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Securing the Right to Employment

Securing the Right to Employment: Social Welfare Policy and the Unemployed in the United States

Philip Harvey
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Securing the Right to Employment
    Book Description:

    Basing his proposal on plans developed by New Deal social welfare administrators, Harvey analyzes the feasibility and desirability of using public sector job creation to secure a right to employment. He shows that such a policy would provide more effective relief from the problems of poverty and unemployment than do existing arrangements while permitting a major expansion in the production of public goods and services without increasing tax burdens. The economic side-effects and administrative problems associated with the policy are carefully explored and found manageable. Finally, the book concludes with an assessment of the political interests that stand in the way of policy initiatives like the one proposed.

    Originally published in 1989.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6056-2
    Subjects: Economics, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The right of all persons to a freely chosen job paying wages sufficient to support a dignified existence has been proclaimed in a number of international human rights agreements concluded since the Second World War.¹ In this country, however, the notion that the right to employment is indeed a human right—like freedom of speech, freedom of association, or the right to be protected from invidious racial discrimination—is likely to be met with some skepticism. We are accustomed to thinking of human rights as synonymous with constitutional rights. It is difficult for us to accept the idea that there...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Missing Leg of U.S. Social Welfare Policy
    (pp. 11-20)

    In formulating a strategy for securing the right to employment, the watershed question that has to be answered is whether it is reasonable to rely on macroeconomic policy alone to achieve full employment, or whether a policy of intentional job creation in the public sector is required. In the United States, at least, the historical record suggests that the latter approach is necessary.

    It is certainly not impossible for market economies to achieve full employment without intentional public sector hiring and to sustain such a condition for relatively long periods of time. We shall presently see that a number of...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Fiscal Feasibility of Providing Employment Assurance
    (pp. 21-50)

    The funding of a public employment program capable of providing jobs for all able-bodied persons unable to find work in the regular labor market would be enormously expensive, but the wages earned by the program’s employees would substitute for a broad range of cash and in-kind transfer payments for which such persons are currently eligible. To estimate the net additional cost of providing employment assurance to the nation’s labor force, it is therefore necessary to estimate not only the cost of providing the required jobs, but also the savings that would be realized by eliminating the income maintenance benefits that...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Combating Unemployment and Poverty
    (pp. 51-65)

    No policy response to the problem of unemployment is free of drawbacks. In assessing the effectiveness and desirability of an EAP jobs program, it is therefore important to remember the costs that unemployment itself imposes on society. The question that has to be answered is not whether a policy of providing employment assurance by means of deliberate public sector hiring would be free of negative side effects. It is whether the shortcomings of such a policy would be as severe as those associated with the existing policy regime.

    In other words, we need to consider not only whether an EAP...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Economic Side Effects of an EAP Jobs Program
    (pp. 66-78)

    In the previous chapter’s discussion of the effectiveness of an EAP jobs program in combating unemployment and poverty, I did not take into consideration the possible economic side effects of the program. These could include general changes in wage and employment levels, both micro and macroeconomic efficiency effects, and the possibility of increased inflation.

    If individuals could freely choose between EAP-funded jobs and those available in the regular labor market, one obvious result would be effectively to extend the protection of the federal minimum wage statute to workers who are either not covered by the statute or who are paid...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Administrative Problems and Opportunities
    (pp. 79-98)

    The establishment of an EAP jobs program would pose a number of difficult administrative problems. Some of these would flow from the sheer size of the program. In 1985, for example, I have estimated that the program’s budget would have been five times as great as that of the U.S. Postal Service, and it would have employed fourteen times as many people.¹ Any government program of that size would be difficult to administer.

    In considering the administrative problems associated with the operation of an EAP jobs program, however, it must be kept in mind that such a program would also...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Political Problems
    (pp. 99-117)

    Thus far I have drawn encouraging conclusions regarding both the fiscal feasibility of an EAP jobs program and its desirability as a policy response to the problems of poverty and unemployment in the United States. I have further argued that neither the economic side effects nor the administrative problems likely to be associated with such a program offer a convincing case against its deployment. Indeed, my analysis of the indirect effects of an EAP jobs program and of the administrative opportunities it would present has suggested further grounds for favoring the idea. Why then has a policy of providing employment...

  12. Appendix: Sources and Assumptions for Tabular Data
    (pp. 118-126)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 127-142)
  14. Index
    (pp. 143-146)