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Full employment in a globalized economy: Senator Bellemare
September 1, 2016
OPINION
image Diane Bellemare
Diane Bellemare
Non-affiliated - (Quebec - Alma)

In a free and peaceful world, people need to be gainfully employed so they can participate in the creation of national wealth.

They should have the opportunity to improve their economic situation, and have the freedom and the economic independence to spend their money as they wish.

That’s why I argue we should start a national conversation about a policy of full employment.

Full employment is a term for an economic situation in which all labour resources are used most efficiently.

More broadly, it is about individual economic independence, freedom and opportunity. It is about economic security. It is about professional and social mobility. And it is about social inclusion.

For business, it is also about adaptation, flexibility and security.

The term itself may sound old-fashioned to economists, but in my view the concept is still very relevant today.

The economy, for instance, is increasingly globalized and each country has to adapt more and more quickly to economic changes.

As Barack Obama said so eloquently in the House of Commons in June, globalization and free trade are matters of fact. They are not ideological choices.

Because they are so entrenched, it is futile to fight against them. So we had better adapt. The pursuit of full employment makes this easier, because it helps to address the fear that walks hand-in-hand with change.

For example, a full employment strategy could include more active labour market measures like training programs, the sharing of work arrangements and wage subsidies.

It should also encompass an education- and skill-development strategy that promotes upward mobility and productivity growth. Federal-provincial collaboration is important for this to be able to occur.

A full employment strategy will not be easy to implement. Businesses and labour representatives have to incorporate the importance of full employment into their own strategies to promote flexibility and security. This social dialogue is of crucial importance.

Government, meanwhile, must commit to implementing full employment, pursuing it with as much vigour during periods of recession or slow growth as in periods of high growth.

To succeed, a full employment strategy should strive for high employment rates for all groups and all regions across the country. The unemployment rate, by itself, is no longer a sufficient indicator.

Promoting full employment requires a change in perspective for policy makers and a change in culture among interest groups in society.

It is a difficult task. But in my view, it could lead to a more resilient workforce, more productive businesses and an economy that can adapt to a swiftly-changing world.

It is time to start a national conversation about full employment.