When full employment is not enough

The unemployment rate in the UK is now one of the lowest (4.6 %) since the early 1970s. Even during the global boom of the mid -2000s, one did not witness such low rates of unemployment.

One could argue that the UK is experiencing full employment. Yet, when one looks at living standards from the perspective of real wages, a rather different – and disturbing – picture emerges. Real wages today are lower than they were in 2007. So, the average Briton is now poorer than she/he was ten years ago. Hence, a low unemployment rate does not signify full employment in a meaningful sense. Any job is not necessarily better than no job. What one needs are plentiful supply of good jobs that are productive and pays enough to escape poverty and meet ones material needs. Hence, as far back as 1964, the ILO adopted the convention (C.122) that ‘…each Member (state) shall declare and pursue, as a major goal, an active policy designed to promote full, productive and freely chosen employment.’

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