employment sector (ÖBS *)
The dominant practice of the employment market is to promote precarious forms of employment such as fixed-term contracts, minimum wages and part-time work. This is because policy is motivated exclusively by economic factors in relation to the market. As such, only two ways of dealing with unemployment are acknowledged: either an acceptance of long-term mass unemployment, which can't be financially sustained, or the creation of sectors in which the unemployed function as a kind of modern-day 'casual labour', though this will in the long-term destroy the fabric of society.
But totally new perspectives
open up if one steps back from the sphere of market-controlled options, takes an overview,
and sees the absurdity of the simultaneous existence of a surplus and a shortage of
employment. At a time when production is becoming less labour-intensive, activities
outside of market structures are on the increase, and these can't be measured in monetary
terms. They are the activities which build and sustain communities, increase society's
creativity, and secure social bonds that are otherwise undermined by increasing market
'The public sector'
means more than 'public services'
The concept of a publicly-supported employment service does not set out to be an alternative concept to the existing public services; indeed it is based on the effectiveness of the latter. But we think it wrong to equate public services with the public sector. The public sector is as distinct an area of society as the state sector is from the private sector, and it is of course far greater. Its domain encompasses all not-for-profit organisations such as charities, church organisations and foundations, and a number of independent projects. All of these are founded on public funding and serve public needs.
In Germany, the establishment of this style of public sector was accelerated through state subsidies with which church organisations, in particular, laid claim to the area between the private and state sectors. The churches' social organisations, then independent co-operative organisations, followed by labour movement organisations and civil charities and finally, social insurance providers, all came together to become what is today the public sector.
This so-called 'sector' between the state and the private sectors is not only an economic sector but also a manifestation of civil society organising itself independently. The state is not released from its responsibilities, but doesn't have to fulfil its responsibilities entirely alone (as Dahrendorf pointed out). Considering all this, there can be no hiding the fact that the public sector was set up with a variety of contradictory political motives. Quite a number of the big providers are on conservative lines, have internal power struggles, or are far-removed from democratic and civil rights principles. Christian providers usually deny democratic participation to their employees and some of the non-profit organisations resemble feudal hierarchies.
The 'non-profit' label
doesn't always spell 'community spirit'
While these characteristics clearly differentiate non-profit organisations from the state sector, their single difference from the private sector is in the fact that they should not seek to make any profit. The last of the listed characteristics - having volunteer workers and receiving private donations - is not a hard-and-fast condition for non-profit organisations. Under the umbrella of the 'third sector', there is to be found a variety of widely differing organisations with sometimes contradictory objectives. The spectrum is so broad that it embraces organisations ranging from a Texan millionaire's golf club to a charity soup kitchen in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. At the one end of the spectrum one finds charitable and social organisations motivated by social justice, and at the other end, organisations for the privileged which have quite often been founded either for tax reasons or for an elite to indulge in some luxury leisure activity.
Two contrary tendencies can be presumed to be responsible for the massive expansion of the non-profit sector. On the one hand, social divisions lead to an increase in social charities, above all in Western European societies. On the other hand, either the failure of the state sector or a reduction in public services will cause the middle classes to organize their own service-structures. According to the researchers, 'one possible interpretation is that a decrease in the non-profit sector will be proportionate to an increase in the state's social welfare system.'3 The overall picture may be more complex, but privatisation and the reduction of state services could be a decisive factor in an increasing 'third sector'. So, we should be sceptical when the non-profit sector is described as paving the way for a socio-ecological restructuring of work. On the contrary, the increase in the non-profit sector could just as easily be interpreted as the consequence of privatisation and of the 'slimming-down' of the state sector. Therefore, an equation between the publicly-supported employment sector and the non-profit sector is totally unusable as a description of the former.
ÖBS - more than just
an employment sector
A problem arises from the paradox that the ÖBS will not be a 'new' entity, since it will develop within existing structures, and yet these social enterprises and employment organisations are meant, themselves, to develop into a new and clearly-defined sector. The diversity of providers and organisational structures is not necessarily going to be the biggest problem, because this can become an opportunity for a creative learning process. The real problem will be the development of shared objectives, common development principles and supportive structures. A public sector, which should provide more than just employment and prioritises its commitment to socio-political aims, must have a reliably comprehensive perception of social problems, comprehensive development strategies and some kind of all-embracing organisational structure. Apart from effective support structures, the OeBS needs a new legal framework. We are, in effect, dealing with a sector which is positioned between, and has a relationship with, the state and private sectors, but cannot function according to the legislation which applies to either of them.
Besides the material
conditions that are necessary for the development of a publicly-supported employment
sector, one should also consider the social psychology by which any planned project or new
arrangement would be viewed as merely a temporary provision. We think it important to end
the irritating discussion of the difference between the First and Second Labour Markets.
The constant erosion of employment in the so-called First Labour Market also erodes the
differences between the two markets. At best the two markets can only be described as
subdivisions of what they were, distinguishable from one another only by their providers -
be they private, public or charitable (hence offering differing employment conditions).
What is needed is a differentiation between labour markets according to which economic
sector they fall into rather than types of employment. Since private and public providers
have both been relying on state support in order to access the employment market, the
First and Second Markets can hardly be differentiated from one another any more.
Unfortunately it has to be admitted that the Second Labour Market has disappeared - not
through becoming a normal labour market, but due to the absorption of its unconventional
employment structures into the First Labour Market.
The difficulty of merging the existing structures of independent projects and charitable organisations will be, first, to make the afore-mentioned purpose a shared goal; second, to develop the necessary structures; and third, to raise public consciousness about this far-reaching mission and have it adopted in party manifestos. Public acceptance and political support will be as hard to achieve as the necessary change in thinking among providers. Their activity in the employment scene is currently so focussed on after-care politics, in other words, the employment of 'problem cases', plus companies' exploitation of their support mechanisms, that social idealism is marginalized.
The five previously-cited characteristics of the Third Sector (formulated by the 'Johns Hopkins Comparative Non-profit Sector Project'), provide a basis from which principles can be developed for the realisation of a publicly-supported employment sector (OeBS). Most of these characteristics taken from the study of the Third Sector should be applied to an OeBS, such as the requirement of a constitution, independence, and the refusal to pay out profits. But in addition to these, further characteristics need to be formulated in order to precisely define the OeBS's charitable nature and to emphasise its social objectives. Projects of the OeBS should:
Excerpt from the paper 'Die Sackgassen der Arbeitsmarktpolitik und ein Ausbruchsversuch' in Katrin Andruschow (ed.) Ganze Arbeit. Feministische Spurensuche in der Non-Profit-Oekonomie (Edition Sigma, Berlin, 2001)
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