We want jobs! Not only is one of the cries of the Puerta del Sol, in Madrid, these days, is the cry of many Africans who, though grateful for the aid sent to them, what they really want is a job. Want to be able to earn their living with their effort and being dignified by providing useful services for their citizens. Well, what we all want.
In fact, a Gallup poll in sub-Saharan Africa says what people want, over issues such as education or reduction of malaria, is that the creation of jobs especially for young people.
And we have learned that when there are crisis, the jobs shrink , but when the good years come there is not always work for everyone. So the only important thing is not only to grow, but how to grow. This should be a priority for governments in the South (and northern governments when support).
Here is an example. A city like Nairobi needs a good garbage collection system. Let’s say, to put it simple, there are two ways to put that system in place. One is the traditional, small trucks and workers picking up trash, stacking, entering the narrow streets, loading it into trucks and then emptying them in the trash. The second, more common for our readers, putting a sophisticated collection trucks with one driver each, filling the city with collecting containers, very western style, if I may say so.
It is clear that the second style is sexier, more modern and even could look cheaper. But regardless of whether it is a suitable system for a city where many streets are impassable, the idea hides terrible two terrible assumptions: creating jobs is not important, or at least not the priority, and jobs are not economically efficient.
This last point, if you stick to a strict economic analysis, it may be true in places like Tokyo or Barcelona, where wages may be comparatively more expensive than capital, but definitely not the case of Nairobi or Lagos cities, where employment is very cheap because there are a lot of manpower.
The first is evil in itself and is guilty of a desire for modernity that has more to do with pretending that with the welfare of citizens. But there’s more: who is interested in selling these trucks, containers, spare parts and technology to Nairobi? Coincidentally companies always in rich countries like Japan, with loans they say are development aid.
Not only it is immoral not to create jobs when you can do, but in this context, to create those jobs makes the system cheaper and more efficient, it generates a lot of social welfare wages and wealth are distributed and it is certainly much more difficult to fall into corrupt practices.
(This entry was posted -in its spanish version – on the Blog 3500Millones in El Pais on 25/05/11 as part of my collaboration with this Blog)