Skip to main content

Labour need to answer key questions on its new approach to the long-term unemployed.

Labour's attempt this month to sound tough on benefits for the long-term unemployed is worrying. They are adopting a carrot and stick approach. Britain,  Ed Balls says, "needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works." It is sadly familiar language.

Labour says it will offer a "job guarantee" to the long term unemployed. Government will "ensure" there is a job for each adult who is long-term unemployed, and people will be obliged to take this job or risk losing their benefits. It sounds fair, a guaranteed job. But where would this job come from?

There are currently around 130,000 adults over the age of 25 who have been out of work for 24 months or more. According to official figures unemployment now stands at 7.7% of the work force.  But unemployment is unevenly distributed across the UK. In the worst affected areas such as Ladywood and Hodge Hill in Birmingham it is as high as 10 - 11.7 %.  Unemployment in Birmingham is greatest in the inner city areas. In one ward it stands at almost 30%. Finding jobs in these areas is particularly difficult.

The West Midlands has one of the highest economic inactivity rates in England. In February last year West Midlands business leaders urged the Government to promote a “culture of entrepreneurism” and to encourage banks to lend to industry – and warned they could not create jobs without state support.

Last year Channel 4 News uncovered data showing that the 'welfare to work' company A4e had been able to secure sustainable employment for only 3.5% of job seekers under the government's work programme. This flag-ship programme clearly isn't working. In November, Jonty Olliff-Cooper, director of policy and strategy at A4E, blamed the coalition for the failure of the company to meet targets suggesting that there "isn't enough money to tackle long-term unemployment."

There are no easy or quick fixes to finding work for the long term jobless. It requires sustainable investment to create real jobs and it requires the development of skills to match them.  It needs jobs created in areas of need. 

Joblessness is complex. There is no simple solution to matching job opportunities with required skills and to locate businesses in areas of high unemployment.  A family cannot move simply to regions of higher employment. Costs of housing and child care and moving away from family support are all barriers. Unemployment and poor job opportunities are economically structural rather than behavioural. Building real jobs needs investment, but banks are still failing to lend to start up businesses or to provide businesses with the funds they need to grow. 

Labour's guarantee of a job is great but it might be more difficult to achieve than the headline suggests. Building real jobs will take time and investment. And there is one nagging question Labour needs to answer about its new 'tough'  approach. What happens to those who fail to get a job? 

According to the new policy their benefits will be cut. But then what? Is Ed Balls willing to watch as they lose their homes and their children fall deeper into poverty? Labour's carrot and stick approach begs more questions than it answers.

Postscript

I sometimes wonder when I listen to discussion about 'the unemployed' and 'getting tough', or about 'strivers' and 'shirkers'  whether we appreciate fully the seismic impact of the financial crisis on British businesses and jobs. In the space of 12 months in 2008/09 a staggering 220,000 companies went out of business with the loss of 1 million jobs.  What is needed is investment and the creation of new jobs. What is not needed is cuts in spending that will further contract the economy and increase the deficit in public finances through loss of tax revenue. The way out of recession is to get people back to work productively, spending in the high street and paying taxes. 


Comments

  1. Exactly. And this is why I found that little disclaimer in Michael Meacher's otherwise impressive speech on Atos and the disabled so worrying. He says:

    "Is it reasonable to pressurise seriously disabled persons into work so ruthlessly when there are 2.5 million unemployed, and when on average eight persons chase every vacancy, unless they are provided with the active and extensive support they obviously need to get and hold down work, which is certainly not the case currently?"
    http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2013/01/my-speech-on-atos-work-capability-assessments/

    It is that weasly "unless". He is *still* not condemning the Unum biopsychosocial disability-denying dogma that insists even a cancer victim with less than a year to live, MUST STILL WORK. Albeit with the right "support", which, in light still of more sanctions for Labour's mandatory jobs scheme, will only amount to the continued harrassment of individuals whose doctors and consultants have recommended should refrain from *all* work.


    ReplyDelete

Post a comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ian Duncan-Smith says he wants to make those on benefits 'better people'!

By any account, the government's austerity strategy is utilitarian. It justifies its approach by the presumed potential ends. It's objective is to cut the deficit, but it has also adopted another objective which is specifically targeted. It seeks to drive people off benefits and 'back to work'.  The two together are toxic to the poorest in society. Those least able to cope are the most affected by the cuts in benefits and the loss of services. It is the coupling of these two strategic aims that make their policies ethically questionable. For, by combining the two, slashing the value of benefits to make budget savings while also changing the benefits system, the highest burden falls on a specific group, those dependent on benefits. For the greater good of the majority, a minority group, those on benefits, are being sacrificed; sacrificed on the altar of austerity. And they are being sacrificed in part so that others may be spared. Utilitarian ethics considers the ba

Keir Starmer has a lot to offer

The Labour Party is in the process of making a decision that will decide whether it can recover from the defeat in 2019 General Election.  All the candidates have much to offer and are making their case well. No doubt for some the decision will be difficult.  Others may well have made up their minds on the simple binary of Left-wing-Right-wing. The choice should be whoever is best placed to pull the party together.  Someone who can form a front bench of all talents and across the spectrum in the party. That is what Harold Wilson did in the 1960s.  His government included Roy Jenkins on the right and Barbar Castle on the left; it included Crossman and Crossland, and Tony Benn with Jim Callaghan.  It presented a formidable team. Keir Starmer brings to the top table a formidable career outside politics, having been a human rights lawyer and then Director of Public Prosecutions.   He is a man of integrity and commitment who believes in a fairer society where opportunities are more

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't