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Posted on May 2nd, 2014, by

3) How can one argue that there is a right to employment (in answering this question you must explain how one may have a) a right to work, b) a right to life, and c) a right to respect (not necessarily in that order)? How can one argue for a right to a just wage?


In contrast to the specific rights related to conditions of employment, there are common rights in relations with society, the system itself and, consequently, the rights having a special status; the right to employment is one of them.

The right to employment is not related to the rights recognized in the United States, where unemployment is presumed and recognized. The right to employment can be concluded from the right to work, the right which is also not recognized in the U.S., but is included in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in many countries (De George 378). Let us consider the arguments in its favor.

On the one hand, in the free enterprise system the right to employment is not a right that each individual employer can be charged with the responsibility to implement, and therefore the right to work as a universal human right can be considered a derivative right. Defenders of this right tried to draw it out of the right to life, from the right to development and (or) from the right to respect.

Thus, the right to work can be derived from the right to life in the sense that access to the labor is needed for obtaining the means of subsistence which, in turn, are needed to sustain life. The right to life leads to the right to engage in activities associated with the implementation of other people’s rights necessary to sustain life. The derivative here lies on the supposition that depriving a person of the right to work means depriving him (her) and his (her) dependents of the means to sustain life (De George 425).

The strongest are the arguments in favor of the statement that the right to work is a derivative the person’s right to respect. An employable, competent member of society occupies a prominent place and plays a major role in it; none of the adults is the “outsider,”¯ or “presenting no value,”¯ and the recognition of this fact forms an integral part of what means for a person to have the right to respect. Labor is a typical means by which adults assert their independence and may feel the full scale of their responsibility in a community (De George 426). If a person is not given an opportunity to work, he (she) is actually not given an opportunity to occupy an appropriate place in society as a mature adult contributing to society’s life. Thus, in any society the right to work is closely linked to the right to respect, and is its derivative.

The interrelation of respect and the right to work is implicit in article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the article proclaims “a free choice of occupation”¯ (thus, excluding forced labor, slavery, or blatant exploitation) and the “fair and adequate remuneration ensuring the life corresponding to human dignity for the person and his (her) family.”¯ This article also helps a person to assert a right to a just wage.

Indeed, the right to a just wage is a right derived from the right to life, the right to employment, and the right to respect (381).

Speaking consciously about just wages is only possible in relation to the existing social system. Just legal and political system must ensure at least a minimum income, should avoid the atmosphere of desperation on the market by introduction of alternatives to involuntary consent to any proposed salary without any conditions. Only in the framework of what can be called just basic institutions the market should be allowed to determine the differential levels of wages. This approach does not attempt to set salaries in accordance with certain measurements of cost, social utility or needs; it can only take into account these parameters, if the parties to the contract process wish to. Therefore, applying this approach we can state that just is what the market creates within the just system of formation of different levels of wages (De George 382). If we conclude that the results are unjust, we must prove that the initial conditions are untenable, that additional primary basic institutional institutions are needed, or that the market is imperfect. This approach also allows making judgments about the morality of excessively low wages in developing countries, where accusations of injustice are often justified because of the lack of basic institutions, as a result of which labor deals are not free, but forced.

Today, in the environment of American workers the problems of exploitation and disputes about what is a just wage are not crucial, because the American system of basic institutions had developed and modified in such a way that it turned generally acceptable to workers. However, the adoption of an effective law on full-time work, or legal recognition of the right to employment with adequate wages would lead to even better balance of forces on all sides in the negotiation process.

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