The Social Value of Employment and the Redistributive Imperative for Development

By Fischer, Andrew M.

Evaluating the inherently relative and subjective social value of employment needs to be placed within a broader inquiry about the conditions under which a sufficient and sustained perception of social value might be cultivated within particular employment settings, in a manner that is adaptive and resilient to the often profound structural transformations associated with socio-economic development. This paper contends that these conditions are intricately related to redistributive processes within societies. A vital role of public policy is to strengthen progressive redistributive institutional mechanisms as a means to cultivate resilience and positive synergies between the social values of employment, and human and economic development. This argument is made in four sections, including: some stylized facts of contemporary population growth and labour transitions across the global South; the limitations of standard economics approaches in dealing with issues of labour market intermediation and employment regulation as well as a variety of alternative socially and institutionally embedded views; the valuation of labour, drawing from the example of care work to illustrate the importance of redistributive mechanisms to socialize the costs of relatively skilled service sector employment; and lastly, some examples of the redistributive imperative in contemporary development. The conclusion offers some reflections on structural vulnerabilities in a context of labour transitions and human development.