PRINCE Charles won a standing ovation from a conference of trade unionists last month for saying that "the average British bloke" was "outstanding in every way."
He would have got a very different reaction ir he had spoken about the average British worker's job prospects over the next decade.
The effects of a slump in world trade and of new technology are already being felt both in statistical and in human terms. They make generalised comments about "social security scroungers" inaccurate as well as offensive: as David Alton. Liberal MP for Edge Hill, Liverpool, said in a recent House or Commons debate: "It is not a matter of people saying that they will not work, They cannot get work. They can't work."
Mr Alton should know: in parts of his constituency 30 per cent of people are without jobs and are likely to remain so for some time.
But, despite Prince Charles and Mr Alton, it is true that there are some people who simply do not want to do some of the jobs that exist — and that applies particularly to some youngsters. A youth working in a Birmingham factory told me quite openly that he couldn't give a damn: he did as little as possible for as short a time as possible. and he boasted freely about the way that he and his friends fiddled the dole, What then is LO be done'? Where is work to be found for those who want it and how are those who do not to be motivated more effectively?
First. ways have got to be found of sharing what work there is among more people. Worksharing and a shorter working week are possibilities and have M fact been the official aim of the Trade Union Congress since 1972. This approach has foundered on the understandable fears of workers that shorter hours will mean less pay and on the unwillingness of employers to increase labour costs.
The employers argue that such an tidjustment of working hours would not bring about the increased production necessary to pay the extra wages. However, that is arguable. During the three ARCHBISHOP DEREK WORLOCK OF LIVERPOOL: "Work and jobs are not the same. As jobs grow fewer, we shall have to think how the use of people's talents in the service of the community can be regarded as wage-earning employment or work."
day week; for example, production levels remained more or less constant: allowing for an obvious over simplification of figures it would seem possible from that to employ two sets of workers for two and a half to three days a week and simultaneously to double produetion.
.1.his would allow managements to pay both sets the present equivalent of a full week's wages • particularly. if lull use was made of the latest technology.
Secondly, changes are needed in the structure of British industry, in order to help both yvorkers here and those in the developing countries. Not only is this morally: desirable. it would also help to boost world trade,
The World Development Movement has argued persuasively that Britain still excels in industriessuch as the design and building of certain types of machinery, mechanical .engineering and stationery. goods. It also stressed the importance of "service industries.which represented the growth areas between 1%9 and 1973.
Much more needs to be done to encourage further growth in those sectors and to switch tsorkers aW ay from traditional but dying areas such as heavy manufacturing and textiles.
The present Government is ideologically committed to "incentives-. It should now prove its commitment to them not only by tax cats which give most benefit to the better off, hut by giving real incentives to workers in stagnating industries.
That could involve far more financial help in moving to a different area and far more opportunities for re-training.
Thirdly, there are many other jobs that could be done to improve the quality of life for the whole community. There is
wasteland to he cleared and cemeteries to be tidied: there are play centres and creches that need help in supervision: there arc handicapped people suffering from neglect and there are old people whose houses need decorating: there are immigrants Y‘ho need help in learning English. The problem. naturally, is the money to pay for such jobs. However. once again. that may not be as impossible as first REV BILL GOWLAND, PRESIDENT OF THE METHODIST CONFERENCE: "If we had a boom tomorrow we are quite incapable of meeting it because we don't have enough trained people. We are moving out of the society based on manual work to one based on knowledge: knowledge is the economic resource of the future."
appears. It is estimated that last year the unemployed cost the State 0,000 million in benefits
paid and taxes lost. And an official study. carried out in West Germanyshow cd that it cost eight per cent less to create jobs in socalled "unproductive" work than to keep people on the dole.
In other words, it is untrue to say that job creation schemes -waste taxpayers' money': the alternative is often as great a waste on purely economic erounds as well as a waste of human potential.
On the human level it seents a strange irony that a Government Which stresses the importance of individual effort and work in maintaining self-respect should also be committed to pruning job creation schemes: the May budget. for example. cut the Youth Opportunities Programme by £52 million (25 per cent), the Special Temporary Employment Programme by £42 million (more than 50 per cent) and the Training Opportunities Scheme by £22 million (10 per cent).
Such programmes have lociused most on young people for whom unemployment is seen as particularly demoralising. But by and large they are also the people for whom many present jOhs are not worth bothering with.
The Rev Edgar Daniel. director of the Youth Department at Luton Industrial College, has described boredom as "the watchword of the generation". The greatest need. he says, is to motivate youngsters out of their real or contrived indifference.
Schools and industry are often blamed for failure to cooperate and attention is drawn to the widespread lack of good careers advisers. But that is not altogether fair and should not be used as a scapegoat Air the failure of parents. youth leaders and indeed churches to prepare young people to take responsibility for themselves.
Mr Daniel quotes the bewildered cry of one girl: "We teenagers do not know where we are. One minute adults are telling us that we are grown ups and the next they are treating us as children.
That goes for the workplace as well as the home and employers today are fooling themselves if they believe that young people are going to he prepared to "knuckle down" and do a dreary, monotonous job without question. It is essential, therefore, to re-think the ways that shop floors are organised and the amount of responsibility given to ordinary workers. But the most pressing need is to devise new ways of distributing the wealth that industry. aided by new technology, can produce. so that nee, forms of work can be introduced.
Many of these will necessarily be economically "unproductive" in themselves, but they are essential if we are to meet the human requirements of people in an increasingly technological age.
NEXT WEEK: Can the changes which are necessary within British industry be achieved withiu the framework of a traditional social democratic system? Or do we face a major social and political upheaval as we move into the "post-industrial age"?