Letter: Remedies for unemployment: community work and shared sacrifice

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The Independent Online
Sir: The remedies you propose for unemployment (leading article, 19 February) are sensible. But there are aspects of the national situation which would surely strike a Martian as bizarre. First of all, there is manifestly a great deal of work in terms of the environment and personal services which needs to be done.

Second, while more than 3 million people and their families are suffering the economic and psychological damage of being out of work, another substantial part of the population is under greater strain and stress than ever before. People in education, social work, local government and the Civil Service, junior hospital doctors and, no doubt, other groups about which I happen to know less, are working excessively long hours in order to cope with the escalating quantity and complexity of what is being required of them. The quality of their lives is suffering, and many who ought to have much to contribute are looking for ways to get out.

This suggests to me that it is not just the problem of unemployment we should be looking at, but the whole concept of work. Would you not add to your agenda for government action the facilitation and encouragement of part-time employment, home-based work, job-share schemes, early retirement for all, workers' rights to paid educational leave or unpaid sabbaticals, recognition for certain forms of voluntary service and the like?

Such arrangements may not be immediately popular with management, since they create some additional problems as well as benefits, or with the representatives of those who are in work, since they may reduce their power and their members' standards of living, at least in the short term. But does not a rational approach to our current difficulties require this wider perspective? It might also help to make us a more integrated and healthy society.

Yours faithfully,

GORDON MACINTYRE

Hillsborough, Co Down

19 February

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