What a very touching and re-assuring letter those 35 key directors of FTSE 100 companies published in the Telegraph this week.
In their view the cuts are necessary and have to be made quickly. And the resulting job losses of some 500 000 from the public sector in the next four years will be offset by new jobs created in the private sector.
But what has their track record been in job creation in recent years?
Well, according to Andrew Hill in the Financial Times they have between them shed 20 000 UK jobs since 2007.
I believe that large employers have not been creating jobs in the UK for a good while. Nor should we expect them to in the future. It is not what they exist to do. They exist to create profits, not jobs. For them, jobs represent costs and wherever possible should be cut in pursuit of productivity and profit. If they can use technology or offshore labour to reduce employment costs, then that is what they will try to do. Not because they are bad people, but because they are first and foremost good business people.
There seems to be some suggestion that ‘Big Business’ is prepared to invest some of the war chests that they have accumulated over recent highly profitable years in creating new jobs. Personally I can’t see it happening. Not on any grand scale. Not unless those new jobs make good sense in the pursuit of profits. And in that case they are hardly doing a social service are they?
In Leeds I have been told that the top 100 employers employ between then 100 000 people. Should we expect that number to go up or down? I know where I would place my bets.
So where might jobs be created in Leeds if we should not expect big business to do it for us?
Well, maybe we need to shift the thinking away from ‘jobs and employers’ to ‘enterprise’ and ‘good work’. Instead of the main narrative being about ‘employers creating jobs’ it could be about us learning to find our own work; understanding for ourselves how to keep our economic engines running while doing ‘good work’ that makes our communities a better place for us and our children?
And this is not about getting on our bikes and chasing jobs down the M1 or across the M62. It is about asking ourselves what we can do to create value in our own community and make it a place of hope and potential for all of its members.