A lot has been talked, not least by me, about a jobs and growth strategy as the alternative to the cuts. But, some people ask, is this for real? It is, and this is how it might work. Given the threat from climate change which scientists believe will reach crisis levels within the next 20-30 years (some say earlier than that), what is really needed, on the precedent of the National Health Service, is a National Climate Service. Direct government employment means secure, flexible, permanent jobs. If the Government took on 80,000 workers a month, in both direct and indirect jobs, that would create a million jobs in a year for the enormous range of building, designing, manufacturing, insulating, maintaining, and servicing functions that need to be done to create a whole new green technology. Is that practicable?
There are precedents for this wholesale concentrated effort to meet an overriding challenge. In January 1942 the US Government closed the car factories; they were reopened just two months later making tanks, weapons and, by the end of the war, 66,000 bomber aircraft. The USSR, Germany and Britain all achieved similar feats. It is a question of the Government’s will and their commitment to get their people to understand and accept the necessity.
What would it cost? A reasonable estimate is £27bn in wages for 1 million jobs over a year, plus £5bn in employers’ NIC and pension contributions and another £20bn in costs like materials, fuel, supplies, rent and interest: total £52bn gross. The net cost is vastly lower, because government would get higher taxes and not have to pay out on benefits. Thus if someone is employed on £27,000 a year, the goverment gains about £13,000 in taxes and benefits. That’s £13bn saved on a million jobs. But that million jobs will also create about another half-million jobs, saving a further £6.5bn. In addition, for the products and services provided by the 1.5 million jobs the government could expect to get back at least 25%, likely much more, of what it spends. That raises the total sum saved to some £33bn, leaving £19bn still to find.
There are many ways to do this. If the richest 1% were made to pay just 5% more income tax, that would raise £5bn a year. Closing tax loopholes to curb tax cheats would raise at least a minimum £3-5bn. A Robin Hood (Tobin) tax, which today a thousand economists from 50 countries have written to G20 Ministers to ask them to impose, could even at a minimalist rate of 0.05% raise $300-400bn a year, and probably at least $20bn in Britain alone. There are many, many other options.
A million jobs a year for a National Climate Service is practicable, affordable, needed, and a colossal double benefit in chopping back joblessness as well as countering th biggest global threat we all face.