13 December 2011

Questions to which the answer is no

‘if the reallocation of jobs across sectors, and increasingly countries is happening quicker and quicker, due to the exponential growth of technological innovation – then at some point are the productivity gains outweighed by the social damage they do?’
Moussa Haddad, quoted by Duncan Green in an interesting discussion of the new World Development Report on jobs. I'm inclined to think that Duncan is mostly wrong, but in an interesting way. I think he underestimates the insider-outsider problem with labour unions in many developing countries, possibly because of the same rose-tinted view of the history of labour in Britain, which I also succumb to. To be a British leftwinger means to be on the side of unions. But its pretty hard to reconcile the rosy view with the destructive role that teachers unions play in education in India.

He continues...
the team is 100% economists. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are economists (really) and they obviously have to be central to any discussion about jobs. But where are the anthropologists to discuss the deeper cultural and social meaning of work
At which point my eyes glaze over. But don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are anthropologists....

The title of this post borrowed from John Rentoul's meme at the Indepenent


Ranil Dissanayake said...

The effects of unions in the developing world are incredibly diverse. This was my mphil topic, and it's as wrong to characterise all unions in one way as it is to characterise all firms or economic regimes in one way. A union is classification of economic actor, but they can and do operate quite differently, and respond to incentives in different ways.
And I think Duncan is right - the team should not be *only* economists. I mean, it took absolute ages for economists to work out that 'work' in different countries meant very different things, and some things that were economically productive were called work in some places and 'chores' in others. Anthropologists were writing about the same thing about 100 years ago. It helps to have outside thinking.
anyway, extremely glad this is the WDR topic. Long overdue.

rovingbandit said...

Yep, definitely looking forward to this one. 

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