Pakatan Harapan will keep its pledge to create a million jobs. This is an idea that keeps repeating itself like a bad burrito.
And apologies, but a government job guarantee, the idea that the government should just create a job for anyone who hasn’t got one and wants one, really is a terrible idea.
If we have to have government insistence to get people to do something then it’s probably not adding that value.
The other view is that every entrepreneur who lusts for profits in the country is just too dumb to work out how much labour is needed to make or save money.
And in this day of spreadsheets, that’s a really hard sell to make.
It all falls over at two points – the first is that labour simply isn’t homogeneous these days, which leads to the second, well, which jobs?
And we know very well that the government cannot in fact, in an economy as complex as ours, decide what should be made and by whom. We have tried that and it just didn’t work.
Here’s what actually happens. The government runs a series of economic plans, we can call them infrastructure plans if we wish around the country.
They are based on the ability to use unskilled manual labour to build something useful, some highways, hospitals, that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, this is not the creation of self-sustaining private sector jobs which is lowering the unemployment rate.
It’s the creation of government make work jobs in return for sustenance during periods of unemployment which is happening.
It’s just not quite what we would more generally call solving the unemployment problem. It’s dealing with unemployment rather than solving it.
Moreover we really don’t have something called “labour” these days. We’ve individual collections of human capital and people employ them and their labour together.
But there’re pretty much no tasks left in our society that need a strong back and no training beyond normal human experience.
Thus we really cannot just employ labour in the tens or hundreds of thousands by saying “Get that done”.
The answer to that is always going to be that the government can plan which jobs people need to be trained for.
And the answer there is no, it can’t. As I said, we’ve tried this, we call it the 20th century. Half the world went off down the route of planned economies where government did decide what was built, what was done, by whom and at what wage.
What we actually want is someone to come up with a plan that doesn’t create new jobs, one that doesn’t cause us losses elsewhere.
We actually want people to be boasting about how their plan destroys jobs, want what no man has yet done.
Let’s say, e-commerce. We’ve, however, got here an insistence that it is creating more jobs than it is destroying. If that’s so, with the same production being done, then we’re getting poorer? No. So, what gives here?
It’s not that e-commerce jobs are directly replacing traditional retail jobs. Rather, I would describe a world in which some of what I call “unpaid household labour” that we all do when we drive to the mall, park, shop and bring the goods home has been transferred into the labour market.
That’s great. Relieving us of some activities from unpaid household labour to market labour increases the specialisation possibility and potentially make us wealthier.
If we were correct that its benefits rise with the number of jobs it creates, then an even better system of delivery would be rickshaws, for they require one worker for every package, anyone?
No, I’m not saying that the creation of jobs is a sign of a successful technology. In fact, technological advancement is the story of the destruction of jobs.
We don’t want the Internet to be a job creation engine. We want, desire, we implore in fact, new technologies to be job destroyers.
That way we can get the products and services we desire with the use of less labour. And that in turn means that now excess labour can go off and do something entirely different, maybe childcare?
We cannot say there’s nothing for people to do either. We’ve been automating and killing jobs for 250 years now and there are more jobs than ever.
It’s also true that there are unmet human desires and wants out there, so there’s no theoretical reason why people shouldn’t find something else to do.
I don’t doubt their numbers (one million jobs) for a moment. It’s the implication of what they’re saying which is so wrong.
Now of course a politician would never dare to say it, but then you know, this is all just politics, what do you expect?
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.