In the executive summary of the report on delivering full employment that Howard Reed and I have written for the CLASS think tank we argue that there are at least five good reasons for tackling unemployment and seeking full employment:
There is no doubt that Beveridge saw idleness as the curse of unemployment that had afflicted so many in the 1930s. The cure to idleness was work, and Beveridge believed that the state should make sure work was available for all who wanted it. His thinking was clearly a product of his era. Writing in 1942 he was influenced by the war, but he was also heavily influenced by the thinking of Keynes. Beveridge accepted Keynes’ logic and believed that a government could and should tackle this issue to ensure full employment was achieved.
A Social State for 2015 has to be built upon a series of assumptions:
1. That those who would wish to work and who are denied the opportunity to do so are prejudiced against as a result;
2. Leaving people unemployed when they could be and want to be working is economically irresponsible;
3. The vast majority of people who are unemployed have to be fed, housed, clothed, educated and be provided with health care and other services when unemployed. As such unemployment has a double cost to society; the unemployed person is maintained and yet makes no direct contribution to economic well being within the economy whilst society suffers the social consequences of the idleness it has imposed;
4. The inequality of economic treatment between those in and out of work imposes a social cost both on those suffering the impact of that inequality directly and on society at large;
5. Unemployment denies people the chance to fulfil their potential, at least part of which is realised for most people through the process of work. This imposes costs beyond the lost value of economic output.
For these reasons we believe it makes economic, environmental, social and medical sense to tackle unemployment whilst equity, justice and social harmony are also enhanced.
We believe these are sufficient rasons in themselves for a policy of full employment for all who want it to be the highest priority for any government.
The rest of the paper explains how we think that can be delivered.