The right to work is a human right, yet one that is formulated in such a way that it merely imposes on governments an obligation of means: essentially, to do what they can to create jobs. Governments should take “steps” to achieve “full and productive employment,” says the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
Framed in this way, the right to work is impossible to enforce. There is simply no duty on governments to provide jobs to those who are seeking employment but can’t find work.
My latest report to the United Nations Human Rights Council argues that there should be.
To truly fulfil the right to work, governments should be obliged to act as an employer of last resort, meaning that any individual able and willing to work would be entitled to paid public employment. This is the idea of a job guarantee, and it is an idea whose time has come.