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The Impact of Social Justice Measures on Unemployment During the Pandemic

The Impact of Social Justice Measures on Unemployment During the Pandemic Economy Near Us (XXXIV)

The unemployment 

Currently, one of the worst employment crises is in full swing, as a result of the health crisis, with consequences for increasing poverty and therefore economic and social inequality. Just a few of the effects on the labour market include:

- Decreased employment, reduced number of hours worked, for those who kept their jobs;

- Poor chances for graduates and other new entrants into the labour force to secure a job or even a part-time job;

- The decrease in job supply from the dramatic decline in employment on the part of organizations (as we know, some temporary contracts of employees have not been renewed);

- According to new research, there will be a lifetime impact on income for those who began their working lives in this period.

The most affected sectors worldwide are tourism, hospitality, food services, retail and construction.

Studies show that almost half of the current workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods due to the current crisis. The most exposed are the informal workers who do not have access to social protection, healthcare or the means to work from home.

Today, for governments across the world, the first concern is coronavirus, and the second concern is unemployment. The highest levels of unemployment were recorded in the countries severely affected by the current pandemic. The “Great Reset” program represents a new commitment, globally, to build together the foundations of a new economic and social system for the post-COVID period. 

The labour market 

The current health crisis has led to a total transformation of the labour market. The most visible change is the move to a digital workplace where employers have had to prepare and enforce work-from-home policies.

It can be appreciated, even if we cannot anticipate the behaviour of employees and employers after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, that the permanent changes that the future labour market will experience may include:

  1. a) obtaining digital skills becomes a priority for as many people as possible, both through public work-from-home policies, as well as through the maintenance of the social distancing required by the current situation. People need to communicate and work on online platforms and to use electronic means of working;
  2. b) knowledge accumulation by using technologies based on online learning;
  3. c) increasing the capacity to adapt to flexible, temporary, independent jobs through platforms providing piecemeal work (a permanent job, with a motivating salary package and a certain daily routine could become a thing of the past);
  4. d) the new system of home work will be generalized and perpetuated in the coming period (this will lead to lower need for office spaces and their conversion, possibly, into living spaces that could solve, at least in part, the housing crisis or production spaces for the development of the economy by harnessing domestic resources);
  5. e) we can give the example of the crisis in the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, accommodation) which may lead to significant structural changes, through a change in the consumption behaviour of the population by adopting another lifestyle (such as a return of the preference for preparing food at home). 

Social justice measures 

Social justice has never been absent from the public debate on quality of life, the free society and the democratic functioning of such a society. While economists focus in particular on economic inequality measured as the distribution of income or wealth, policymakers should pay more attention to the issues of rules aimed at ensuring the avoidance of economic and social inequalities as a result of current unemployment.

The two basic types of social justice, namely, procedural social justice and results-based social justice, can remedy certain injustices of social origin. Thus, procedural social justice involves establishing the basic principles agreed by the parties when they “signed” the social contract, so that they certainly and always “deliver” fair results according to those principles. Results-based social justice involves providing a list of final results that the application of social justice must achieve. The rectitude of such a type of social justice can be assessed insofar as the results of its application are the right one (or not), so it is testable by natural experiment.

Another aspect of social justice is economic justice, which has the essential dimension of providing individuals with significant employment and employment opportunities, as well as the provision of fair rewards for their productive activities.

Social justice measures recently adopted by governments seeking to protect jobs include:

- providing incentives to employers to maintain employment levels;

- the adoption of measures to temporarily ban redundancies;

- national public policies to retain employees through short-term employment schemes;

- the granting of extended unemployment benefits to those made redundant, including the resolution of cases for those who would not have been eligible for unemployment insurance.

These have created a safety net for a wide range of disadvantaged people. Returning to the hard-hit sectors, such as the air transport sector, which is facing the shock of travel restrictions, social justice measures have been designed to emphasize social and environmental responsibility and encourage a long-term vision.

Last but not least, the issue of unemployment must be seen in terms of human capabilities (what people are actually able to do and to be). The ten types of capabilities formulated by Martha C. Nussbaum in her book “Frontiers of Justice” (life, bodily health, bodily integrity, sense, imagination and thought, emotions, practical reason, affiliation) refer to:

- being able to live with and towards others;

- to recognize and show concern for other human beings;

- to have the social bases of self-respect;

- to be able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others;

- being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants and the world of nature;

- play-in the sense of spontaneous interaction;

- control over one’s environment-both from the point of view political and material.

These have as essential dimension the possibility of individuals to exercise their initiative, to use their talents and be fairly rewarded for their efforts.

We conclude that the provision of adequate measures related to social justice, the cultivation of the skills that the post-COVID economy will require and provide jobs for, the improvement of the distribution of risk between the public and private sectors in a deteriorated labour market, call for social justice to be at the heart of last minute programs, as is the “Great Reset” program.

 

 
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OEconomica No. 1, 2016