Friday, 14 May 2010

Getting Britain Back to Work. Is Iain Duncan Smith the Man for the Job?

Iain Duncan Smith has been handed the poison chalice that is the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). He seems a reasonable choice for the job. Although being something of a catastrophe as leader of the party and, despite touted as being more right wing than Norman Tebbit, he seems to be a man with both a heart and a head.

He will need both.

The objective is to get people back to work. A hard task. Unemployment is rising, and will continue to do so as the results of the recession long after recovery starts. There are fewer jobs at lower salaries, with fewer hours, and ever more people are being thrown on to the dole by the government’s own plans to cut costs.

It will seem to IDS that just as he gets a few hundred back to work, some government department will pay off 4,000 and he’ll be even worse off than before.

Welfare to work is important: for everyone. The taxpayer shouldn’t have to maintain any more people than necessary, and the jobless must work for a living. It’s how life is. You work, you eat!

But at the same we have to be cautious. There are many reasons why people are not working, besides the fact that currently there are few jobs.

Much is made of the Eastern European influx to do work that Brits
won’t do, as there was in the 50s and 60s (in England) of Windrush Caribbeans. People from ex-communist countries are imbued with the culture that you worked or you were thrown into prison. Good, some say, let’s do that here... but you need to remember that there, the state provided jobs for everyone. We can’t do that here.

One of our problems is a mismatch between what is needed and what people can do. We live in an increasingly technological age. Of the few jobs that are available, most require trained and skilled workers. We don’t have them. Until recently we have always had heavy factory work for guys, and we don’t any more. The failure in the DWP and its predecessors’ management is that they have failed to understand that. You just can’t take a lad who wants, and is equipped to spend his days lifting, digging, sweating over a heavy load, and put him in a callcentre.

Much is made of people’s apparent unwillingness to work, but many I’ve worked with would do anything to get a decent job. Employers though don’t want telesalesmen with heavy local accents, and no natural inclination for keyboard work. Within a generati
on typing has gone from being something girls do, to a job for everyone.

We need to look very carefully at what successive governments have done to help create this situation.

The closure of most of our manufacturing industry; the stopping of assistance for apprenticeships; the competition between privatized exam boards selling the easiest exams to schools so that they will be able to get the best results in the league tables; the league tables themselves resulting in those who will not shine in exams being discarded; the ‘university for all’ at any cost, producing graduates for whom there are no jobs, and who end up taking the callcentre/pub jobs that might have gone to the less educated.

This subject is far too large for a single post. I will return to some of the many reasons I have found why people can’t get work, even when there is work.

I’d appreciate hearing other people’s views on surely one of the most contentious of all government problems.


  1. and the jobless must work for a living. It’s how life is. You work, you eat!

    Oh Dear here we go again does this include the royal family they have a nice corner of the dss payments.

    Many (Cameron) have a vast inherited wealth and never work in their lives.
    supposing a white male middle class tory trains as a doctor but unfortunately due to the Tory efficiency savings there are no jobs for new doctors..but there is a vacancy for a bin man would you? expect him to do it.

    What about the employers(of which there are many) who refuse furtively to employ older people and given Camerons dictat we all must work till 66 before getting our pensions.

    how do you propose to counter this discrimination whilst all the time the sinister William hague is attempting to subvert any E.U.
    laws which protect people employment and their employment rights.

    As ever the fiddlers will get away with it and the ordinary working/non working person in genuine difficulty will completely stuffed...

    Have you ever sat in front of someone who said
    in answer to when was the last time toy worked

    answer-ten years

    why have you applied for this job

    answer- cos the dole sent me here and if i dont apply they will cut me benefit

    how are you with early starts

    answer-not very good really but will give it a try should be alright on afternoons....

    yeah of course you would give them a job wouldn't you just the employee you need.

    the example is based on actual events with real people....

  2. IDS could be a good choice for the DWP because when he was Tory leader he did visit some of the more deprived parts of the UK and Scotland and with the Lib/Dems in gov too I don't think they would let anything too radical decimate the welfare system. .

    Labour had 13 years to sort out the mess the Tories left behind them but they failed.

    Mixed Pickles makes an interesting point when he describes someone who has been unemployed for a while and goes for a job interview. The sort of remedial and short answers from the person would put most potential employers off recruiting someone like that but if we are to get serious about bringing long term unemployed people back into the workforce then attitudes on both sides have to change.

    I dislike the proposals some make about taking benefits away from people if they fail to look for a job or go into some work scheme, its far too negative and sends out the wrong message about the benefits of work.

    One benefit about (if you can call it that) is that most people who are losing jobs at the moment are office based and can easily diversify their skills into other areas such as retail where as the problem with the huge job loses in the 80s was that people were mostly from heavy manufacturing sectors and try putting someone from that sector behind a desk was always going to be difficult.

    No easy solution to today's long term unemployed but decent housing and a bigger emphasis on manufacturing jobs could be a start to bringing some out of the depressing deprivation that so many now face.

    The company I work for recently opened up a new store in Granton employing over 300 hundred people and many of the new staff were from the local area which has high unemployment.

    I helped with the recruiting process and many of the locals had never worked since the local gas works closed down. They also did not want to work behind checkouts or other areas which had contact with the public but when I told them about the many warehouse and night shift vacancies we were offering then attitudes changed.

    Part of my task as a manager was not to pick people for vacancies who's CV had the most School/Collage and University degrees (although this did play a part in some of the recruitment process dependent on the nature of the job) but who would actually benefit most from the post. For example I would look at a male/Female who had been unemployed for a while and came from a manufacturing background and possibly recruit them for a hands on position like the night shift or warehousing jobs rather than recruit a bright fresh faced student into this area just to fill a gap between University days.

    Part of the process in getting long term unemployed or any unemployed back into the workforce is offering them jobs where they are more suited too and not just any old job just to make the unemployment figure look modest.

    Not to discriminate against students, I would look to recruit them in the more public areas as this would bring them confidence when they eventually look for a more permanent career and those who have graduated and still work for the company I would be looking to put them on some sort of graduate course.

    I'm not an expert on what is the best way to get people off the dole and back into work but through my experience as a manger recruiting people it does help to offer people a job that they are more suited too.

    Sorry for the long comment but its a really good subject in which to bring up because unemployment can affect us all.

  3. Allan

    Unemployment can affect us all.............and after the cuts there will be many more unemployed looking for work.

    Why doesn't the Tory arrange Funding (no strings attached) for individuals to start up their own businesses etc they can then employ themselves and with luck others as well.

    Torys are always on about individual initiative and people making there own way why not put there(our) money where there ideology is.

    If you pay x amount to keep a person why not say
    here is an amount to start up whatever but afterwards you get nothing from the dss for so many years....

  4. Mixed Pickle

    Please don't ask me questions to do with Tory policy lol, I'm no Tory but I think when it comes to private enterprise and business start ups then along with the SNP they are more pro business than Labour.

    I don't think any government could fully support everyone who wanted to start up a business by funding it but the banks could be more sympathetic to it and certainly a bigger emphasis in School over business plans could also help.

    I think you're getting away from the real problem of long term unemployment and I don't think many of them are interested in starting a business but I might be wrong.

    Mixed Pickle Labour had 13 years to get it right but they never and most of the job cuts that are coming are as a result of 13 years of Labour.

    One solution to keeping unemployment down might be for Scots to stop voting Labour and actually vote for change. Just a thought!

  5. You don't really need me here guys. You're doing a good job on your own.

    What I will say is that I've worked with unemployed people now for 10 years + and I've seen all manner of stuff. I intended to do another post on some of the pitfalls of expecting people to take unsuitable jobs, and the role that employers might or might not play.

    But Niko, I've sat across from everything mate... Not much would surprise me now.

  6. Allan. A brilliant and very thoughtful post.

    Your company clearly has a social conscience, and I think that more companies must be encouraged adopt a similar attitude. A large organisation (and yours must be if you were employing 300 people) must really be a part of the community. In the past companies like that were, perhaps too much so on occasions, but they built houses, parks etc, and provided all manner of facilities for their employees.

    It was probably the grab for greed of Thatcher that stopped all that kind of thing more or less completely. The harm that bitch did is unbelievable.

    There are many issues that face people looking for work, and many issues that employers face too. I’ll write a post on it later tonight if I have time.

    You never have to apologise for a long post mate. Certainly not one as interesting as that.

  7. Tris

    One of the points i was making was just that, making people take jobs that either they are not suited nor want. My experience recruiting unemployed people is just a small example but as I said I'm no expert.

    I look forward to your post on unemployment and I think you're well qualified on the subject having 10 + years in working with unemployed people.

  8. Tris

    I might agree in principle at some of the stuff the Tories come out with but when it comes to Thatcher then I'm afraid I hold the exact same views as your own.

    Yeah you're right Tris, the company I work for open many stores in Brown field locations (which is cheaper for them than purpose built areas) and have a very high social conscience when doing so.

    Of course they need to make a profit but at the same time they want to be good partners in the local community and offer local people a chance to work. I'm not saying we have all the local solutions but I like to think we can do our part by paring people with the right job.

    Sorry for the deleted post,too many errors in it lol

  9. "the jobless must work for a living. It’s how life is. You work, you eat!"

    HERE HERE! We will make a Tory of you yet Tris!

  10. Deano

    how does that square with the £9.1bn overseas aid budget??

  11. Allan I think that is what is needed, but I'll talk about that on my post.

    Overseas aid is important Niko; the trouble is we are still pouring money into places that have long ago overtaken us and wee Dougie never noticed. There is simply no need for aid to India and China...with their nuclear weapons and space technology... That's not to say there aren't people poor and starving there, but then have you ever been to New York, Chicago, London, Easterhouse....Marseille?

    Aid is a huge problem subject and unemployment is difficult enough without adding aid into it. But it is something else that Labour has made a mess of, and certainly worthy of a post.

    Dean...LOL. There are bits of me that are quite right wing, might even shock you; there are other bits of me that are left of anything Labour has been doing and there are bits that are in the middle.

    Most of all, of course, I just want my country run by my fellow Scotsmen in Edinburgh.