From the TUC

Further strange unemployment analysis from the Conservatives

10 Nov 2009, by in Economics, Labour market, Politics, Society & Welfare

Several weeks ago we reported on a strange labour market analysis recently published by the Conservatives. Yesterday’s media suggests that they are at it again. First, they say that we have the highest levels of youth unemployment in Europe. This is accurate, but that is because we are a big country (our actual population of 15-24 year olds, according to the latest Eurostat data, is the third largest in the entire EU27). It is no great surprise to learn that the UK has more unemployed young people than Luxembourg. And on the same meaningless measure youth unemployment in the US is worse than in the entire euro area.

But if you look at a more meaningful measure – the youth unemployment rate (which shows the actual chances of someone being out of work) the UK is slightly below both the EU16 and EU27 average. Given the extent of the falls we have seen in GDP, this appears to be fairly good going.

The second finding is that people in constituencies with higher unemployment are more likely to vote Labour – reportedly highlighting Labour’s dependency on the votes of people people claiming benefits. Unsurprisingly, poorer constituencies have higher levels of benefit claimants – low-paid jobs are less secure than better paid occupations, as the Conservatives’ own policy document concludes, areas of higher than average unemployment can find themselves in cycles of economic decline, facing long-term economic weaknesses due to low local investment in skills and loss of skilled jobs from the area. And it’s no secret that people in poorer communities are more likely to vote for parties of the Left. As one recent article concludes:

There is clear evidence of the familiar pattern of class voting in Britain where the working class favours the Labour Party and the salariat favour the Conservative Party.

Presenting a correlation between deprivation and voting behaviour as evidence of voters being bought off with welfare benefits is the kind of inverted logic one associates with US ultra-conservatives, and one would hope for something better here. There are parts of the Conservative party that are genuinely interested in these issues – such as the so called red Tories and Ian Duncan-Smith’s think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice. That is not to say that we would agree with all their views, but they do take these issues more seriously than whoever is thinking up these doubtful media stories.

David Cameron is due to make a speech on poverty later today, which we await with interest. But the important criticism of Conservative policy is that it is likely to make unemployment, particularly among young people, worse. Cutting the Future Jobs Fund is likely to deny 100,000 young people the chance of a job.

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    Nov 10th 2009, 12:40 pm

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