People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 9

March 08, 2009


Unemployment: Sword of Damocles on whose neck next?

G Mamatha

IN recession times, no one thinks too far, it seems; or so said my friends in the service sector. Nobody knows on whose neck the Sword of Damocles will fall next. One of my friends was telling me that in the company (till yesterday, she did not agree to call it as such, but took pride in calling it a firm) she is working, three of her colleagues who regularly come together to work were not found from the afternoon. After reaching home, a little surprised by their mysterious absence, she called them up, only to know that their boss had called them to 'reward their services' with the dreaded pink slip. Aware of my Left leanings, she had a parody ready for me: 'The spectre of unemployment is haunting the entire world'.

How true she is! As one wakes to a new morning, one is filled with uncertainty - am I still working or kicked out. This insecurity is all pervading. Unemployment, the most agonizing of traumas is showing its affects on the people.

Just a few days back one of the newspapers wrote about the impact of the financial crisis and job losses in the Hi-tech city in Hyderabad. It seems that a engineering graduate who thought it prudent to run a catering business and earned nearly Rs 75,000 per month after expenses, is now reeling under the affects of recession as his clients have abruptly terminated his contract. 'Many eateries in that place have closed shop' the report states. Even florists lost business. So did hair stylists. So, the unemployment octopus is leaving nobody untouched and is spreading its tentacles far and wide.

A recent report of the PTI states that with every one minute ticking, companies across the world are terminating on an average five people. The statistics of unemployment in the US - the epicentre of the crisis - are always revised and every time in only one way - upwards. In a single month of this February, more than 694,000 jobs were lost in the US alone.

NRIs staying in countries and societies far-off from their near and dear ones are under tremendous stress. Neither are they assured of their jobs nor are they having the support system to share their agonies. Many a pathetic stories are emerging from abroad. This is specially true for those who had gone to the Gulf and are forced to return now as they are no longer required there. According to the central government, about 20,000 Indians have returned home after losing their jobs overseas due to the global economic crisis. A recent US study states that 100,000 Indians will return from US in the next three to five years.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently predicted that global unemployment could rise by more than 50 million and leave more than 7 percent of the world’s labour force without a job by the end of 2009. No wonder close to 10 million jobs were lost during 2008. A whopping 85,000 job cuts were announced on a single day on January 26, 2009 alone! The ILO’s report suggests that many firms are using the recession as a means to both reduce the number of workers, and to make those who remain, work harder for less money. ILO predicts that the number of people in “working poverty”, those earning less than $2 a day, could rise to 45 percent of all workers by the end of 2009.

In India, 5 lakh people lost jobs in the last five months, according to the government. The sectors, which have been most affected are gems and jewellery, leather, textile, handloom, carpets and handicrafts.

Too many numbers isn't it? But remember behind every number there is a person and a family; there are hardships and tragedies; collapsed dreams and lost hopes. Remember our fingers and toes are not enough to count the number of people who have lost their jobs within the time span we took to read this paper and put it down with a deep sigh.

When the tragedy thus is so big what should our role be? Confine ourselves to that deep sigh with the happiness that we were not affected? Who knows if we don't take these numbers seriously and understand the politics behind them, we too might become those very numbers! Can we expect somebody else to cry for us if we don't cry for others? In recession times, we should not only think about today but also about tomorrow.

Remember it is profit that is responsible to the present day mess. Yes the same profit that doesn't pay our labour's value. It is the greed of capital that is responsible. Yes the same greed that is responsible for the Satyam-Maytas scam and all those that preceded them. These evils that are sucking our life and blood are systemic. To fight them, it is not sufficient to hurl abuses and throw stones. The roots have to be attacked. The policies of neo-liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation have to be attacked. Ah! elections are round the corner. So a chance once again to teach the perpetrators of these polices a lesson. Don't miss it, lest...