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Jobs We Can Do Without – Challenging the “jobs angle”

Link Blog | March 13, 2019

Jobs We Can Do Without – Challenging the “jobs angle”

Jobs are part of the fabric of a functioning society. They bring food to the family table, provide people with purpose and motivation and provide money which helps to oil the economy and the country. Yes, it’s extremely rare to hear anyone argue against maintaining or creating jobs, but I’m going to do it anyway. Often we hear controversial projects or enterprises championed on the basis of the employment they will provide to the local community and all the positive side effects that it brings. Just by mentioning this “jobs angle” proponents of a project seek to position those who oppose it as “anti jobs”. No matter the validity of counter arguments about how ethical, environmentally sound or desirable it is for a project or enterprise to go ahead, the “jobs angle” seems to be a trump card, and one used to great effect.

A number of years ago, a story in the US, based on an exposé by Oxfam America, claimed that workers in a poultry factory farm were resorting to wearing nappies as they were barred from taking toilet breaks by employers keen to crack the whip. Two things struck me about this story. 1. The indignity faced by those workers forced by fear of losing their jobs to degrade themselves and 2. the awful plight of the chickens, cramped in cages with no access to light or fresh air, whose circumstances were just as appalling. Like the term suggests, both are products of a factory mentality which is quite frankly harmful to economy and society. Only in America? Unfortunately not. Factory farming is spreading across the globe unchecked and it’s a threat to the rights of animals and workers. An Irish example was depicted on an episode of BBC’s Panorama entitled ‘THE DOG FACTORY’. The programme exposed the plight of dogs exploited in the so called Puppy Farm industry, an industry which employs people (albeit in relatively small numbers) around the country to keeps dogs in small cages and forces them to breed on demand. These things are happening in the 21st century!

In another example of the “jobs angle” being used to support something of questionable merit, we know that 2 peat fired power stations (which employs 100 people in the Midlands) are costing the state €115m to subsidise per year. These plants cost an exorbitant amount to subsidise, pollute the atmosphere, stop us from reaching climate change goals we have committed to and thus cost the state more money again! These subsidies also starve the renewables industry of the investment it needs and which has the potential to create many multiples of jobs compared to the peat burners.

Any situation can be argued for on the basis of the “jobs angle”, and no doubt, that can be a very persuasive argument. There is no doubt that Ireland needs to continue to provide employment opportunities, but a job isn’t “just a job” if it’s exploitative and degrading.Ordinary people can help by directing their hard earned money towards those businesses, and industries which will create good quality jobs.

Cormac Spencer


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