Sunday 23 January 2011


Chris Grayling, a minister with the London coalition, is going to “rescue” the “lost generation” by taking them off the dole figures and putting them into work, so says the Telegraph.

I am delighted, of course, that the government is to focus on the 16-25 year olds in the jobs market. I have advocated that several times on this blog. Years of experience in the employment business has reinforced in my reckoning that there is little point in perusing the Thatcher lost generation for work. They have been unemployed too long, settled into their world of poverty, mostly with an acceptance that that is how it will be till they die, probably long before their time. On the other hand, unless we want to ruin the lives of yet another generation of Scots we have to do something to provide work for the under 25s. Even if this costs money, it will be an investment worth making.

The numbers of this age group who are without employment, further or higher education has risen dramatically. It is not just in Scotland where this is a problem. All over the world the issue is the burning one for governments and for young people alike. It is disingenuous therefore of the coalition t
o try to blame this all on the Labour Party (although their input was substantial).

The figures in Spain are far worse than in Scotland, and even in Germany, there is a 10% youth unemployment rate. In Tunisia youth unemployment was one of the causes of the riots which overthrew the government. This is now spreading to other countries. Although Scottish Youth is unlikely to be so vociferous in expressing its displeasure at idleness being thrust upon it, London is right to be afraid of this possibility.

Mr Grayling’s solution is to offer work in private companies to young people most likely to end up joining the ranks of the long term unemployed (LTUs). Unfortunately Mr Grayling’s plans come unstuck at the first obstacle because neither he, nor the private companies can actually afford to pay for this work, so this new workforce will rely on benefits.

The laudable aim is, of
course, to give young people the experience of work, the absence of which is so often a barrier to their being employed. Unfortunately some rather hapless coalition spokesman said that they would be focussing on the needs of employers...which would appear to be for free labour!

I’d be the first to agree that the needs of business must be one of the primary concerns in the rebuilding of the economy, wrecked by bankers and the incompetence of the bank of England, the regulatory bodies, the last government and the last opposition. But free labour is taking this a bit too far.
For employment to work, it must be a partnership between employers and employees. And whilst job experience can have a role to play, it is usual in this relationship for money to change hands.

The full plans are to be announced in the next few days. I look forward with interest to reading them. I hope that the issues of payment will be dealt with, and that the massive problem of drink and drugs addiction will which is one of the barriers to work and the treatment of which is so sadly underfunded will not be neglected.

The problem of unemployment is one which has dogged the London governments for a long time. It has always been handled ineptly. Perhaps London would consider devolving the issue to Edinburgh where it might be dealt with effectively.

Pics: (1) Chris Grayling, a controversial Tory who was destined to be Home Secretary until he made a series of embarrassing statements about youth, Liverpool and gays, whereupon he was demoted to minister of state under the safer IDS and his job given to Kinky Boots May (or ''Matron', as she is known in certain parts!!) (2) Tunisian youth demonstrating that a mixture of unemployment and rising prices don’t make the best cake. Take note David Cameron. (3) Still, look on the bright side, there’s a job for a plasterer there. (4) Chris looks at a wall of achievement and wonders where he went wrong. Want a wee hint, Chris? Two extremities, “feet” and “mouth”.


  1. The problem of unemployability is often established by school leaving age. As a small employer for twenty years I had dozens of perfectly intelligent young men through my hands who were sub-literate and innumerate. I cannot remember one recent school leaver who knew how to do joined up writing. They were generally not unpleasant but usually came from one parent homes with little stability. 11 years of state schooling/child minding had not included sitting still and paying attention. It had however been brilliantly successful in giving them a sense of "self esteem".

    Many had been on "the social" for months or a year or two and regarded that as their basic salary to be supplemented by casual work. As we were offering full time, moderately paid employment for production and packing work it didn't fit too well with that mindset. They really didn't see why they should pay tax and national insurance as well as foregoing their payments from "the social"!

    Timekeeping was a continuous problem as they were not used to thinking ahead. Some would not bother to turn up for work the following week until they had spent all their previous week's wages. The best thing we did was to change from weekly wages paid in cash to monthly payments by cheque/direct credit with a useful timekeeping bonus. That was the first time most of them had ever had to think that far ahead.

    In the Sixties a relative was training for social work and I got to read "New Society" and some of the course materials. The pressure then was to abolish all distinction between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor. It was the era when Woy Jenkins was pwaising the contwibution made to society by the "voluntawy unemployed". There was even a proposal in New Society that people who did not like working should be able to register as "ergophobiacs" and a discussion of what level of benefit a state-registered ergophobiac should receive.

    The fact that millions of immigrants could come in and find work shows that it was not primarily a lack of employment which kept youngsters idle but the relative ease of the alternative. Of course, in harder times that may no longer be so. I know it sounds Dickensian but I am pretty sure the problem will continue until the claiming of state support is made "less eligible".
    I also support the raising of tax threshholds to take the lower paid out of income tax altogether. That would increase the obvious incentive to work without having to go into what is politely called "the informal economy".

  2. I agree with Edward, the coalition plan to raise those earning £10,000 or less out of tax is going to massively incentivise a return to work; as it removes the crippling marginal rates of tax for those on the threshold of low-paid work/unemployment.

    Yet, I do wish th echo Tris when he speculates about a worrying inclination to view the solution through a 'employer friendly' lens.

    I mean, yes, employers must be incentivised in participate and engage in the implementation of a scheme to solve youth unemployment. However, their concerns must not be the only ones being input.

    Thus, I would need to read up more, as the role of Non Governmental Organizations who specialise in this area of youth unemployment shall be of critical importance to the success or failure of Gryaling/IDS plans.

    All I know is this: this coalition may be showing some nievity regarding the realities of power-implementation of policy, but the likes of Ian Duncan Smith, Frank Fields, John Hutton, Chris Grayling do seem to have more fire in their belly to sort this tragedy out. That I strongly welcome, as Tris does.

    Good to see the coalition focusing on those who are most vulnerable, even if many of them cannot neccessarily vote. Patrician One Nationism at its humane best.

  3. Deano

    What a knob so raisung the tax from 7500 to 10000 is going to have a 's going to massively incentivise a return to work' so lets see

    thats about 10 quid a week in yer wage packet whoo! lest go and buy a house or a new car have a holiday............

    Dean do you actually have any connection to the world of work or reality at all???


    who in hell would want to work for someone like you i'd rather starve or better still work for someone who i could respect and would treat there employees with respect....

    as the old saying goes the management get the workforce they deserve

  4. No way to start out in life

    All past administrations have never addressed this because of there mantra 'Its the economy stupid' rather than "Its SOCIETY first stupid".

    Only solution is to ditch Westminster, London Labour and London Tory.

  5. You make some excellent points Mr S.

    Many kids leave school totally unprepared for in any way for work, with no counselling about what jobs might suit them, are available and what kind of qualifications they might need for them. I despair of schools which have, even in Scotland and away from London’s malign influence, become qualification factories. And the qualifications are utter crap. I could do a standard grade in most subjects with no study and whilst writing a letter in Latin. As for Highers (A levels), a bit more difficult but I did one French paper in my head one afternoon sheltering in Waterstone’s waiting for a friend.

    I regularly read that one of the applicants has a standard grade in “Englush” and on one occasion interviewed a person who said had a top grade French, but didn’t understand an instruction to sit down or a polite request as to how he was.

    It’s not the kids’ fault. It’s lousy parenting and useless schools, for all the rabbit on about how great they are.

    I have no idea what the answer is. It certainly isn’t what Michael Gove is coming up with. We may have got rid of heavy industry, but we haven’t got rid of the people who used to be employed in it. And a sound knowledge of Milton, Shakespeare and Chaucer, isn’t going to be of much use to them.

    I hope we have a better notion in Scotland of what to do. I’ve yet to hear it if we have.

    We have been left a legacy of change for the sake of it and political correctness for the sake of it, to try to beat the idiotic snobbery that pervades the whole of British society. Of course there should be schools for intellectual endeavour and craft schools for those who will be engaged in craft in the future. Everyone else has them in Europe, but we had to get rid of them, because we had delineated an Academy (Grammar School) as a pass, and a Junior Secondary (Secondary Modern) as a failure. And all this was to be decided at the age of 12 (11) (English equivalents in brackets.)

    I wish I had a clue as to the answer or how, with almost no money at all, this can be changed. Most of the teachers are incapable of teaching because they don’t know themselves. At a recent visit to a school where I was going to talk about careers choices, I overheard a teacher talking to a group of use “yous” as a plural do the second person pronoun. She’ll be a lot of use.

  6. Dean:

    There are many organisations all over this country, and the rest of the UK I imagine, which are contracted by Jobcentre Plus to help people into work. Some organisations are funded by local government (on behalf of Edinburgh, with matched funding for a very wide range of sources including the National Lottery, charitable funds, trusts, and the European Union.

    They are, as you would expect, good and bad. I’ve had to opportunity to visit many.

    The trouble is, and has been for as long as I’ve been in this game, that the only thing that matters at government level is FIGURES. People matter pretty well not at all, indeed companies matter very little. Reaching targets is all that matters.

    Of course, the alternative is, take the targets away and the charlatans out there will do as little as possible.

    In the meantime people, either working to targets, or paid by results will do anything to achieve these targets. I’ve seen people sent off to do the most inappropriate work, because it ticked a box and or got them the next payment they needed.

    Additionally, they all wrote exactly the same crap on each CV, regardless of who is sitting before them, because they don’t have time to do a proper job. They get paid to do a CV, and no one looks at the quality. I can remember an employer I worked with telling me that he could tell where the person had their CV done, and he could tell what phrases would be used, as soon as he looked at it.

    Hardworking and Enthusiastic Person who is Flexible and Ready for a Challenge.... After you’ve been reading this garbage for a few years and have employed some of them only to find that they are lazy, unenthusiastic, inflexible and ready to do the bare minimum on any task they are set... you may begin to doubt the veracity of the statement!

    So there are two problems in these organisations. They are underfunded (and therefore get some pretty ghastly staff, who in any case don’t have the time to spend on individuals) and they are far too target driven (which means that they will do anything to get someone through the door and a tick in the “employed” box, even if the person only lasts a week).

    Now in fairness I have to say that some of the staff are very good, dedicated, trodden on... and utterly disheartened.

  7. Niko. Raising the tax threashold will help poorer people, there's no doubt about that. But it is to be done slowly over the next 5 years. I doubt it is teh answer to all our problems.

  8. Yes CH. You've hit the nail on the head. "Look after your workforce and they will look after you" is true. In the same way, if you look after society, then you will find that the economy has more chance of coming.

    There is a horrible divide in the UK between the top and the bottom. It’s wider than in any other OECD country. And we have one of the lowest productivity levels in the OECD.

    By and large people in the UK are not happy. It’s been shown time and again that the lower the gap between rich and poor the better the country is.

    Japan is one such society, and it seems that although they have had a pretty stagnant economy for as long as I can remember, they have a relatively crime free society and their standard of living is out of the world compared with ours. We might be living in two separate planets.

  9. Its been done before by the Tories under John Major and it didn’t work, New Labour tried it and it didn’t work! So what do “call me”, Guideon and Lord Baldermort (Duncan-smith) think that they will get right this time round? Lots of problems like: Unions usually kick off when jobs are being taken from workers to allow the government to massage its unemployment figures. People who are made to go don’t tend to do a good job. It will be on the cheap like everything this coalition does. Let’s face it they don’t care it’s just a way of making things “look” better

  10. Interesting article CH. The blaming for the situation on the minimum wage rising too steeply is worrying, as it is still almost impossible to live on the minimum wage, and certainly on the minimum wage under 21 given rents, council tax, travel costs, heating and the cost of food all rising by well over the official rate of inflation. I can only imagine that the government will seize upon this information to freeze the level of minimum wage, which will make life even more difficult for young people.

  11. It's probably more a figure massage than anything else Munguin. If you take 100,000 kids off the dole and put them on training allowances, the numbers look better, although the cost is greater.

    Labour tried something like this, as least in pilot form, and it was a disaster. The dropped it after a couple of years. To be fair it was not for youngsters in particular, and in some cases they can be far more biddable than older and extremely belligerent LTUs.

  12. Well now that they have stopped bribing then to stay at school or go to Sixth form college and learn to read, they will need some other wheeze to make then look good to the gullible. Most thinking people will see it for what it is however!

  13. As Munguin says the numbers have been manipulated for decades by forcing claimants into things especially education (colleges) by threatening to removing those benefits if they don't comply.

    That article I highlighted tris was to show up the graph showing how the young age group have always been at the bottom of the pile.

    We either cap the MAXIMUM wage to a reasonable level or invert the pyramid on taxation making the richest pay most and if they squeal, tough.

    There never has been nor will there ever be a trickle down effect which is what politicians use to justify their policies. If, as you have said before, they threaten to go elsewhere then give them a wave and charge them for your effort in waving before they leave as 'Big Society' will be better without them.

  14. There was a company my uncle worked for in Switzerland CH in which the top salary was directly related to the bottom salary. Indeed I'm not sure that it wasn't Cantonal law, perhaps even Swiss law, that required that.

    I can't remember the ratio, but it did mean that if the Charirman decided that he deserved a 50% pay rise, the cleaners got it too.

    In Albania before the revolution, Ramiz Alia, the president earned exactly 4 times what the bottom paid person in the country earned.

    I'm not exactly proposing the Albanian communist model, but the Swiss one seems to have produced a prosperous country.

  15. The figures have always been manuipulated Munguin. I think they have lied about every single thing ever since Adam was a lad.

    Governments seem incapable of telling the truth.

  16. The Swiss situation is interesting. They send about half as many youngsters to university as we do in the UK but they have a network of really good vocational training/technical college/apprenticeship schemes.

    The unemployment benefit is relatively generous (calculated on a proportion of past salary and length of time in work) but highly conditional with an interview once a week to ensure that the recipient is "genuinely seeking work" and it doesn't last forever. If you use up your entitlement, you are literally "on the parish" - the responsibility of the commune where you live. You know that the money is coming out of your neighbours and the relieving officers will know quite a bit about you. Swiss unemployment levels are relatively low.

    Before I started my own business, I sometimes received job applicants who had been sent round to the old firm by the Jobcentre. They were hard cases who only wanted me to sign their card to prove that they had applied. On occasions when we had a vacancy, I would start to ask about their past employment to see if they might be suitable and would, as often as not, be told "Just sign the card, Mister". (sometimes with an expletive or two). The Jobcentre was wasting my time. The last thing they were seeking was work.

  17. Yes Mr S. I remember getting off the train in Geneva and seeing big advertisements in the station for apprenticeships for one of the train companies than ran out of there. They repair all their carriages and locomotives, and make them last for a long time and require skilled craftsmen to look after them. They also look after the amazing feats of engineering that are the railway lines, and they keep them clear in the winter.

    Most unemployment benefit schemes rely on a graduated system with a final “social security” benefit at the end which is less than generous. As it goes, the UKs is quite low, because Mrs Thatcher did away with the graduated system, or “earnings related” supplement.

    If I’m not mistaken there is actually no longer any entitlement to an unemployment benefit based on National Insurance contributions in the UK. There was at one time a year’s entitlement, Mrs Thatcher cut that to 6 months’, and Mr Cameron has removed it altogether. If you have a partner earning, you get nothing now from day one.

    It is not, and has never been inordinately generous, even before Thatcher got her hands upon it. It is the fact that basic wages are relatively low, again thanks to Mrs Thatcher abolishing the Wages Councils which set minimum enforceable wages. Therefore the minimum wage for bar staff in 1992 was £3.50 and when Blair reintroduced the minimum wage 5 years later the wage was £3.60. A 10p rise in 5 years.

    I agree with you though. Many of the people that the Jobcentre deals with either don’t want work (because they are working on the side, dealing drugs), or can’t possibly get work (because of their criminal records, drug dependency, drink dependency or genuine ill health).

    But it is important to remember that not everyone who is signing on is a lazy skiving druggie. Most of the people that have been made jobless by the bankers’ recession are desperate for work. Many of course have refused to sign on in the revolting atmosphere that is the average jobcentre... after all they can live on their redundancy money and they wouldn’t be entitled to payments anyway.