The solution to the problem remains job creation not ersatz employment
Folk must work for welfare is the message coming from the government, in particular George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference yesterday. The mantra that no one will get something for nothing will prove popular with an electorate weary of tight times and echoes the Conservative Party’s pledge to reward those who work hard. However on closer scrutiny the policy looks more political gesture than economic medicine.
The Help-to-Work scheme applies only to those already on the government’s work programme and still unemployed after two years. Of the three options open to those wishing to continue receiving the Job Seekers’ Allowance, daily attendance at the job centre is probably more attractive than either thirty hours of work weekly or compulsory training to gain skills conducive to work.
Many will applaud the commitment to getting people active for their benefits but the solution to the problem remains job creation not ersatz employment. Miming paid work may give skills and discipline but if these are untransferable into the real job market due to lack of available positions, then claimants, already two years unemployed, will remain disillusioned and accepting of unemployment as normal.
The patronage of the state can often lead to resentment and the vicious cycles that tend to keep people on benefits will not go away if an individual feels their circumstance is being reinforced, being told the only job they can get is a token, unpaid one.
Labour criticised the Help to Work proposal and cited its own policy of compulsory guaranteed jobs, thereby highlighting the broader licence granted to opposition. However, both policies are guilty of ignoring at best and excusing at worst the real issue of unemployment.
They should be getting people back to work by backing the economy and encouraging employers to make the first move. Giving people skills and a means to graft is admirable but far better to stimulate the job market proper to take the burden off the state.