Jul 12, 2015

A Matter of Jobs

Early this week an article in the national press - in our financial paper, which is unapologerically right winged - revealed that an important part of young university students (this means those students aged 18 to 29 or so), would rather work in the public sector than the private sector. Does this come as a shock? Well, when you are set on trying to destroy the public sector, and paint it in the darkest of lights, it does. For several decades now, the public sector has been constantly shown as inefficient and dishonest. A rather neoliberal plan had been put in motion where different functions of this sector have been transfered to the private sphere, by cutting budgets to make sure it can be made by public institutions and means, and all the while presenting public employees as overpaid lazy people.Of course, many people have been placed for ages in different areas of the public sector who are, indeed, overpaid, incompetent and lazy.

The image of the private sector has also always been portraid as the one sphere where professionals can really grow, where there are chances and where those who really want a chance can get that chance. For ages now, the private sphere as been positioned as the place where you can be creative, where you can be the best you there is, and where - if you are good enough and work hard enough - you can become rich.

Of course this is all a sham, but it has taken years for people to realize that. Yes, there are lazy, overpaid people in the public sector, but so there are in the private sector. The difference is that in the public sector there's a chance to denounce them, while in the private sector there isn't. Truthfully, each company hires and fires whom they please. There's corruption in the public sector, but there's also in the private sector, with the difference that the same act, which would be a crime in the public sector, in the private is simply business, lobbying, and how things are done. There's no crime in it.

As this has become more and more evident, the new generations start seeing past the propaganda and into palpable, real differences, such as the stability and the better wages paid in the public sector, even to lower levels. CEOs can often be paid much better than the President, and many different bosses can pocket obscenely large amoounts of money, far more than the heads of many public institutions, but when it comes to the lower levels, to the "ants", as a friend of mine refers to us, the public ants can actually make a living from their wages, unlike their private sector counterparts. Public employees have stability, so they can invest in a home, studies and so on, without being afraid that at any moment their contract could be rescinded out of the whim of the company. Yes, because no matter how good you are, truth is that your contract often depends on the plans of the company that don't include you. Restructuring, downsizing, change of business, merger, etc.

In a world so ridden by economical crisis, with fear of default everywhere, freshly minted professionals, seek for something that would give them stability and an income that's enough to keep them afloat. Why wouldn't they? The short term thinking that for so long infected many, those who saw growth in job hopping, those who believed that specializing was death and knowing about everything was the future - thus often falling into the trap of always only knowing things marginally, or filling themselves with shallow knowlegde that would sufice for an introduction, bt not real development - they have been left behind. The future is no longer envisioned in brokering, as the ghost of Jerôme Kerviel still haunts many, and the uncertain plans to become a visionary with a company of one owns goes up in smoke at the sight of the hardships experienced in every market. We don't need to be in Greece or Puerto Rico to feel the strain.

The article tried still to tarnish the public sphere, rubbing under the nose of the reader how this sector was overpaid with "useless" pluses, such as anuality (a plus some public employees receive for each worked year), which is often mocked as "paid only because the Earth took another round around the Sun", ignoring the fact that it actually pays for the accumulated experience employees gain by staying in the given institution and working there, each day inevitably getting to know better the business they deal with. Many do fall for it, but some perhaps ask themselves why some companies are willing to pay bonuses based on how the company did, or give a fix number of shares for each finished cycle, and then many refuse to pay their workers for their loyalty, their staying, their accumulated experience and improved knowledge. Many private companies seem to build on a constantly rotating base of workers, job hoppers that constantly stay in the early stages of the learning curve, and move away before they could become real assets somewhere. It's an expensive strategy for the company, the constant costs of hiring and raining new workers, the costs of the mistakes of the newbies, and the added cost of severing contracts. It's expensive if you think of the money invested in the training that won't be fully reaped as the worker will leave before reaching a full status, where the worker knows the business of the company so well it starts producing more, finding new ways to do things and actually becoming the productive, creative people we've been told they could become.

For the worker also, well, job hopping can be done only for so long, as we all know that after some time, people become less appealing for hiring. Maybe at 20 you find it easier to adapt from one job to the next, but that's not the case when you are 35 or closer to 40. A large jumble of short term experiences might give you a plethora of little cases on a given field, or many given fields, but it will lack the depth needed to actually produce and create something of value. Today's youth maybe can see that, or so I wish to believe. As we have woken up to the decency of equal marriage, maybe we are also waking up to other truths, like there should be no battle between public and private sector, but more transparency, honesty and decency towards workers in every sector. We wake up from the opium dream and realize that jobs are not some hobby or a funky thing to be oportunistic with, to be shallow about, and that the future rests on our shoulders and not on "oh well, something always comes up".

This is a hopeful matter of jobs: we, as a society, are starting to see the light.

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