The World Bank on jobs

The new World Development Report 2013 is available, with a focus on jobs. One of the straplines on the website, also on p 57 of the report, claims that

“Jobs are created by the private sector; public action sets the stage”.

Sometimes the balder claims are qualified, but similar sentiments keep cropping up in the course of the report:

“it is not the role of governments to create jobs … as a general rule it is the private sector that creates jobs. The role of government is to ensure that the conditions are in place for strong private-sector-led growth …” (pp 21-2)

This is ideological claptrap. Do we think that police, teachers, firefighters, roadbuilders or health workers don’t have real jobs?

“The private sector is the key engine of job creation, accounting for 90 percent of all jobs in the developing world.” (p xiii)

Doesn’t that imply that the public sector in developing countries is small by comparison with countries that are economically more successful? And where would the private sector be without the demand for infrastructure generated by governments?

There’s yet more doctrinaire stuff:

  • “Any taxes create distortions” (p.27)
  • “The solution to all these demographic and technological challenges rests with the private sector.” (p.58)
  • “Different labor outcomes among persons with disabilities stem from productivity differentials, from disincentives created by the system of social benefits …” (p.84)
  • “policies should aim at removing the market imperfections and institutional failures preventing the private sector from creating more of those jobs.” (p 257)

This tone isn’t maintained consistently all the way through the report, but it’s troubling to see that the Bank still gives so much prominence to the discredited economic purism that led to Structural Adjustment. I thought, or hoped, that we had moved on from there.

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