Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Today’s unemployment figures are horrific.

A total of 2.5 million people are counted as unemployed and the number of people who are "economically inactive", ie on long term sickness benefits, looking after a relative (and saving nursing home places), or who have simply given up looking for work (many of them claiming nothing at all, living off their partners’ earnings) has reached an astonishing 21% of the available population, or 8 million souls. The number of jobs available, according to the Office for National Statistics is just over 420,000. So all those who are shouting for people to get off their lazy backsides and look for work should be aware that what they are demanding is an impossibility. There are an incredibly small number of jobs for an incredibly large number of “economically inactive” people.

That’s a proud record for Labour to have as it limps towards a General Election. And that’s certainly not as bad as it will get in the near future. The banks, for example, are promising further job losses, with over 8000 notified this week alone, but yet to take effect.

Mr Cameron (it's not unreasonable to assume that he will be the next Prime Minister) will face a mammoth task in his first few years of government, trying desperately to find work that people can apply for. Because no amount of talking tough about people on benefit can hide that fact that 8 million people out of work does not go readily into 420,000 vacancies. Tough talking in this case only really pleases the non thinker who believes that if the unwashed just got off their backsides and did a decent day’s work the all would be right with the world, but totally disregards how this might be brought about.

Mr Cameron’s economic team may have many ideas about how to get Britain working again but I’m not sure where he will get 7 ¾ million jobs from.

I’ve worked for years with people who are unemployed, both with Jobcentre and with private companies trying to help people into work, and I can tell you without doubt that unemployment is a tragedy. It ruins lives, tears families apart and causes untold misery. The great bulk of unemployed people want a job. Yes, some of them are unreasonable in their demands, and some of them wouldn’t work if their granny’s life depended on it, but that’s a very small proportion.

Huge numbers are unfit for work because of drug and drink habits, low educational attainments, low intellectual abilities, or a string of dependent children. There are other barriers to getting people into employment, but the biggest of all is the lack of jobs.

In my opinion, given the problems that will face Mr Cameron in trying to make good his promises, he must concentrate on the young. Youth unemployment, that of people between the ages of 16 and 24 is close to 1 million, a record high of nearly 20% of that age group.

It is this age group who must be found work. Of course my solutions wouldn’t be of interest to Mr Cameron, because they involve public expenditure. Finding work for people by building an infrastructure suitable to the 21st century, training young people in trades as they go, building railways, roads, public housing to replace the failed and totally unaffordable private housing, improving public transport and trying to bring Britain up to the standard in these things of other northern European countries is how I would create that employment. In itself it would soak up large numbers, who, instead of claiming benefits would have wages, which, being young, they would spend, creating more work. Yep, it’s a well worn idea. Nothing original there!

I know that won’t be Mr Cameron’s way, given his politics, and I respect that, but, what I know for sure is that he cannot allow a million young people to be idle. If he does they may well be idle for the rest of their lives.


  1. Drop business tax and rates for anyone taking on new starters, drop the minimum wage, remove NI from any new starters and keep your fingers crossed that the economy improves.

    It'll work, yes I know the minimum wage is beloved of socialists, but it's a barrier to training, people might have crap wages, but they'll gain experience.

  2. Not to worry Cameron has his army social entrepreneur's to cure all our social ills
    save a fortune in efficient use public money through being more innovative.....

    Showing how profit taking can be a social benefit for all Captalism having made all the problems in the world will now in Camerons brave new world cure them as well..

    Oh! to be an English white middle class Christian heterosexual in Cameron Country.

    unfortunately any one outside of that catergory is going to find life a little bit more excluded.

  3. Well, I agree, apart from the miniumum wage thing. Whatever the situation with the economy, people have to eat, pay rent, electricity and gas and have some sort of life out of their wages. I wouldn't want to go out and work hard all day to come home and sit with with scarf and ear muffs on because I didn't have enough money for the electricity.

    Employers can't be trusted to pay living wages; when Mrs Thatcher abolished minimum rates that was patently obvious with some people paying as little as £1 an hour.

    The rest of the ideas are good. The trouble is when the incentives are removed after a year or whatever, people are sacked and new ones taken on so that the incentives can continue.

  4. Aye Niko, I didn't say I was looking forward to Cameron being in charge, but that's democracy the UK way.

    Clearly in an independent Scotland we wouldn't have to put up with that.

  5. Part of the problem with the minimum wage is that it discriminates against those who an employer sees as not being worth paying the minimum wage. It's actually a barrier to employment in some respects. If you can bridge the initial gap of getting a job, it's (usually) easier to get another one because you now have experience and an employment record. I know it sounds harsh, but the only way you can start getting people into jobs is if you make it worthwhile for employers to take them on.
    That said, anyone trying to get away with paying £1 an hour probably wont attract anyone worth employing anyway, save perhaps illegals.

  6. Nice post Tris, but I do not believe we can count on a skint state to solve anything as it stands, no matter how much you believe it would.

    "I know that won’t be Mr Cameron’s way, given his politics, and I respect that, but, what I know for sure is that he cannot allow a million young people to be idle. If he does they may well be idle for the rest of their lives."

    That's what Thatcher's regime did in the 80s - the generation that was lost in it's entirety (my peer group, and more than a million). I can't think of one reason why that would be different under Baroness Cameron.

  7. Quiet man:

    In my opinion no one should have to work for less than a living wage, given that the DWP can force people to take a job. Poverty level in the UK is around £16,000, the minimum wage at 22 is around £11,000, between 18 and 22, it is around £9,000 and between school leaving age and 18 it is around £6,500 (based on 37 hour weeks).

    It's quite true that if a person is not worth that kind of money at all, then they should not be employed because they are not capable of working.

    In the days before the Labour government brought in the minimum wage the Jobcentre forced people to accept jobs at £1.00 an hour.

    What kind of country sends people to work at that kind of income? Do you really want to be served in a restaurant by someone earning that little?

  8. Polaris:

    That is what worries me. I accept that Quiet Man has come up with some reasonable ways of encouraging the creation of more employment, but I believe we have to do more to make sure that at least the young don't suffer the fate of the 80s unemployed for whom there was no work.

    It is not an urban myth that orders came down from on high to put people on to the secretive "sick" figures instead of having them recorded on the monthly published "unemployed" figures. I have colleages who were involved in that little ruse. Never mind the poor sods whose lives were ruined, as long as the figures looked better than France's and Germany's, and Mrs Thatcher could lord it over them.

    Not, of course, that they didn't see through her, as always. Asked about the difference between the French unemployment figures of 5 million and the British ones of 3 million, the French Minister for Employment said...."Well, we count ALL of our unemployed."

  9. Tris..

    I agree, No Gov can let 1 million young people fester away without a job. If they are not in employment or some other training place then it will be another lost generation.

    Some of my Uni mates who are 22 and 23, same age as me, have had no job since they graduated back in June. They have applied for all sorts of jobs in supermarkets, garages, hotels etc but have been turned down because many employers think they will simply leave when something more suitable comes up.

    On graduation day at Heriot Watt we had many well known Scots business people reminding us all that times will be tough and don't expect to walk into the career you so much crave for during the current economic climate and many of us will just have to make do with what is on offer until times get better.

    Well according to my mate who is part of the Watt alumni website, 25% of this years graduates are not in work (Not just in Scotland, all over) and a further 40% are in jobs totaly unrelated to what they studied.

    I ken the hardship some of my old Uni mates are going through, they new it would be tough but not this tough to get any sort of job.

    Its sole destroying for them that after 4 or 5 years of hard studying and part time work that they cant even get a job in a supermarket serving customers.

    Unemployment is hurting people from all backgrounds and walks of life and I would not like to be the next UK gov to try and come up with a salutation.
    No quick or easy answers but if you want to run the UK then you have to take the shi# that comes with it.

    Good luck David Cameron, you will need it.

  10. Well Spook:

    He's telling us that he won't allow another generation of people to be lost. He blames Labour for doing nothing. Of course Mrs Balls-up says that she IS doing stuff and that the Tories will do nothing except withdraw money from programmes.

    The sad thing is that, I dunno about you but, I don't believe a word either of them says. For all the worrying things that are going on, most of them seem to be worrying far more about the removal of their second homes allowances and the fact they are going to have to pay their own servants (including the illegal immigrant ones).

    It's tragic that people like your mates have studied at uni, or college to get qualifications and there are no jobs. Blair insisted we needed half the population educated to tertiary level. He just forgot to arrange that there would be jobs for any of them anywhere else but in BT call centre at £6.00 an hour.

    As you know I've recently been working with youngsters, leaving school at 16 and I always try to persuade them to get the best qualifications possible. Sometimes I wonder why. Perhaps because I believe, somewhat misty eyed, that there will be an independent Scotland and that it will need plumbers and electricians... and accountants! :-)

  11. Polaris & quiet man

    If you want to lower unemployment cut welfare and get rid of the minimum wage give the poor no option but to work or starve unemployment will reduce.......

    me i'd start to plant bombs.


    There is out there another economy which is thriving I know quite a few living in it or off it (have done meself and may have to do so again yet)

    don't let the bastards grind you down is a good motto

  12. Niko: You're not thinking of selling your body, are you?

  13. What a very readable post. I look forward to finding out just how Mr Cameron and the Nasty Party will solve the obvious dichotomy that you so succinctly pointed out. I am sure that underneath the superfluous verbiage that they need to keep the blue rinsed outraged of Tunbridge Wells on side, and to gain the support of the Little Englander: “we hate foreigners and scroungers” brigade that read the Daily Mail, they are well aware of the essential problem.

  14. Thank you Munguin.

    It will be interesting to see how they pull it off, but pull it off they must.

    I think that as time goes on people become less accepting of certain things, perhaps as they see other people get richer and richer, "beyond the dreams of averice" as they say.

    The young people who were dumped on the dole in the 1980s were much more compliant than people will be today. It is less and less likely that they will quietly lie down and live on £60 a week and endless useless courses to prepare them for jobs that don't exist, just to keep Daily Mail readers happy, while the world goes on around them.

    Mr Cameron will have to deal with this, or deal with the consequences of not dealing with it.

    And, as for disgusted of Tunbridge Wells... I suspect that he, or she, will be a lot more disgusted if Cameron doesn't deal with it effectively.

    My worry for after the election is that we will have no effective opposition. The Labour party looks like it's heading to total meltdown and if there are any bright young things coming up, their best career move would be.... just that.... MOVE.

  15. Tris..

    Your right, MP's are far to concerned about themselves and their lavish expenses to be truly bothered about young unemployed.

    The problem at the moment is, with or without qualifications young people just cant get a job.

    I landed lucky because of my relationship with my boss but even at that I had to study for 4 years to ensure I was right for his business and its his policy to take on 2 or 3 graduates every few years. In fact half his staff are under 30 and all are ex graduates.

    I don't have answers for the the unemployed on what I would do but they MP's have a lot of work cut out.

  16. Spook, it's far too important for people to have party political battles over it. One of the reasons that Springburn's in the state it is in is that Thatcher just wanted that problem to go away, so she made it go away... She did nothing but she hid the figures, and 30 years later, broken old men of 50 are in a physical and mental state that means they will never work. The won't collect much of a pension either.

    Their lives have been ruined by a country that didn't care about them. Give them enough money to stay alive and leave them, after a while that's all they are fit for. They simply didn't fit into the Britian that Mrs Thatcher saw. The City, banking insurance, call centres, nice and clean, and middle class.

    Cameron must NOT be allowed to do the same thing to this decade's lost. This time many of them are people like your mates. People who with their degrees will end up in call centres and supermarkets. But there are the 16 year olds too....

    We must make something happen for them.

  17. Another problem the politicians tend to ignore is that many employers simply don't offer jobs to people with gaps in their history of paid employment. If someone has been on incapacity benefit for a few years due to something like mental illness, and then feels capable of work, they face a dispiriting round of interviews followed by refusals, increasing the possibility of their sinking back into poor mental health.

    Cameron's proposals also offer nothing in the way of additional support in getting people, particular those with mental health problems (who are about 40% of those on incapacity benefits), back into work.

  18. Bob:

    Welcome to the Republic and thanks for your post.

    I completely agree with you. When Cameron tries to pick up the pieces that this government have left scattered all over the floor, he will find that employers, being incredibly picky about their new employees, will reject out of hand the people who have long periods of unemployment on their cvs for whatever reasons.

    And I completely agree with you that it is so incredibly the wrong time to start pushing people on Incapacity Benefits into the ever growing pool of unemployed people, with the inevitability of the outcomes that you describe.

    The government's own advisor on social security matters did advise the previous secretary of state about this, but of course, as usual, expert advice that doesn't agree with the Daily Mail leader writer’s assessment of the situation is always going to be ignored.

    Until we start governing according to the way things are, as opposed to the way the Daily Mail sees them we shall remain in a mess!