Longer hours for the higher paid -- its happening in New Zealand too.
- 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the UN adoption of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR expresses "a common standard of achievement for all
peoples and all nations..." and contains thirty articles establishing fundamental human
rights across the civil, political, social, economic and cultural spheres. Many of the points raised in
the Declaration are now considered as part of the international customary law.
With this issue of The Jobs Letter, we celebrate the anniversary of this important
UN declaration, particularly those articles which proclaim the right to social security, the right
to work and protection against unemployment, the right to rest and leisure, and the right to
a decent standard of living.
- ARTICLE 22
The right to social security and the shared benefits of society's progress.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to
realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the
organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable
for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
click here for video clip
- SUPPORT THE UDHR
You can support the Declaration of Human Rights at this anniversary by signing
a personal pledge to the United Nations. Amnesty International already has 3 million
signatures worldwide, and is aiming for 8 million. You can even sign up on-line.
If you want to add your name to the pledge, send an email to
email@example.com. Put your name in the "subject" space, and the following text in the "message" space: "I
support the rights and freedoms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all
Source _ Amnesty International
- ILO ON THE ASIAN SOCIAL CRISIS
Recession Watch. The social fallout from the sudden unravelling of economic
fortunes in Asia is exceeding initial forecasts and risks dramatically worsening, according to a
new report published last week by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The report, entitled "The Asian Financial Crisis: The challenge for social
policy" warns that the deepening economic and social troubles in the region are unlikely to be reversed in the
near future and urges governments and policy-makers to take unprecedented emergency and
long-term measures, especially establishing unemployment insurance for the mounting number
of newly unemployed.
In light of the severity of the crisis, the report's author, ILO economist Eddy Lee calls
for solutions that will require "an unusual degree of flexibility in policy making on the part
of domestic and international actors, including increased social spending, which may
prove unavoidable if countries are to undertake credible efforts to reform and alleviate the
worst social aspects of the crisis ..."
Lee: "Just as the Depression in the 1930s forged a new social contract in
industrialized countries in the 1930s, so must the current Asia crisis serve as an impetus to creating a
more socially oriented model for development ..."
The report says that only a small proportion of Asia's needy will be helped by
relief through public employment-creation schemes. In Thailand, only 7% and in Indonesia (at
best) only 10% of the unemployed can expect to obtain a job in these schemes. In contrast,
approximately 24% of the unemployed in the Republic of Korea are able to count on this form of
- The report finds that one in every five formal-sector jobs in Indonesia has been
wiped out this year alone, shattering decades of progress made toward modern, industrial
employment in that country. Shattered also were the lives of 4 to 5 million Indonesian workers
and their families. An additional 20% of the Indonesian population, approximately 40
million people, is expected to fall into poverty this year.
- In the Republic of Korea, one in twenty workers lost their jobs during the nine
month period from November 1997 to July 1998 and unemployment in the country is expected
to increase threefold, from 2.3% to 8.2%. An estimated 12% of the Korean population is
expected to sink below that country's poverty line this year.
- In Thailand unemployment levels are forecast to triple from 2 to 6% this year,
with partial information indicating a rapid acceleration in the rate of job losses in the last
three months. As access to jobs and income dry up, it is estimated that 12% of the Thai
population will sink into poverty this year, adding significantly to the nearly 16% of Thais already living
- In Hong Kong, China, unemployment rose from 2% to over 5% in the first three
quarters of 1998, an estimated net loss of some 75,000 jobs.
In Malaysia, unemployment levels are expected to double to 5.2% by year's
end. However, both Hong Kong and Malaysia dipped into recession only this year, indicating
a relatively rapid rate of job losses in a comparatively short period of time.
Source _ ILO Press Release 2nd December 1998 ILO/98/42 "ILO Calls for more "Socially Oriented" Model of Development as Job Losses
Mount, including Establishment of Unemployment Insurance"
- ARTICLE 23
The right to work, to a fair wage, and to join a trade union.
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and
favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring
for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if
necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
click here for video clip
- NO CHRISTMAS CHEER FOR COMMUNITY WAGE WORKERS
Back here in NZ, the Government admits it will deduct $21 a week from the benefits
of Community Wage workers over the Christmas period if their sponsoring organisation
closes for the holidays. MP Rod Donald complains that this is "penny-pinching to the
extreme". Donald asks the government to reconsider this "heartless deduction" of the
participation allowance over the holiday period: "At the very time of year when every extra dollar makes
a difference, the government plans to cut their income. Their Scrooge mentality will leave
many beneficiaries without Christmas dinner or money to buy presents for their children ..."
Donald also points to the Community Wage travel costs reimbursements as
another example of "a penny-pinching attitude." Donald: "The mileage allowance for
Community Wage workers is calculated at only 20c per kilometre. This compares with the 62c a
kilometre paid to members of parliament. Participants aren't even allowed to count a detour to pick
up other participants ..."
"Obviously the government believes the poor deserve only a third of the travel
reimbursement they are happy to pay themselves. The effect of this policy is that Community
Wage workers are running their vehicles into the ground for the privilege of working for their dole..."
Source _ Press Statement from Rod Donald 3 December 1998 "Government Ste4als Christmas from Community Wage Workers
- HUMAN RIGHTS AND WORK FOR THE DOLE
"Human Rights" is at the centre of a "Legal Resource Handbook" produced by
UUI Action NZ, an activity of the Universal Income Trust based in Nelson. The handbook
compares the current rules of the government's "work for the dole" scheme with the rights enshrined
in the International Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights, and the standards of the International Labour Organisation.
Researcher Patrick Danahey says that government has implemented a "compulsory
labour regime" as a solution to an economic/unemployment crisis in NZ. Danahey: "In the process,
it has greatly undermined fundamental human rights and international laws in its adoption
of this programme through the recent systematic modifications of the Social Security Act ...
Most government agencies as well as the judiciary are still unaware of these recent law changes. it
is up to individuals and groups to see that we educate people about these changes ..."
For a copy of the handbook, write to Sarah Ayre at UUI Action NZ, at 1 Erin St,
Nelson, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- ARTICLE 24
The right to rest and leisure.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of
working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
click here for video clip
- STATISTICS THAT MATTER: WAITAKERE
The WAITAKERE electorate contains 18,510 households, of which 32% have household incomes below $30,000 per year before tax. That 2% is 28% below the rate for the country as a whole. There are34,380 adults aged 20-59 in the Waitakere electorate, of whom 64% are in paid, full-time work. Another 11% are in part-time work.
Unemployment in the electorate is
2% below the national average. ( Electorate statistics compiled by
Judy Reinken, and based on 1996 Census).
Source _ Judy Reinken, statistics based on 1996 Census of Population and Dwellings
- TIME ON CORPORATE WELFARE
With the "welfare" debate centering almost exclusively on the rights
and responsibilities of the out-of-work and people living in poverty ... our Media Watch reports
an increasing spotlight on the concept of "corporate welfare". This refers to the benefits that
local and national governments give to corporations, or in some cases whole industries, which
are not given as a right to others.
Perhaps it is not before time. Ralph Nader first coined the term in 1956 when he
pointed out that US corporations collect more government handouts than all of that nation's
poor families combined. In 1994, according to a study compiled by Nader's Center for the Study
of Responsive Law, the federal government spent some $167 billion on corporate tax breaks
and handouts an average of $1,400 per taxpayer. By contrast, the total price tag for Aid
for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps, public housing, and other
"social welfare" programs came to just over $50 billion, or $400 per taxpayer.
- Time magazine has just completed a special three-part investigation into
Corporate Welfare in the United States ("What Corporate Welfare costs you" based on 18 months
research by Donald L Barlett and James B. Steele). It says that two years after the US Congress
reduced welfare for individuals and families, this other kind of welfare continues to
expand, penetrating every sector of the US economy. Time's conclusion: "It has turned politicians
into bribery specialists, and smart business people into con artists. And most surprising of all, it
has rarely created any new jobs..."
- The rationale to curtail traditional welfare programme to the poor has recently
been compelling: the old system is clearly not working, it destroys incentive and
perpetuates dependence and distorts the economy. But Time says the same indictment, almost to a
word, applies to corporate welfare. And it is much more expensive.
The Time investigation points out that the economics of such partnerships seldom
adds up. Example: In 1997, Pennsylvania gave $307m in economic incentives to a Norwegian
global engineering company to reopen a disused shipyard and employ 950 people. The
subsidy worked out at $320,000 per job. If the average Philadelphia job pays $50,000, and each
worker pays $6,700 in local and state taxes ... then it would take nearly a half-century of tax
collections from each individual to earn back the money granted to create his or her job.
- The rationale for all this corporate welfare is that the government "is creating
jobs". The projects are usually trumpeted as "economic development", or "enterprise zones"
or "public/private partnerships".
Time estimates that 10 million new jobs have been created in the US economy since
1990. But small and medium-sized companies have created most of these jobs. The Fortune
500 companies, on the other hand, have erased more jobs than they have created this past
decade, and yet they are the biggest beneficiaries of corporate welfare.
Source _ Time magazine 9 November 1998, and following two issues("What Corporate Welfare costs you" by Donald L Barlett and James B. Steele
- ARTICLE 25
The right to a decent standard of living, adequate for health and well-being
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being
of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness,
disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All
children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
click here for video clip
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close
to home so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they
are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he or she lives in; the school or college
he or she attends; the factory, farm, or office where he or she works.
"Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal
opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they
have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home,
we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world ..."
Eleanor Roosevelt, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights 1948
Thank you for your help, support, inspiration and sponsorship during 1998
Hugh and Joy Hughes
Special thanks to
the LEC National Office
and the national network of LEC Co-ordinators
Mailout Working Bee Volunteers
Seasons Greetings and all the best for 1999!
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