Given the many struggles which economies all around the world have had to face and sought to overcome in the past few years as well as the high degree of interconnectedness that exists among nations, the decision to focus the World Development Report 2013 on jobs should have come as no surprise to anyone in our societies.
That inference is based on the fact that without jobs, individuals, businesses and governments would all experience a reduction in income and hence spending power. Such developments spell doom and gloom for economies that are already in recession and are fundamentally dependent on the intercontinental community for travel, tourism, remittances, foreign direct investment, other forms of private capital inflows, and international businesses.
Consequently, therefore, the global job situation takes on particular importance in any focussed-strategy designed to relieve the ailing worldwide economy of its present burdens and provide the necessary platform for renewed hope in relation to enhancing economic growth and development.
As a result, the timing of the release and focal point of this latest World Development Report cannot be a coincidence. In fact, the focus of the report makes extremely good economic sense and hence its release at this critical time in the life of the world’s economy should be welcomed and applauded by all and sundry.
The Report does indeed take a rather comprehensive approach to the subject matter as reflected in the broad coverage of issues such as aging societies, migration, the changing nature of jobs’ markets, vulnerability of a global dimension, labour regulations, collective representations, social insurance and global partnerships for jobs, among others.
However, the highlight for me is the manner in which the Report went on to address the issue of appropriate jobs for development.
Specifically, the Report said this: “How jobs contribute to living standards, productivity, and social cohesion varies with a country’s level of development, its demography, its endowments, and its institutions. Jobs agendas are thus inherently country specific. By combining the various features of an economy, however, it is possible to build a typology of jobs challenges. It includes agrarian economies, conflict-affected countries, urbanising countries, resource-rich countries, small island nations, countries with high youth unemployment, formalising economies, and aging societies. Because the nature of the challenges varies, what makes a job good for development in one context may not be so relevant in another”.
You see, what the Report correctly acknowledges is that the creation of jobs is clearly one thing. What effects those new jobs will have on the economy and society is a completely different question but one that is decisive especially in the current global financial and economic environment where unemployment is significantly high and growing in many countries and economic growth rates are low in several instances and even negative in other cases.
Therefore, resolving the global jobs situation requires not only job-creation but also some dedicated efforts to ensure that the jobs made available are adequate to spur economic growth and development.
Otherwise, like the proverbial ostrich, Caribbean and other countries worldwide will continue to bury their heads in the sand while leaving critical elements of their economic growth and development strategies severely exposed!
(Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)