Social security and social inclusion

Social security and social inclusion

Social security emerged in Western Europe with voluntary solidarity contributions within labour unions in the late 19th century developing into a mandatory insurance contribution organised by the state in 1950. A mandatory insurance payable to the state is a tax, in this case a tax on labour. Because the employer pays all if it, it does not matter if legislation categorises it as employee’s contribution or employer’s contribution.

In addition, the 20th century saw the birth of a new type of tax: the income tax, designed to capture the total income of wealthy people. However, after 1950 the income tax started to hit the rising incomes of the working class. It became the second component of the tax on labour. Zero in 1930, insignificant in 1950, the total tax on labour is now by far the most important tax income for Western European states. It varies between 50 to 200 percent of the net labour income of the workers, making the cost of labour on average twice as high compared to what the worker gets.

The history of its creation explains why social security is linked to labour participation. The political class assimilates “job creation” to welfare: the more people work, and the longer they do, the more taxes are paid and the better for the state budget. This thinking induced many countries to increase the age of retirement. Obliging older people to work longer when there is a five-fold increase of unemployed young people waiting for a job, is absurd. It is an example of wrong collective thinking by people indoctrinated by the “Labour Church”, because they assume “full employment” is still possible.

In the cultural sector, the high tax on labour is a problem. We can watch fantastic artists for free on television. High taxes on labour increase the wage cost of artists. Most local performances cannot compete unless they get subsidies, which is now current practice in most Western European countries. Would it not be more straightforward to have no taxes and no subsidies in the cultural sector?

Education and healthcare are heavily subsidised in many countries to cover the cost of their employees including the tax on their labour and other expenses. Their net finances would be the same if taxes on labour would be set to zero and subsidies lowered with the same amount.

Same for services completely paid by our tax money like police, justice, the military, federal and local administration: the labour tax cost included into the payroll expenditure of the state is paid and collected by the state, the same wallet. Setting their labour tax to zero would not affect their net finances.

In Western Europe, 40 to 50 percent of employment is publicly funded which means the corresponding labour tax has no effect on net state receipts.

For a state, the real proceeds of labour tax come from the non-subsidised private sector. Hence, the proceeds are much lower than what policymakers are tempted to believe while looking at public accounts which provide gross rather than netted labour tax income figures.

Meanwhile, the high tax on labour effectively increases the cost of services for those who want their shoes, a washing machine or a bike to be repaired.  Mind that the “Labour Church” does not allow citizens to trade services.  Services should be acquired from service companies because allowing citizen’s to work for each other by exchanging services would be unfair competition to the firms selling such services.

These firms charge a labour cost at least twice as high as what their workers get, because of the tax on labour. This higher price obviously reduces the demand for repair services and many people try to paint their house themselves, maintain their garden themselves and their kids drive bikes without proper lights or brakes.  The tax on labour reduces exchange of services, hence it reduces the creation of wealth in the proximity economy.

In Western Europe, the labour Church created this barrier to social inclusion by segregating contractual labour from voluntary and informal work. Helping each other in an informal way, like our grandparents did, is not permitted anymore: the labour tax collectors are chasing offenders. However, poor people can get help from subsidised workers if they successfully find and convince the right state personnel that they are really poor. Clearly, the economic religion put in place by the “Labour Church” does not empower the population to help each other.

Would it not be more effective to convert the directive, complex, fraud-prone and costly social security allowance system into its basic income equivalent and allow the social economy to thrive again by allowing people to work for each other in an informal way, like our ancestors did until 50 years ago? 

The Labour Church

The Labour Church

Policy makers around the world adhere to the “labour Church”. Their dogma is that wealth is derived from labour. Nearly all economists in the world are priests of this Church, their Bible being Paul Samuelson’s textbook on economics.

In primitive economies “labour” was not a relevant concept. Villagers went fishing or hunting, taking care of their kids and preparing food without being aware that they were “working”. Later, the exchange of products and services in-kind became more important, leaving the boundaries of the villages. The use of coin money in 600 BC reinforced exchange of goods and services as the crucial building block of the economic system. However, paid labour was not a part of the economic system. Domestic services were largely remunerated by the provision of lodging, food, and clothes. The concept of paying for a day’s work emerged for services of soldiers when it was difficult to reward them in another way.

The number of people on “day pay” remained small until deep into the 19th century because “piece work” – being paid per unit produced – was the logical standard to pay workers. Measuring hours in factories did not happen until industrial production of clocks emerged in the middle of the 19th century. But the real trigger to pay workers by the hour and not by piece was the introduction of new production systems in some factories, such as in the assembly lines of Henry Ford. It became too difficult to evaluate the contribution of each worker to the value of the end-product.

An hourly rate makes sense because an hour is easy to measure. But it does not measure what you pay for: the added value of the service provided in that hour. The “paid hour ideology” has been built on this approximation and has now a massive “market share” of the way people get paid for their work. The labour Church does not mind the approximation regarding “added value”; a person with a useless job derives money and lifetime rights from his or her “work”, while parents working really hard to raise their kid to become a brilliant engineer do not get any financial reward, even if their kid is the creator of the next big invention helping propel humanity forward.

In fact, the “labour Church” defends a very new religion: if the time frame of the economic history of the world is scaled to a 24 hours day, hourly paid wages were introduced just 24 minutes ago.

Sharing food and helping each other, the values underlying the Basic Income ideology, are as old as humanity.

Phil BC, “Why Labour Should Adopt the Citizen’s Income”

Phil BC, “Why Labour Should Adopt the Citizen’s Income”

This post discusses the citizen’s income (also known as the basic income) as a possible policy for the Labour party in the UK to support. By looking at the Green party’s manifesto, the pilot project results in Namibia, and the Alaskan Permanent Fund dividends, the author argues that it fits Labour’s ideology and should be supported.

The author wrote a follow-up article here.

Phil BC, “Why Labour Should Adopt the Citizen’s Income”, All That Is Solid, 25 January 2015.