Publications on Job guarantee
One-Pager No. 55 | May 2018The job guarantee (JG) is finally getting the public debate it deserves, according to Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and criticism is expected. Following the Levy Institute’s latest report analyzing the economic impact of a JG proposal and providing a blueprint for its implementation, Tcherneva responds to alarmist claims that the JG is (1) an expensive big-government takeover, (2) unproductive and impossible to manage, (3) dangerously disruptive to the private sector, and (4) inflationary.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2018/3 | May 2018The idea of a universal job guarantee (JG) policy for the United States has become the subject of renewed public debate due to a number of high-profile political endorsements. L. Randall Wray recently coauthored a report that presented a JG proposal—the Public Service Employment program—along with estimates of the economic impact of the plan. However, several other variants have been proposed and/or endorsed. In this policy note, Wray seeks to establish common ground among the major JG plans and provides an initial response to critics.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Reports, April 2018 | April 2018Despite reports of a healthy US labor market, millions of Americans remain unemployed and underemployed, or have simply given up looking for work. It is a problem that plagues our economy in good times and in bad—there are never enough jobs available for all who want to work. L. Randall Wray, Flavia Dantas, Scott Fullwiler, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, and Stephanie A. Kelton examine the impact of a new “job guarantee” proposal that would seek to eliminate involuntary unemployment by directly creating jobs in the communities where they are needed.
The authors propose the creation of a Public Service Employment (PSE) program that would offer a job at a living wage to all who are ready and willing to work. Federally funded but with a decentralized administration, the PSE program would pay $15 per hour and offer a basic package of benefits. This report simulates the economic impact over a ten-year period of implementing the PSE program beginning in 2018Q1.
Unemployment, hidden and official, with all of its attendant social harms, is a policy choice. The results in this report lend more weight to the argument that it is a policy choice we need no longer tolerate. True full employment is both achievable and sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 902 | April 2018
Design, Jobs, and ImplementationThe job guarantee (JG) is a public option for jobs. It is a permanent, federally funded, and locally administered program that supplies voluntary employment opportunities on demand for all who are ready and willing to work at a living wage. While it is first and foremost a jobs program, it has the potential to be transformative by advancing the public purpose and improving working conditions, people’s everyday lives, and the economy as a whole.
This working paper provides a blueprint for operationalizing the proposal. It addresses frequently asked questions and common concerns. It begins by outlining some of the core propositions in the existing literature that have motivated the JG proposal. These propositions suggest specific design and implementation features. (Some questions are answered in greater detail in appendix III). The paper presents the core objectives and expected benefits of the program, and suggests an institutional structure, funding mechanism, and project design and administration.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Policy Note 2018/2 | March 2018Amid a recent upsurge in support for a national job guarantee program, L. Randall Wray, Stephanie A. Kelton, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, and Flavia Dantas outline a new proposal for a federally funded program with decentralized administration. Their Public Service Employment (PSE) program would offer a job—paying a uniform living wage with a basic benefits package—to all who are ready and willing to work. In advance of an upcoming report detailing the economic impact of the PSE, this policy note presents an overview of the goals and structure of the program in the context of current labor market trends and the prospects of poverty reduction.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 895 | August 2017This paper examines two key aspects of unemployment—its propagation mechanism and socioeconomic costs. It identifies a key feature of this macroeconomic phenomenon: it behaves like a disease. A detailed assessment of the transmission mechanism and the existing pecuniary and nonpecuniary costs of unemployment suggests a fundamental shift in the policy responses to tackling joblessness. To stem the contagion effect and its outsized social and economic impact, fiscal policy can be designed around two criteria for successful disease intervention—preparedness and prevention. The paper examines how a job guarantee proposal uniquely meets those two requirements. It is a policy response whose merits include much more than its macroeconomic stabilization features, as discussed in the literature. It is, in a sense, a method of inoculation against the vile effects of unemployment. The paper discusses several preventative features of the program.
Public Policy Brief No. 142, 2017 | February 2017
Flavia Dantas and L. Randall Wray argue that the emerging conventional wisdom—that the US economy has reached full employment—is flawed. The unemployment rate is not providing an accurate picture of the health of the labor market, and the common narrative attributing shrinking labor force engagement to aging demographics is overstated. Instead, falling prime-age participation rates are the symptom of a structural inadequacy of aggregate demand—a problem of insufficient job creation and stagnant incomes that conventional public policy remedies have been unable to address. The solution to our long-running secular stagnation requires targeted, direct job creation for those at the bottom of the income scale.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Flavia Dantas L. Randall Wray
Research Project Report, May 2015 | May 2015This addendum to our June 2014 report, “Responding to the Unemployment Challenge: A Job Guarantee Proposal for Greece,” updates labor market data through 2014Q3 and identifies emerging employment and unemployment trends. The overarching aim of the report, the outcome of a study undertaken in 2013 by the Levy Institute in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour, is to provide policymakers and the general public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale direct job creation program in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010 as a condition of the loans made to Greece by its eurozone partners.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Public Policy Brief No. 138, 2014 | October 2014To mobilize Greece’s severely underemployed labor potential and confront the social and economic dangers of persistent unemployment, we propose the immediate implementation of a direct public benefit job creation program—a Greek “New Deal.” The Job Guarantee (JG) program would offer the unemployed jobs, at a minimum wage, on work projects providing public goods and services. This policy would have substantial positive economic impacts in terms of output and employment, and when newly accrued tax revenue is taken into account, which substantially reduces the net cost of the program, it makes for a comparatively modest fiscal stimulus. At a net cost of roughly 1 percent to 1.2 percent of GDP (depending on the wage level offered), a midrange JG program featuring the direct creation of 300,000 jobs has the potential to reduce the unemployed population by a third or more, once indirect employment effects are taken into account. And our research indicates that the policy would do all this while reducing Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio—which leaves little room for excuses.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 47 | October 2014In the postwar period, income growth has become more inequitably distributed with virtually every subsequent economic expansion. From 2009 to 2012, while the economy was recovering from one of the biggest economic downturns in recent memory, the top 1 percent took home 95 percent of the income gains. To reverse this pattern, Research Associate Pavlina R. Tcherneva recommends policy strategies to promote growth from the bottom up—to change the income distribution directly by funding employment opportunities in the public, nonprofit, or social entrepreneurial sector.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Research Project Report, April 2014 | June 2014
This report presents the findings from a study undertaken by the Levy Institute in 2013 in collaboration with the Observatory of Economic and Social Developments of the Labour Institute of the Greek General Confederation of Labour. It uses as background the 2011 Levy Institute study “Direct Job Creation for Turbulent Times in Greece,” which focused on the need for direct job creation to address rising unemployment. The focus in this report, however, is different. Here, the aim is to make available to policymakers and the broader public research-based evidence of the macroeconomic and employment effects of a large-scale program of direct job creation program—a cost-effective and proven policy response. The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to draw urgently needed attention to the worsening levels of unemployment in Greece, and to invite critical rethinking of the austerity-driven macro policy instituted in 2010.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 789 | March 2014
The Road Not Taken
It is common knowledge that John Maynard Keynes advocated bold government action to deal with recessions and unemployment. What is not commonly known is that modern “Keynesian policies” bear little, if any, resemblance to the policy measures Keynes himself believed would guarantee true full employment over the long run. This paper corrects this misconception and outlines “the road not taken”; that is, the long-term program for full employment found in Keynes’s writings and elaborated on by others in works that are missing from mainstream textbooks and policy initiatives. The analysis herein focuses on why the private sector ordinarily fails to produce full employment, even during strong expansions and in the presence of strong government action. It articulates the reasons why the job of the policymaker is, not to “nudge” private firms to create jobs for all, but to do so itself directly as a matter of last resort. This paper discusses various designs of direct job creation policies that answer Keynes’s call for long-run full employment policies.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2014/1 | January 2014The job guarantee is a proposal that provides greater macroeconomic stability and secures a fundamental human right. Despite the economic and moral merits of this policy, often the program is rejected because of concerns about its administration. How would the program be implemented? Who will create the jobs? Can work be found for every unemployed individual who wishes to work? This policy note addresses these concerns by elaborating on a proposal for the United States that would run the job guarantee through the social enterprise sector, which includes traditional nonprofit organizations and emerging nonprofit social entrepreneurial ventures.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2012/2 | March 2012
The Nonprofit Model for Implementing a Job Guarantee
The conventional approach of fiscal policy is to create jobs by boosting private investment and growth. This approach is backward, says Research Associate Pavlina R. Tcherneva. Policy must begin by fixing the unemployment situation because growth is a byproduct of strong employment—not the other way around. Tcherneva proposes a bottom-up approach based on community programs that can be implemented at all phases of the business cycle; that is, a grass-roots job-guarantee program run by the nonprofit sector (with participation by the social entrepreneurial sector) but financed by the government. A job-guarantee program would lead to full employment over the long run and address an outstanding fault of modern market economies.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 707 | February 2012
A Proposal for Ireland
Euroland is in a crisis that is slowly but surely spreading from one periphery country to another; it will eventually reach the center. The blame is mostly heaped upon supposedly profligate consumption by Mediterraneans. But that surely cannot apply to Ireland and Iceland. In both cases, these nations adopted the neoliberal attitude toward banks that was pushed by policymakers in Europe and America, with disastrous results. The banks blew up in a speculative fever and then expected their governments to absorb all the losses. The situation was similar in the United States, but in our case the debts were in dollars and our sovereign currency issuer simply spent, lent, and guaranteed 29 trillion dollars’ worth of bad bank decisions. Even in our case it was a huge mistake—but it was “affordable.” Ireland and Iceland were not so lucky, as their bank debts were in “foreign” currencies. By this I mean that even though Irish bank debt was in euros, the Government of Ireland had given up its own currency in favor of what is essentially a foreign currency—the euro, which is issued by the European Central Bank (ECB). Every euro issued in Ireland is ultimately convertible, one to one, to an ECB euro. There is neither the possibility of depreciating the Irish euro nor the possibility of creating ECB euros as necessary to meet demands for clearing. Ireland is in a situation similar to that of Argentina a decade ago, when it adopted a currency board based on the US dollar. And yet the authorities demand more austerity, to further reduce growth rates. As both Ireland and Greece have found out, austerity does not mean reduced budget deficits, because tax revenues fall faster than spending can be cut. Indeed, as I write this, Athens has exploded in riots. Is there an alternative path?
In this piece I argue that there is. First, I quickly summarize the financial foibles of Iceland and Ireland. I will then—also quickly—summarize the case for debt relief or default. Then I will present a program of direct job creation that could put Ireland on the path to recovery. Understanding the financial problems and solutions puts the jobs program proposal in the proper perspective: a full implementation of a job guarantee cannot occur within the current financial arrangements. Still, something can be done.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 705 | February 2012
Lessons from Argentina
The literature on public employment policies such as the job guarantee (JG) and the employer of last resort (ELR) often emphasizes their macroeconomic stabilization effects. But carefully designed and implemented policies like these can also have profound social transformative effects. In particular, they can help address enduring economic problems such as poverty and gender disparity. To examine how, this paper will look at the reform of Argentina’s Plan Jefes into Plan Familias. Plan Jefes was the hallmark stabilization policy of the Argentine government after the 2001 crisis. It guaranteed a public sector job in a community project to unemployed male and female heads of households. The vast majority of beneficiaries, however, turned out to be poor women. For a number of reasons that are explored below, the program was later reformed into a cash transfer policy, known as Plan Familias, that still exists today. The paper examines this reform in order to evaluate the relative impact of such policies on some of the most vulnerable members of society; namely, poor women. An examination of the Argentine experience based on survey evidence and fieldwork reveals that poor women overwhelmingly want paid work opportunities, and that a policy such as the JG or the ELR cannot only guarantees full employment and macroeconomic stabilization, but it can also serve as an institutional vehicle that begins to transform some of the structures and norms that produce and reproduce gender disparities. These transformative features of public employment policies are elucidated by turning to the capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen and elaborated by Martha Nussbaum—an approach commonly invoked in the feminist literature. This paper examines how the access to paid employment can enhance what Sen defines as an individual’s “substantive freedom.” Any policy that fosters genuine freedom begins with an understanding of what the targeted population (in this case, poor women) wants. It then devises a strategy that guarantees that such opportunities exist and removes the obstacles to accessing these opportunities.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 560 | April 2009
Unemployment was singled out by John Maynard Keynes as one of the principle faults of capitalism; the other is excessive inequality. Obviously, there is some link between these two faults: since most people living in capitalist economies must work for wages as a major source of their incomes, the inability to obtain a job means a lower income. If jobs can be provided to the unemployed, inequality and poverty will be reduced—although such policy will not directly address the problem of excessive income at the top of the distribution. Most importantly, Keynes wanted to put unemployed labor to work—not digging holes, but in socially productive ways. This would help to ensure that the additional effective demand created by government spending would not be exhausted in higher prices as it ran up against bottlenecks or other supply constraints. Further, it would help maintain public support for the government’s programs by providing useful output. And it would generate respect for, and feelings of self-worth in, the workers employed in these projects (no worker would want to spend her days digging holes that serve no useful purpose). President Roosevelt’s New Deal jobs programs (such as the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps) are good examples of such targeted job-creating programs. These provided income and employment for workers, actually helped increase the nation’s productivity, and left us with public buildings, dams, trails, and even music that we still enjoy today. As our nation (and the world) collapses into deep recession, or even depression, it is worthwhile to examine Hyman P. Minsky’s comprehensive approach to resolving the unemployment problem.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2009/1 | January 2009
A Modest Proposal to Guarantee That He Meets and Exceeds ExpectationsJob creation is once again at the forefront of policy action, and for advocates of pro-employment policies, President Obama’s Keynesian bent is a most welcome change. However, there are concerns that Obama’s plan simply does not go far enough, and that a large-scale public investment program may face shortages of skilled labor, put upward pressure on wages, and leave women and minorities behind. Both concerns can be addressed by a simple amendment to the Obama plan that will bring important additional benefits. The amendment proposed here is for the government to offer a job guarantee to all unemployed individuals who are ready, willing, and able to participate in the economic recovery—that is, to target the unemployed directly.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 527 | January 2008
The Case of Iran
Iran’s constitution emphasizes social justice and obliges government to provide a job for every citizen. But in fact, the government’s duty to provide jobs has shifted to government support for a measure designed to create new employment opportunities through subsidized loans to the private sector. This policy has not been successful to date, and the current stock of unemployed workers is about three million—12.75 percent of the country’s labor force.
To realize the desire of the Iranian people to achieve full employment and social justice, the government must implement employment guarantee schemes, or EGS, in the most deprived areas. Elected town and village councils can design and manage the public works with the help of other government, as well as nongovernment, institutions. Programs can be financed using less than 10 percent of the annual oil-exporting revenue that is deposited in the Oil Stabilization Fund.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Zahra Karimi
What Are the Relative Macroeconomic Merits and Environmental Impacts of Direct Job Creation and Basic Income Guarantees?
Working Paper No. 517 | October 2007
There is a body of literature that favors universal and unconditional public assurance policies over those that are targeted and means-tested. Two such proposals—the basic income proposal and job guarantees—are discussed here. The paper evaluates the impact of each program on macroeconomic stability, arguing that direct job creation has inherent stabilization features that are lacking in the basic income proposal. A discussion of modern finance and labor market dynamics renders the latter proposal inherently inflationary, and potentially stagflationary. After studying the macroeconomic viability of each program, the paper elaborates on their environmental merits. It is argued that the “green” consequences of the basic income proposal are likely to emerge, not from its modus operandi, but from the tax schemes that have been advanced for its financing. By contrast, the job guarantee proposal can serve as an institutional vehicle for achieving various environmental goals by explicitly targeting environmental rehabilitation, conservation, and sustainability. Finally, in the hope of consensus building, the paper advances a joint policy proposal that is economically viable, environmentally friendly, and socially just.Download:Associated Programs:Employment Policy and Labor Markets The Distribution of Income and Wealth Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyAuthor(s):
Working Paper No. 516 | September 2007
Employment Guarantee Policies from a Gender Perspective
There is now widespread recognition that in most countries, private-sector investment has not been able to absorb surplus labor. This is all the more the case for poor unskilled people. Public works programs and employment guarantee schemes in South Africa, India, and other countries provide jobs while creating public assets. In addition to physical infrastructure, an area that has immense potential to create much-needed jobs is that of social service delivery and social infrastructure. While unemployment and enforced “idleness” persist, existing time-use survey data reveal that people around the world—especially women and children—spend long hours performing unpaid work. This work includes not only household maintenance and care provisioning for family members and communities, but also time spent that helps fill public infrastructural gaps—for example, in the energy, health, and education sectors. This paper suggests that, by bringing together public job creation, on the one hand, and unpaid work, on the other, well-designed employment guarantee policies can promote job creation, gender equality, and pro-poor development.Download:Associated Programs:Gender Equality and the Economy Employment Policy and Labor Markets Economic Policy for the 21st CenturyAuthor(s):
Working Paper No. 498 | May 2007
A Survey of Theories and Policy Experiences
This working paper provides a survey of the theoretical underpinnings for the various employment guarantee schemes, and discusses full employment policy experiences in the United States, Sweden, India, Argentina, and France. The theoretical and policy developments are delineated in a historical context. The paper concludes by identifying some questions that still need to be addressed in the context of the global political economy.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):