Structural Unemployment: What Can We Do About It?

September 1 st 1984

Structural unemployment is the result of long-term and irreversible changes in the structure of a nation's economy. With more than 30 million unemployed in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, much attention is being paid to the need for new methods of job creation. It used to be assumed that jobs lost during a recession would be regained with the return of economic prosperity. Today, however, there is a growing awareness that the disappearance of jobs has more to do with changes in the so-called labour market than with a decline in output.

A recent conference devoted to structural unemployment and job creation in Europe discussed some of the changes taking place in the underlying structure of the economy, including new technology, a shift in trade patterns, and the movement away from labour-intensive industries toward the service sector. In this regard, the question of the relationship between the public and the private sectors is very significant. Because changes bring winners and losers, the conference stressed the need to assist those who are adversely affected by structural changes. At the same time, it was argued, the workings of the market must be distorted as little as possible. Maximum flexibility is required in social legislation, occupational and geographical mobility, training and retraining of workers. ("Structural Unemployment: Policies for Gob Creation," The OECD Observer, March 1984.)


Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.