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Jobs have been lost

Un(employment)speak

Thanks to the financial crisis and recession, a great many jobs have been lost, as the media likes to put it. There seems to be some kind of pandemic of carelessness afoot, all these poor jobs being mislaid by unidentified and unaccountable agents.

Of course, what is really happening is that either companies are going bust, or employers are choosing to sack employees. The latter is a case of an active verb that takes a human being as its object.

Even if we agree not to think about those human-being objects too hard, and continue instead with the more comfortable practice of describing what is happening to “jobs” in the passive voice, we should at least observe some symmetry of description. When businesses hire workers, it is said that jobs are being “created”. When they fire workers, it surely follows that jobs are being not “lost” but destroyed.

12 comments
  1. 1  roger migently  October 29, 2009, 8:18 am 

    To lose one job, Mr Poole, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose “thousands” looks like carelessness.

  2. 2  Tony Woolf  October 29, 2009, 9:19 am 

    In this context it would be interesting to know how many jobs would be “lost” as a result of proposed Royal Mail reorganisation. A few years ago a figure of 48,000 was suggested.

  3. 3  Ricardo  October 29, 2009, 9:45 am 

    I like the optimism implied by “lost” – surely they can’t have gone far: where were when you last had them? Have you checked down the sofa? Don’t worry, they’ll turn up.

  4. 4  Steven  October 29, 2009, 11:51 am 

    Tony — I don’t know about that figure, but there is more inside information on the Royal Mail in the new LRB, which seems to be the only place anyone is expressing any scepticism about the “modernization” programme whose rhetoric the rest of the media is obediently swallowing.

  5. 5  Sarah  October 29, 2009, 10:56 pm 

    So ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ becomes ‘I’m sorry for the destruction of your loved one’? Because ‘I lost my wife last year’ does sound embarrassingly negligent.

  6. 6  Steven  October 30, 2009, 10:02 am 

    ‘I’m sorry for the destruction of your loved one’

    It has a certain heroically inhuman lack of bullshit!

  7. 7  chris  October 30, 2009, 11:25 am 

    Although the media and bosses are, as you say, coy about talking of jobs being destroyed, economists are much straighter. They do talk of job destruction, eg:
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/not/notgep/07-01.html
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/qmw/qmwecw/wp461.html
    The message of this research is that the job destruction rate is very high, even in good times.

  8. 8  Bruce  October 30, 2009, 2:10 pm 

    People are being freed (if jobs = wage slavery)*

    Pointless underpaid drudgery abandoned?

    A step closer to a world of leisure.

    * Unfortunately jobless implies (in our society, at present) poverty, seen as another form of slavery. But that’s only because bankers fuck people.

  9. 9  Steven  October 30, 2009, 2:31 pm 

    Perhaps it would be better if they fucked animals?

    Chris — interesting, thanks!

  10. 10  Bruce  October 30, 2009, 7:08 pm 

    It would certainly be better if there were ways to succinctly express frustrations about the “economic system” without offending everyone in a given sector, as I’ve just risked doing. I think the area of jobs and the “labour market” would need a whole book on Unspeak to unravel.

    I suppose we may get to a point where anyone without a job is classed as a potential terrorist, but where being a terrorist is seen as a kind of a job in itself. Full employment, finally.

  11. 11  richard  October 30, 2009, 8:13 pm 

    To follow up Bruce, how about “job-free?”

    I recently read this:
    “We will also continue to build on the reduction already achieved in the operating budget”
    …and I thought of you. The other usual suspects were there too: “core activities,” “thoughtful stewardship,” “sustained prudence and restraint,” but I was surprised to learn that we “will continue to benefit from these constraints.” Artistically, perhaps. Sadly, I don’t think I would show “sustained prudence” if I were to link the original text here, otherwise you could enjoy the whole thing. I must mention “looming budget shortfall,” though, because of the cinematic frisson it delivers: I’m imagining rapids, an imperiled rubber dinghy, and then some kind of crazy Kleinbottlish helicopter shot, where the waterfall the boat is about to fall down is somehow looming over it. Dizzying.

  12. 12  Stiif  November 5, 2009, 9:01 am 

    Well, I suppose it has something to do with part-time jobs. If one ‘job’ means a working week of 36 or 40 hours, ‘losing 1000 jobs’ can actually mean sacking 2000 employees.



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