More questionable briefing on worklessness from the DWP
The Government’s use of clock-based metaphors continues, with Chris Grayling today declaring that Labour have left the Coalition a ‘ticking time bomb‘ of 250,000 children aged 0-15 who live in families where no one has ever worked. (Hat tip to Declan Gaffney – who has written more on this at Left Foot Forward).
Following recent criticisms of their use of statistics, DWP have now taken to publishing analysis on their website as well as press releasing the stats – and a quick look at the report in question shows that, again, all is not as it seems. The use of the term ‘never worked’ is questionable, and the implication that any workless family with children should be in employment is misleading.
Firstly, the analysis is not of households where no one has ever worked, but of households where no one has ever worked ‘apart from casual or holiday work’. So, many of the workless households that the Minister refers to may well contain working age adults who have held a succession of part-time and casual jobs.
Secondly, of the households with which Chris Grayling is particularly interested (those with children aged 0-15 years old) an extremely high proportion (87 per cent) are lone parent households. This is key as it is not current government policy for lone parents with children aged up to seven to have a job (although the Government’s welfare reform bill is likely contain measures to require lone parents with children aged 5 and over to seek work). If the statistics were broken down by the age of child, they would therefore be likely to show that a large number of the workless households in question are those where parents are caring for younger children. In addition, lone parents with children above age seven are permitted, under the current jobseeker’s regulations, to limit their jobsearch to work that fits around their childcare needs. Given the lack of permanent work which provides the flexibilities that lone parents require, and their extensive childcare responsibilities, it is unsurprising that many have not been in employment other than casual or holiday work.
There are also other households in the UK, as my analysis on Left Foot Forward has previously shown, who are not, despite Government rhetoric, mandated to work (particularly some households where working age adults are disabled) and many of the adults in the households in the analysis will be aged 16-24. Given that this is the very group the Government has acknowledged are facing extreme labour market difficulties, with an unemployment rate of over 20 per cent, it is again unsurprising that many have no have experience of permenant work.
Unemployment is undoubtedly a significant problem. But instead of pretending that the entire population of working age people should be in jobs, it would make more sense for the Government to focus support on those who are economically active and facing unemployment. And instead of cutting schemes that provide real support to allow people to move into jobs, the Government should be investing in creating work and in high quality active labour market programmes: the problem of inter-generational worklessness will not be solved with 2.5 million people remain out of work.