Government blames unemployed people for unemployment
Fresh evidence shows that the government blames unemployed people for unemployment. A story in yesterday’s Sunday Times revealed that there are 7,000 vacancies at jobcentres that have not been filled for six months or more. This brought a response from Employment Minister Chris Grayling that is becoming predictable:
“The fact these jobs are advertised for a long period shows the current welfare system is not working. After a decade of throwing money at the problem, there are still five million people out of work living on benefits.”
What enrages me is the casual segue from 7,000 unfilled jobs to explaining five million people on benefits. First of all, we don’t know much about the nature of the jobs. Many could be jobs with employers who are looking for unusual characteristics. They may not actually exist at all – anyone who has worked with unemployed people knows the problem of job vacancies that melt away the closer you get to them. Sometimes it’s because recruitment agencies make them up to attract jobseekers. Sometimes businesses have simply forgotten to tell JCP they’ve filled a job or that the vacancy doesn’t exist anymore.
But even if the 7,000 unfilled jobs really exist, they are only enough for 0.47% of all unemployed people – or 0.14% of the five million without jobs. In the most recent data, there were 2,472,000 unemployed people and 492,000 vacancies at Jobcentres, a ratio of 5:1. It is simply not reasonable to explain unemployment away as the result of claimants not chasing vacancies: the truth is that there aren’t enough jobs for all the people who want them.
I wouldn’t be so angry about this if it weren’t for the fact that Chris Grayling has previous on this issue. Back in June, his response to the monthly unemployment figures was “there are half a million jobs available in the economy, it’s high time those positions are filled.” When he was an Opposition spokesperson, he promised the 2008 Conservative conference that unemployed people ” will be expected to get out of the house and to do something every day.”
It’s plain that Mr. Grayling genuinely believes that unemployment is caused by lazy people. I don’t think that explains why unemployment has risen 800,000 in the past two years; I don’t think that people are lazier now than they were when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, or that they are less lazy now than when Mrs. Thatcher was in charge. Even more importantly, I don’t think we can cut unemployment by assuming that JSA claimants are trying to avoid work.