Editorial: Having a job is people's basic right

By Doug Laing


Don't just sit there - do something.

Nothing better to start a good verbal stoush than mention the word "unemployment."

Guaranteed to bring the beneficiary-basher out in force, and just as guaranteed to bring out an argument where just about everyone seems to miss the point.

And the point is that one way or another, the world does owe its people a living. We have known this since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Articles 22 and 23 are fairly self-explanatory, that "everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security" and "everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."

Perhaps we've known much longer, since the Caesar Trajan anointed the Roman Empire with his own brand of social welfare almost two millennia ago.

The modern response to this issue is somewhat like that which befell poor Oliver Twist after he uttered those famous words: "Please, Sir, I want some more."

Such a tortuous road, where despite society's general commitment, Olly was at the behest of a range of disparate forces, many with very little thought for the poverty of the young man, other than to play good off against bad, and bad off against good, using Olly as the ping-pong ball.

The point was missed at the outset, for Oliver Twist was telling what he wanted, not asking, as such has been so misquoted ever since, apparently for the good of teaching children even more manners. He didn't say "May I have some more?" nor "Can I have some more?" "Please, Sir" was as far as he would go.

How history might have changed if Mrs Mann, Mr Bumble, Mr Limbkins, the chimney sweep, Mr Sowerberry, Noah Claypole, Charlotte, Jack Dawkins, Fagin, Charley Bates, Mr Brownlow, Mrs Bedwin, Nancy, Bill Sikes, Miss Rose, Mrs Maylie, Monks, Ms Corney, and indeed Oliver, were brought together to resolve the one problematic issue that seemed to consume them all. To wit, Oliver's tummy, or more generally, the poverty of his plight, and that of some of the players in the life around him. After all, they were all trying to do something about it, weren't they?

Roll on the year 2012, with it such mines of information as the Department of Statistics, and we find out that 10,200 of an employable age in the Gisborne-Hawke's Bay region have no employment, at least none that the research had uncovered.

Unlike Charles Dickens, the figures tell only part of the story, and we are left to imagine what is behind each one of that appalling number.

Indeed, what is in front of each of that appalling number? Who is it that will do something about it, and why?

- Hawkes Bay Today

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