A local solution to unemployment
The overall unemployment rate in Newfoundland and Labrador is 13.1 per cent, in Nunavat 12.3 per cent, in Canada 7.1 per cent, 4.1 per cent in Norway, and in India, about 4.7 per cent (in terms of people actively seeking jobs).
What is going wrong in Newfoundland?
Before the total collapse of the fisheries in the early 1990s, Newfoundland had two economic systems: productivity through fisheries, farms and to a smaller extent through things like carpentry, shoes, gloves, boats and similar materials; public sector work (through health, education and governance). After the collapse, the federal government stepped in, poured in millions of dollars to buy back the licences and facilitated the retraining of people to do other things. Well and good.
Meanwhile, the existing smallscale manufacturing and food businesses began to die out because of the incursion of corporations supplying things cheaply. Thus Newfoundland stopped producing anything. Work is now expected from corporations almost exclusively, and the skills and trades programs bank on it.
Corporations are not interested in the wellbeing of people and so- cieties, but only in profit, which is not the case with local production establishments. About three years ago, when the oil prices skyrocketed, the other corporations supplying items like milk and vegetables correspondingly increased their prices, because their ‘transportation costs’ went up.
Corporations are not interested in the wellbeing of people and societies, but only in profit, which is not the case with local production establishments.
Now the oil producers say their profit is not as high as before because the oil prices have gone down, but the other corporations haven’t put their prices down, even though the ‘ transportation costs’ are lesser. (It is rather humorous in a macabre way that the inanimate oil can make us dance to its erratic music!)
The moral of the story is that isolated islands like Newfoundland, though part of Canada politically, cannot depend on external sources for the basic needs of their people: work, food and shelter.
There could be more wood mills, small farms supplying milk, vegetables and eggs, factories canning and selling locally caught fish, carpentry companies making and repairing furniture, and manufacturers of leather goods (like the Terra Nova Shoes Co.). Government can subsidize local producers and manufacturers, if necessary, to compete with the prices of similar things sold by multinationals. More people will be employed, and will also have the satisfaction of doing something for their own society.
Many of these things were and are being done by India. (A more accessible example is Norway, which is similar to Newfoundland.) That is why their official unemployment rate is less than that of Newfoundland.
Of course their ‘quality of life’ and average life span may be less, if one equates quality of life with average earnings per person. In my mind, a person who laughs more lives a life of better quality than a person who laughs little. (Education is a key aspect of one’s quality of life. That is totally another topic, and we should not test the patience of the editor or the reader!) K.S.Ramadurai writes from Carbonear