Unemployment Part 2

Mark Sandford - March 2013
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Since my last article on this subject, unemployment as measured by data compiled by the ONS has fallen to 2.5 million persons. The number of people in work has also leapt to a new high of 29.73 million persons, of which 73% work full time and 27% work part-time. That the unemployed total is coming down is good news for us all and this must be said. Over 580000 people are now employed compared to this time 12 months ago. The total of persons claiming Jobseekers Allowance has also fallen by 12500 to 1.54 million. This figure needs to come down a lot more to have any impact on the welfare bill that now accounts for a huge chunk of State spending. The numbers of long term unemployed has also fallen by 15000, and thank Heavens for that.

However the government's much vaunted Work Programme has come in for severe criticism from an all Party Committee of MPs in the House of Commons. This is contracted out to private firms by the Government who are supposed to be paid on results. Only 3.6% of claimants had been moved off benefits into sustained employment against a target of 11.9% expected by the Department of Work and Pensions. This has been castigated by Labour as an absolute failure. The government might help itself if it was not determined to brand those on benefits as shirkers, particularly after the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to cut the tax rate for those earning over 150,000 a year. Employers could also change their attitude to the long term unemployed instead of viewing them as useless or mentally subnormal.

The Work Programme waas also challenged in court by a young lady from Birmingham who won her case finally in the Court of Appeal. Cait Reilly claimed that employment law was breached by expecting her to work for nothing at Poundland under threat of losing her benefits. No doubt, thousands of claimants have been forced to do this, that or the other under a scheme that has now been found to be illegal. Under the latest ruling, those who were stripped of their benefits can claim back the money that they were entitled to. Iain Duncan Smith will have to go back to the drawing board over sanctions on claimants. This episode also demonstrates that we have sunk to a new low in this country. Miss Reilly has now found a part time role in a supermarket.

It is a basic clause in employment law that if a person goes to work for any company doing any job, he or she should be paid a real wage. It is a sign of the times that the coalition government choose to ignore this simple fact.

Everyone concerned should realise that unemployment affects us all including those in work who have seen their pay rates remain stagnant over the last two years. If we desire to cut the welfare bill in this country, then we have to provide proper help for the long term unemployed, not the usual pompous drivel. No doubt, there will continue to be a debate as to how we attain economic growth and sustain it in this country, about which there is nothing necessarily wrong. But the debate might be framed in the positive instead of yelling polemics at those desperately struggling to find any job and keep themselves afloat.

(see www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21426928)

Mark Sandford - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Mark Sandford, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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