A government job guarantee is a proposed program where the government would provide a job with a basic wage and benefits package to anyone willing and ready to work. The job guarantee is one component of an overall program to stabilize an economy. The job guarantee is financially feasible when a sovereign government’s currency uses a floating exchange rate.
The job guarantee provides a floor for wages and benefits, creating a buffer stock of labor. The program is intended to “hire off the bottom,” i.e. those with less qualifications or skills. A job guarantee program hires people who otherwise cannot find employment. Once implemented, a job guarantee would be a permanent program, operating during good times and recessions alike.
In times of recession, private sector employers typically lay off workers. This swells the ranks of the unemployed. Laid off workers cannot spend money, and this hurts the economy. With a job guarantee in place, laid off workers could take a job guarantee job. This would increase the size of the job guarantee workforce during recessions, and at the same time inject more money into the economy, helping to take the edge off of the recession. As the economy recovered, people would leave their job guarantee jobs and go to better-paying private sector jobs. As the number of people in the job guarantee workforce diminished, government spending would also fall.
The job guarantee would also serve as a mechanism to ensure price stability within the economy by fixing the price of employed labor.
The concept of a job guarantee dates back to at least the New Deal of the Roosevelt Administration. There were several programs that had job guarantee attributes, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After the Second World War, many industrialized economies embraced full employment. For example, Australia had an implicit buffer stock of jobs that were always available, both in the private and public sectors. Hyman Minsky also conceptualized an Employer of Last Resort (ELR) program during the 1960s. Most recently, L. Randall Wray, William Mitchell, and Warren Mosler have proposed a job guarantee program in conjunction with their work in Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).