Jane Prior: Jobs for All Will Never Return

In most industrialized countries problems concerning the future of the world of work are widely discussed. This contribution to a newspaper reflects one person's opinion on the issue.

SIR, - The start of a new Parliament must be the optimum time to reassess how best to tackle the future of employment.
Let us not be beguiled into believing that full employment, as we knew it, will return.
Recession is not the sole reason: changing technologies and the industrialisation of the emerging countries will only help to increase the problem, despite greater productivity and modernisation that we shall achieve here at home.
The increased national wealth that we seek, and indeed must achieve, will be created by fewer people in work and will have to provide for those for whom there is no employment.
Keeping youngsters longer off the payroll by introducing training schemes of one, two and possibly three years duration will help at one end, the encouragement of earlier retirement at the other. But this of itself is not enough.
Periodic spells of retraining throughout a working life, sabbaticals, work sharing, financial encouragement for one parent to remain at home - all these can help: they are also very expensive. Cheaper, more difficult, but just as vital, is to change attitudes. This must come from sensitive government, constructive journalism, good management, parents, and above all, from the schools.
Five is not too young to begin to learn that education should be as much for living, as for a working life. Excellence in academic and technological skills, yes, but to learn to use talents, to develop interests and occupations, skills and hobbies, beyond the usual curricula should be equally central to school life rather than remain on the priphery.
The Protestant work ethic lies deep in our souls but is no longer enough on its own.
If we are to retain a cohesive and happy society we must create a climate in which a fulfilled life means the ability to find dignity and satisfaction in both work and in alternative pursuits.
SW1. Jane Prior

start of a new Parliament: beginning of Parliamentary sessions every autumn
reassess sth. : judge and decide on sth. again
beguile : deceive, cheat
emerging country : developing country
retraining: Umschulung
sabbatical (n.): a period, often one year in every seven, during which a person, e.g. a university teacher, does not have to do his usual work but may study while still getting his regular salary
work sharing: job sharing
curricula : pl. of "curriculum", a course of study offered in a school or college
Protestant work ethic : idea of work based on the beliefs of the Puritans and Calvinists, who thought that hard work was a duty towards God and that a person's economic success in life was God's reward
cohesive : holding together
dignity : quality that earns or deserves respect
SW1: postal district of southwest London

Understanding the contents
1. For what reasons will there never again be full employment, in Prior's opinion?
2. What possibilities of increasing Britain's national wealth are suggested, directly and indirectly? What may be some of their consequences?
3. The writer mentions various measures that might help society to adapt to the shortage of jobs in the future. Point out the suggestions made.
Prior's main proposal concerns the change of her countrymen's present attitude towards work. Accordmg to the writer, what has work traditionally meant for the Britlsh? How should work and leisure be regarded in the future?

Analysing the text
5. If a reader writes to the editor of a newspaper with the idea of seeing his or her letter published, we speak of a letter to the editor.
In what way is the form of Prior's letter different from that of a personal letter?
6. What purposes may writers of such a letter to the editor have in mind?
7. As a rule, letters to the editor belong to the text type* argumentation*. Study how Prior orders her material.
a) What use does she make of the introductory paragraph and how does she develop her arguments in paragraphs two to four?
b) Why may we say that she arranges her arguments in paragraphs five to nine in an order of growing importance leading to a climax*, i.e. in a climactic order?
c) What function does the final paragraph serve? What makes her language here emotive* to some extent?

Working with the language
8. Paraphrase or translate
a) ". how best to tackle the future of employment" ,
b) "... should be equally central to school life rather than remain on the periphery"
c) "in both work and in alternative pursuits" .
9. Due to the relatively high level of abstraction, there is a large number of nouns in this text. Collect at least six belonging to each of the word fields a) "work" and b) "economy".
10. a) How does the writer employ the auxiliaries "must", "will", "can", "shall" and "should ? b) To what extent may her frequent use of "must" and "will" be characteristic of her attitude in this text?

Going beyond the text
11. Study a dictionary or other reference book to find
a) the precise meaning of "recession" and "productivity" , and b) the original meaning of "sabbatical"). Report your findings to the class. Do not adopt too specific a language from the reference books, but use your own words. Simplify, illustrate, repeat, or emphasize important expressions and use the blackboard if necessary.
12. Write a letter to the editor in which you a) criticize some of Prior's statements, or b) suggest what your school could do to fulfil the writer's expectations.
13. How much, in your opinion, will longer education or training schemes help if there are not enough jobs to be offered? Will up to three years more schooling be accepted by young people?
14. Discuss some advantages and disadvantages of work sharing.
15. Most experts agree that by the year 2020 in Switzerland and other industrialized countries the number of people of working age will have decreased, while that of old-age pensioners will have increased considerably. State some of the problems resulting from these changes in the population structure.

* see glossary