Blaming the unemployed: it’s what they still believe
Iain Duncan Smith was back in Wales last week and was asked whether he stands by his “on your bus” comments. It seems that he does:
People who live on low incomes pay their taxes and get up early in the morning, travel half an hour or an hour to work to be able to get … work. They have a limited expectation – they want to see people out of work make the same effort.
The problem, however, is not whether unemployed people are making sufficient effort – when there aren’t enough jobs, the main effect of focusing on this would simply be to create a more energetic dole queue.
And there aren’t enough jobs. To illustrate this, I’ve used official data to look at the level of job vacancies and the number of unemployed people for every vacancy going back to 2001. This allows us to see the picture before the recession and compare it with what has happened since the Spring of 2008:
The normal picture, pre-recession, was 6 – 700,000 vacancies and 2½ – 3 unemployed people for each of them. That picture deteriorated rapidly in the recession; things improved to a moderate degree last Summer, but that stopped earlier this year – the number of vacancies has risen over 500,000 since January, and the ratio stopped improving at the same time.
Let’s be clear: there is no change in the behaviour of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants that can explain these facts. Our problem is insufficient demand, not lazy people.
Of course, Mr Duncan Smith is right when he says that people who work hard and pay their taxes expect unemployed people to make an honest effort to get jobs. Unemployment benefits have always had rules that require this; unions support those rules. But it is dishonest and unfair to blame our unemployment problem on workers without jobs: they are the victims of unemployment, not the villains.