From the TUC

Unemployment – the key test for the election

16 Mar 2010, by in Economics, Labour market, Politics, Society & Welfare

The Costs of Unemployment is a new TUC report, published today that looks at the costs to individuals and society. We believe that the facts and figures we report lead to a political imperative: all politicians have a duty to make unemployment their first priority. The facts are shocking. To quote just a handful:

  • Unemployed people are twice as likely as others to suffer frequent mental distress and twice as likely to suffer short-term depression.
  • Unemployment increases the risk of marital dissolution by 70%.
  • Unemployed people are twice as likely to be unhappy.
  • A 1% increase in unemployment is associated with a 0.79% increase in homicides.
  • Unemployed people much more likely to be the victims of crime – and more than twice as likely to be the victims of violent crime.
  • The death rate for the children of long-term unemployed parents is thirteen times as high as for the children of whose parents worked in higher managerial or professional occupations.

These costs are paid by workers and by society as a whole. Unemployed workers pay through debt, ruined marriages, suicide and heart attacks. Workers who still have their jobs pay through the stress of insecurity and having less bargaining power to defend their pay and conditions. Society pays through higher benefit bills, lower tax receipts, more crime, higher costs of health, poorer educational outcomes and the embedding of problems like drug and alcohol abuse.

The TUC has published this report as a contribution to the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, which had its UK launch today. We want to do two things with this report:

  • We wanted to create a resource for union activists working for solidarity with unemployed workers – if past recessions are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we start hearing about the pampered scroungers who are living the life of riley on the dole.
  • We wanted to challenge politicians to put unemployment at the heart of their plans. Given the costs of unemployment, it is criminal to call for public spending cuts that risk a double-dip recession.

Among the lessons of the recession should be the importance of investing in high quality employment programmes. A study of these programmes for the Marmot review of health inequalities found that, in addition to their employment effects, they can have a positive impact on participants’ health, especially psychological health. One of the reasons for lower than expected unemployment in this recession (so far) has been the speedy decision to invest in active labour market policies, especially the Future Jobs Fund – reversing this would be immoral.