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by Marcos Arruda

Abstracted from 'Taking Social Development Seriously' presented at the 'Joint Norwegian NGO Forum working group on the UN World Summit for Social Development (WSSD)', 1995.

The wildly competitive atmosphere dominating liberalised markets in a context of growing deregulation is at the root of feverish appropriation of the gains of productivity by corporations both domestically and globally. This, and not necessarily technological innovation and the improvements in the organisation in the production of goods and services, is the determining factor of the widespread phenomenon of jobless growth.

The macrosocioeconomic corollary of this process is the aggravation of a fundamental illness of the global economy, ie. income and wealth concentration. Such a contradictory development is afflicting the modern sectors of the developing economies as well as the highly industrialised economies and may be the most paradoxical trait of the contemporary market-centred economy. In the South, particularly predominantly rural societies, unemployment is also generally determined by land concentration, inadequate methods and rhythms of agricultural modernisation and unplanned, disruptive displacement of rural labourers. In countries as culturally and geographically distant as Nepal and Brazil, a key socioeconomic demand is agrarian reform.

Three different groups of citizens have become the targets for an urgent change in policy. First, those who remain employed; second, the unemployed who find alternative means of survival in the form of an underground activity in the so-called informal economy; and third, those who lose their jobs and become chronically unemployed. Effective solution to the three categories are needed if sustainable human development is to be more than an empty slogan.

The proposals included in preparations for the WSSD are important but insufficient. Contemporary proposals to governments and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) include:

  • efforts toward democratising the state, and empowering it to foster labour-intensive development strategies, must be given priority;
  • promotion of policies and legal, financial and managerial mechanisms to democratise the gains of productivity, including the sharing of ownership of productive resources among those who directly create those gains. This will allow enterprises to adopt schemes of shared labour time, reduced working weeks and even reduced monetary wages without necessarily reducing the labour income;
  • promotion and implementation of comprehensive policies of agrarian reform, including land redistribution, technical and managerial capacity building, support to associative forms of agricultural production and access to credit and appropriate technology;
  • conceptual and policy changes, pointing toward an organic understanding of society and its individual components, so as to integrate all socially useful activities under the category of human labour that should be renumerated, including the work of women who tend their homes and raise their children, laying the foundations for the future citizens of the world;
  • policies aimed at multiplying socially useful opportunities both in the contexts of markets and of governments. Countless activities which are apparently or effectively non-marketable, or are marginal to the country's economy, particularly in public services, should be promoted by local, regional and national governments. Financing can be created through fiscal mechanisms that guarantee the redistribution of socially created surpluses throughout society;
  • efforts toward establishing a variety of new forms of renumeration - monetary and otherwise - beside fair wages, aimed at ensuring a minimum guarantee of survival and of sustainable human development to all citizens and a fair distribution of the productivity gains on behalf of society as a whole;
  • promotion of policies to direct investment and credit to village and community development both also as an efficient strategy for sustainable human development;
  • efforts toward enhancing NGO capacity to generate productive jobs and provide basic services to people, by themselves or in independent collaboration with governments and, eventually, with private enterprises;
  • support to South-South collaboration and complementarity in trade, services and in building regional human security;
  • promotion of policies to enhance the capacities of community-based organisations and NGOs. Human resource development should strengthen the community, rather than the individual, and empower men and women for human development.

Marcos Arruda is economist and educator, coordinator of the NGO Working Group on the World Bank (Geneva), member of PACS-PRIES (Rio de Janeiro) and fellow of the Transnational Institute (Amsterdam). From DEVELOPMENT 1995:3 Journal of SID.

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