Coming out of recession or, at least, a global financial crisis seems to mean that the creation of jobs is the only driver of economic growth. Governments around the world seem obsessed with employment creation but rarely is the quality of the employment ever considered.
The drive for jobs at the cost of other employment conditions such as safety was illustrated on 11 March 2011 in an article in The Australian newspaper. New South Wales’ election is only a short while away and, as it is widely considered to be an easy win for the conservative Liberal Party, government policies are already being discussed.
“Industrial relations spokesman Greg Pearce, a former partner at Freehills, said he was aware that concerns about the workplace safety system had emerged in the legal profession.
But the Coalition’s main goal was to minimise uncertainty to encourage job creation.”
The push for jobs is also indicative of short-term political thinking. Long-term jobs, even careers, are likely to be more economically attractive due to financial stability and the investment in knowledge. Every so often the concept of a “smart nation” becomes politically fashionable but the economic soundness of such a concept should provide a little more sustainability.
Part of the need to be an “employer-of-choice” is also to ensure that the workplace is safe, using the broadest definition. There needs to be few chances for physical or psychosocial harm. It is the control of harm that is a core concept within workplace flexibility, leave entitlements and work-life balance but this occupational safety perspective has no champion and the profession itself, particularly in Australia, has no voice.
Every time the jobs creation imperative is voiced, workplace safety professionals need to be shouting that quality is as important as quantity. If we do not, the economist have “won” and safety will be seen as nothing more than an annoying business cost that impedes profit.