Posted by: iangilbert | February 12, 2013

Work un-fair

I see that the courts have ruled that the government’s work-fare programme is illegal. I think this is excellent news, but let’s just head off a few right-wing myths.

I am not against work-fare because I think people should have the option of remaining on benefits indefinitely when there is work available. I don’t think that, the Labour leadership do not think that and the vast majority of people in the Labour Party do not think that.

What I do think as an absolute principle is that work should pay. To force the unemployed to work in shops like Poundland unpaid is nothing more than a government subsidy to big business. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that it helps people’s chances of finding proper employment, quite the reverse in fact.

I also think that far and away the biggest reason that people don’t work is the simple fact that there aren’t enough jobs available. Perhaps Tories like James Duddridge who seem to think that unemployment is a moral failing on the part of the individual (there is no other explanation for their policies) should explain why he thinks that people in his constituency are more lazy than those nearby.

The unemployment problem in Southend is significant. But checking and commenting the unemployment figures is a staple of economists and politicians. I believe an even bigger problem in Southend is underemployment, which passes with little attention from policy-makers. It’s where people are able to find a few hours work here and there, maybe on zero hours contracts, but can’t actually find enough work to earn enough to live. Again the Tories think that tinkering with the incentives in the benefits system can change this. Unfortunately we’re about to see this detached and remote Westminster thinking run up against cold hard economic reality.

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