Although there have been lots of headlines about increasing employment, the number of people in work simply reflects the increase in the working age population.
The unemployment rate is still higher than in 2010. Further, the headline statements mask a significant increase in part-time employment amongst people who want full-time jobs, and in self-employment.
Three particular groups of those without jobs ought to concern us all.
- First, there are 393,000 over-50s who are unemployed, of whom 277,000 (70.5%) have been out of work for longer than a year.
- Second, the Work Programme is failing disabled people miserably, getting only around 5% into work.
- Third, the rate of unemployment among under-25s still almost 20%. Youth unemployment, at over 912,000 is unacceptably high. 60% of the way through the programme of Youth Contract wage subsidies, which began in April 2012, only about 7% of those supposed to be helped have been.
The most recent Work Programme data indicated that only 1 in 5 of people who have been on the Work Programme for two years have secured a sustained job. The number of people returning to JCP after being on the programme exceeds those gaining a job, and the gap between these two measures is growing as referrals are on a downward trend.
The proportion of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) New Customers attaining a Job Outcome payment within a year has remained at around 1 in 20 for each monthly intake. And now we learn that nearly 60% of jobs on Government website may have been placed by bogus firms.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg may believe that keeping 20% of our young people is a price worth paying. I don’t. Those of us who saw what damage high youth unemployment in the 1980s and early 1990s did to young people, families and local communities don’t want to go there again.
We need a strategy which gets more people into good training and sustainable jobs, by investing for the future. It would include a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for young people.