Progress Report on GEC

Project leaders: Garry Jacobs & Ivo Šlaus


The Academy’s research on theory and policies for achieving full employment originated with the work of the International Commission on Peace Food (ICPF) in the early 1990s, which published as a report to the UN entitled Uncommon Opportunities: Agenda for Peace & Equitable Development. Former World Academy President Harlan Cleveland was associated with the last phase of ICPF’s work and judged the best of the commission reports thus far published. He particularly appreciated the Commission’s original work on employment, including the first sketchy outlines of a social theory of employment and a project in India coordinated by Garry Jacobs, Member Secretary of ICPF), which formulated a strategy to generate 100 million jobs in 10 years to achieve full employment, which was officially adopted by the Indian Government for implementation in 1992.

On Harlan’s initiative, ICPF’s report was released for the first time at the WAAS GA in Minneapolis in 1994 and distributed to all Fellows. During 1995-6, Harlan and Magda McHale organized an Academy workshop on the Future of Work in Buffalo and another in Minneapolis.

On a separate line of development, Club of Rome published a report by WAAS Fellows Orio Giarini and Patrick Liedtke in 1996 entitled The Employment Dilemma and the Future of Work, exploring important social dimensions of work in economically advanced nations and the potentials generated by evolution of the service sector. WAAS conducted a plenary session on employment at the Zagreb GA in 2005 in which Ivo slaus and Garry Jacobs discussed complementary aspects of this issue. A workshop was also organized by Ivo at Zagreb in 2007 in which emphasis was placed on the critical importance of addressing the employment challenge.

Global Employment Challenge conference

The GEC project began with an e-conference from Oct 2009 through February 2010. This was a new experience for WAAS, an experiment to assess the potential of the electronic media for bringing people together across time zones for meaningful exploratory discussions. About 40 people participated by contributing papers, presentations, and comments, including an important paper by Winston on the legal basis for the right to employment and several papers by Ashok Natarajan. Five two-hour webcasts were conducted with eminent speakers on different aspects of the issue: Randall Wray of Kansas on public job work programs in industrialized countries which coincided with the US stimulus package; Fellow Gunter Pauli on entrepreneurial opportunities to create 100 million jobs; Fellow Bernard Lietaer on a financial strategy to augment employment; Rania Antonopoulos on employment guarantee policies in developing countries; and Jesus Felipe of Asian Development Bank on inclusive growth strategies. Three of these participants were drawn from outside the Academy, illustrating how this format can be used to attract and interact with external resources and explore the potential for future collaborations.

There was a consensus of the conference participants that the issue of employment transcends the disciplinary bounds of economics and necessitates a multidisciplinary approach that also takes into account political, legal, social, technological, ecological and psychological factors. Specific emphasis was placed on the essential role of employment in modern economic democracy and the need for recognition of employment as a fundamental human right.

Further Steps:

A year after the conference, employment emerged as one of the most pressing and contentious issues facing humanity today. Formal work on this project was suspended in May 2010 due to paralysis of the old Board and impeded in 2011 by pressing work on the governance of WAAS. Ivo Šlaus then took over as co-chair in 2010 and played a key role in further development of the project.

In May 2010, Ivo Slaus and Garry Jacobs met with WAAS Fellow Ivo Josipovic, President of Croatia and others in Zagreb, to explore the possibility of taking Croatia as a pilot project for creating full employment.

In October 2010, an article by Winston Nagan “Human Rights and Employment” and a summary of the findings of the GEC “Theory and Strategies for Full Employment” by Ashok Natarajan were published in Cadmus issue 1.

In November 2010, Ivo Slaus and Garry Jacobs were invited to present a paper on “Prospects for Full Employment” at a Club of Rome conference in Bern.

With the help of current Board member Maria da Graça Carvalho, in January 2011, Ivo Slaus, Ian Johnson (Sec. Gen. of Club of Rome) and Garry Jacobs met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the possible collaboration between WAAS and the EU on this issue.

On arrangements by President Barroso, the three of them met in late February with Jean-Claude Thebault, Director General of the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA).

A few days later Ivo and Garry also met with Jose M. Salazar-Xirinachs, Director General of Employment at ILO in Geneva, who enthusiastically appreciated the approach and expressed interest in collaboration.

Between meetings, Garry and Ivo met several times and exchanged emails with Ian Johnson, Orio and Fellow Patrick Liedtke regarding refinement of our approach to the employment issue. Ian was enthusiastic and proposed placing this issue on the Club of Rome agenda so that WAAS and CoR could formally collaborate on it. The project leaders were unable to pursue any of these discussions from March through August due to the demands of the constitutional crisis at WAAS, the referendum, elections, board and lawsuit.

An article by Garry and Ivo on “Prospects for Full Employment”, another by Patrick on “Capital Needs Labour” and an editorial on “Full Employment Policy” were included in the May 2011 issue of Cadmus. Following that in October 2011, Club of Rome published a shorter version of the paper by Garry and Ivo as the second in its new series of discussion papers. A article, “Global Employment Challenge”, was published by Patrick in the Sept 2011 issue of Four Pillars newsletter brought out by the Geneva Association.

From these discussions emerged the realization that research on employment has been primarily confined to national level projects and models. There is presently no valid theory or model for employment at the global level. Ivo proposed the idea of collaborating with CoR to prepare a report on this subject. In late September 2011, Ivo, Ian, Orio and Garry met in Dubrovnik and spent one and a half days discussing a collaborative project to develop a Global Employment Model – a parallel to the Club’s original work developing a first rough model relating economy and environment.

Like climate change, the challenge of unemployment has become global and requires a wider understanding of the multiple factors affecting job creation and retention, including trade, demography, aging, migration, technological development, tax policies, Internet, global sourcing, production strategies, outsourcing, resource depletion, etc. The notion of regional and global economies raised during the Forum on “Impact of Science and Technology on Society and Economy” held in March 2013 at Trieste has direct relevance to the Euro zone and EU.

WAAS is currently discussing proposals to test new approaches to Full Employment with Italy and Romania.

WAAS focused on formulation of suitable strategies to reduce the rising levels of unemployment in 2013-2014. Emphasis was placed on understanding the impact of international factors on national employment markets. WAAS organised an international conference on “Opportunities & Challenges for the 21st Century: Need for a New Paradigm” at the United Nations in Geneva on June 3, 2013 and a conference of the Club of Rome in Ottawa on September 19-20, 2013, focusing on the need for full employment in the society, among other issues. 

On July 1, 2014 the World Academy of Art & Science and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Bosnia Herzegovina conducted a high level international conference in the main Parliament assembly hall at Sarajevo on “Conference on Employment Growth – On A Road to Recovery”. The conference was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of BiH. In addition to representatives of WAAS, speakers included representatives from the European Union, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, International Labor Organization, and USAID. The conference highlighted successful models from neighboring countries, success stories drawn from different sectors of BiH, and innovative strategies for rapidly expanding job creation. The overall conclusion of the conference was that with a comprehensive strategy backed by sufficient political will, full employment in BiH is an achievable goal.

Global Employment Challenge

Employment is the economic equivalent of the right to vote in democracy. Without access to employment opportunities, citizensare deprived of the essential condition for survival and well-being. This was one conclusion of the Academy’s highly successful, multidisciplinary e-conference on the Global Employment Challenge which examined the economic, political, legal, social, technological, ecological and psychological factors impacting on job creation.

After presenting the conclusions of the GEC at a Club of Rome conference in Bern late last year, WAAS has been exploring fresh insights into a comprehensive social theory of employment in collaboration with Ian Johnson, the Club’s Secretary General. Their conclusions have been published as a series of articles in recent issues of Cadmus by Fellows Winston Nagan, Ashok Natarajan, Garry Jacobs, Ivo Šlaus, and Patrick Liedtke. In addition, WAAS has had discussions with the European Commission and ILO to explore the potential for collaboration to evolve fresh strategies to address this crucial issue.

A remarkable fact emerged during a session on “Creating Sustainable Work” at the Delhi GA, in which Orio Giarini, Ivo and Garry were speakers. In spite of the challenges posed by the population explosion, automation and globalization, employment growth has, over the past six decades, outpaced rapid population growth. This fact suggests that the short term gloom generated by the recent financial crisis and global recession need not result in a perpetual job crisis, provided countries act decisively to remove the destabilizing and destructive impact of unregulated financial speculation. Introduction of a Tobin Tax on international financial transfers can be an effective means to redirect a portion of the 216 trillion dollars in global financial assets into productive investments in the real economy.

Three conclusions seem inescapable. First, high levels of unemployment, especially youth unemployment, are incompatible with national and global peace and social stability. Second, the social costs of high levels of unemployment in terms of rising levels of welfare expenditure, crime, violence and terrorism are greater than investments needed to remove this scourge. Third, a permanent solution requires recognition of employment as a fundamental human right and the restructuring of economic policies to maximize human welfare.