The Excuse of Job Creation in Military Investments
By Xavier Bohigas and Teresa de Fortuny, researchers at Centre Delàs of Peace Studies. Originally published here (in Spanish).
Military investments are usually justified by the jobs they create. In Spain, the latest example is that of the Army’s logistics base. Several municipalities competed to host the facility, and the Ministry of Defense finally decided to locate it in Córdoba, as it was the option that offered the greatest advantages. The decision has received the support of all political, economic and university sectors of the city. Even the left has joined the initiative with little debate. The decision has not been questioned, at least not publicly.
The base is part of a plan to concentrate the Army’s twelve logistics centers into three. It is estimated that the future Córdoba base will require an investment of 350 million euros. The City Council approved the allocation of 28 million euros (with the corresponding modification of the municipal budget) and the Regional Government of Andalusia committed to provide 100 million euros. All this, they say, with the aim of “creating jobs”.
It is very significant that, in the press release issued by Moncloa announcing the construction of the base, a very visible box highlights that it “will contribute to the creation of more than 1,600 jobs”.
When the General State Budget is presented, the Minister of Defense in office, whether from PP (conservative) or PSOE (socialist), insists that the millions of euros allocated to the purchase of armaments generate employment. The creation of jobs is also used to justify arms exports, even the most controversial ones. The military industry and those who promote it insist on the creation of jobs to counteract silence or attenuate the general rejection of arms manufacturing among population. Unfortunately, they normally succeed.
Any industrial investment generates employment. However, in many cases this is not enough to justify certain activities, such as those that have negative consequences for people or the environment. Fortunately, some projects have been paralyzed precisely for some of these reasons due to the pressure of civil society.
All economic sectors, including the military, should be accountable to society for their activities. While it is true that military investments generate employment, the harmful effects they have on people and the environment should also be taken into account. We cannot forget the direct effects of the use of weapons (people killed, wounded, disabled, with physical and psychological consequences, etc.). Moreover, investing in the military industry increases the militarization of society, which encourages the violent resolution of conflicts. How does the military industry evaluate these harmful effects? Should it only take into account the jobs it generates? Even the much-touted creation of jobs by the military industry is questionable; let’s take a look at it.
A study led by Heidi Garrett-Peltier published by the Watson Institute at Brown University, calculates the jobs created per each million dollars invested in different sectors, one of which being the military. The results are very telling.
According to the study, for every million dollars invested in the military, 5.8 direct jobs and 1.1 indirect jobs mostly associated with the supply chain would be created. That is, a total of 6.9 jobs would be created for each million invested.
If the same investment were made in renewable energies, a total of 8.4 jobs would be created in the case of the wind energy sector and 9.5 in the case of the solar energy sector. Moreover, retrofitting to improve energy efficiency would generate 10.6 jobs for every million dollars invested.
Investing in infrastructure (construction of streets, roads, bridges, schools, public buildings, etc.) would lead to the creation of 9.8 jobs per million invested. The number of jobs created would be even greater in the case of the education and health sectors. In the health sector, for every million dollars invested, 14.3 jobs would be generated, and if that same amount of money were invested in primary and secondary education, 19.2 jobs would be created. According to the study, therefore, any given investment in the health sector generates 2.8 times more employment (almost three times more jobs) than the same amount invested in the military sector.
As such, according to the report, if the goal of an investment is job creation, investing in the military industry is the worst option. It is surprising that this is not taken into account when discussing military investments.
In Spain, the arms industry plays an important role. In the last decades, Spain has been one of the world’s largest arms exporters. According to SIPRI, Spain was the seventh largest arms exporter between 2016 and 2020. However, its export activity in other sectors is not so relevant. According to the World Bank, Spain ranks 16th among the world’s largest exporters.
Why does Spain play such a prominent role in arms exports while it lags behind in overall exports? The answer lies in the notorious support given by different governments, led by both PP (right) and PSOE (center-left), to arms exports. Even the Royal Household has directly intervened in this respect.The arms industry is therefore a matter of State. For Spain, being among the main arms exporters has a geostrategic value, and it gives it international prestige among its allies. Therefore, it is not only a matter of job creation.
Some of these exports, such as those made to Saudi Arabia, are particularly controversial and have been denounced by several organizations, as they believe they are illegal under Spanish and European legislation. Moreover, we cannot forget the corruption surrounding arms trade; the case of arms sells to Saudi Arabia by the company Defex (51% controlled by the State through SEPI) is a clear example.
Public investments should pursue the public’s best interest, the improvement of people’s lives and the conservation (and repair) of the environment. Investing in sectors such as education, health, renewable energies or infrastructures would satisfy the needs and demands of the population and would generate many more jobs than the military industry. In addition, military investments have an opportunity cost, i.e. they reduce the benefits that would be obtained if the investment were directed to other sectors that would create more jobs.
Besides, do we really need so many weapons? The recent pandemic has exposed the weakness of the healthcare and education systems in Spain. Would it not be more beneficial for the population to invest in these sectors rather than in the military? Given the current situation of social and environmental crisis, would it not be more appropriate to invest in housing rehabilitation, renewable energies and more healthcare personnel and teachers? This would not only generate more jobs, but would also improve people’s quality of life.