Defending his benefit cap on the Today programme this morning Iain Duncan Smith claimed that those who ‘do the right thing’ and move into work will not be penalised. The direct implication of this is that those who are currently unemployed are failing to take his advice and act in a morally correct manner – if they did, they’d all have jobs.
This view is an insult to the 2.68 million people who are unemployed and looking for work. There are 463,000 jobs available in the economy (down 18,000 on last year and down 34% on pre-recession levels).* There are over one million more unemployed people looking for employment than there were four years ago. The ratio of unemployed people to jobs currently 5.8. Factor in the far from perfect match between the geographical locations (see Anjum’s regular round up of the areas of the UK where there are as many as 32 claimants for every available post) and skills profiles of jobs and claimants, and that family committments mean the hours of work offered won’t fit with the caring responsibilities of every unemployed worker, and the picture becomes even bleaker. It is simply not feasible for everyone who is out of work to find employment.
Those who are unemployed are not ‘failing to do the right thing’. They are, in the main, desperately seeking employment (and any who are not will quickly be denied benefits under current, extremely strict, JSA rules). The benefit cap (which, incidentally, will also hit those who aren’t even required under current benefit rules to be actively seeking employment) will do nothing to help them, and where people have to move from jobs rich to more deprived areas it is likely to make their efforts even harder. To moralise about unemployment when the labour market is in the weakest position is has been for 17 years is simply offensive.
*Of course the vacancy level is net, but so is the unemployment total, so while there will, of course, be more vacancies over the course of every month than the net figure suggests, this is also true of the number of unemployed people.