From the TUC

Government blames unemployed people for unemployment

13 Jul 2010, by in Labour market

Fresh evidence shows that the government blames unemployed people for unemployment. A story in yesterday’s Sunday Times revealed that there are 7,000 vacancies at jobcentres that have not been filled for six months or more. This brought a response from Employment Minister Chris Grayling that is becoming predictable:

“The fact these jobs are advertised for a long period shows the current welfare system is not working. After a decade of throwing money at the problem, there are still five million people out of work living on benefits.”

What enrages me is the casual segue from 7,000 unfilled jobs to explaining five million people on benefits. First of all, we don’t know much about the nature of the jobs. Many could be jobs with employers who are looking for unusual characteristics. They may not actually exist at all – anyone who has worked with unemployed people knows the problem of job vacancies that melt away the closer you get to them. Sometimes it’s because recruitment agencies make them up to attract jobseekers. Sometimes businesses have simply forgotten to tell JCP they’ve filled a job or that the vacancy doesn’t exist anymore.

But even if the 7,000 unfilled jobs really exist, they are only enough for 0.47% of all unemployed people – or 0.14% of the five million without jobs. In the most recent data, there were 2,472,000 unemployed people and 492,000 vacancies at Jobcentres, a ratio of 5:1. It is simply not reasonable to explain unemployment away as the result of claimants not chasing vacancies: the truth is that there aren’t enough jobs for all the people who want them.

I wouldn’t be so angry about this if it weren’t for the fact that Chris Grayling has previous on this issue. Back in June, his response to the monthly unemployment figures was “there are half a million jobs available in the economy, it’s high time those positions are filled.” When he was an Opposition spokesperson, he promised the 2008 Conservative conference that unemployed people ” will be expected to get out of the house and to do something every day.”

It’s plain that Mr. Grayling genuinely believes that unemployment is caused by lazy people. I don’t think that explains why unemployment has risen 800,000 in the past two years; I don’t think that people are lazier now than they were when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, or that they are less lazy now than when Mrs. Thatcher was in charge. Even more importantly, I don’t think we can cut unemployment by assuming that JSA claimants are trying to avoid work.

5 Responses to Government blames unemployed people for unemployment

  1. Tweets that mention Government blames unemployed people for unemployment | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC —
    Jul 13th 2010, 7:20 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ToUChstone blog. ToUChstone blog said: Government blames unemployed people for unemployment […]

  2. Tokyo Gaijin
    Jul 13th 2010, 10:19 am

    @ Richard
    You’re right, there are not enough jobs for all those who want / need them. The comments from Chris Grayling don’t look very appropriate, even if every vacancy were filled there would still be unemployment of ~2m in addition to the ~8m people who are economically inactive. So the real question is how to create enough new jobs.
    In the last decade the policies of the Labour party created an environment in which substantially less than 1m net new private sector jobs were generated, a CAGR of <0.4%, during the same period public sector jobs increased more in absolute numbers and at a growth rate over 3 times higher (1.4% CAGR).
    It's clear that Labour policies failed spectacularly. Whilst the welfare system needs a root and branch reformed to remove the disincentives to work the bigger issue is how we get ourselves out of the mess Gordon Brown left behind and get a massively higher rate of private sector job creation.

  3. Some genuine good news from today’s employment stats | Left Foot Forward
    Jul 14th 2010, 1:31 pm

    […] May, slightly up from 480,000 in February to April. Chris Grayling, the employment minister, has a well-established tendency to use the vacancy figures to suggest that unemployed people are to blame for their unemployment, […]

  4. terratech
    Sep 1st 2010, 10:39 pm

    Is`nt it the TUC that supported all these work programs and aren`t they doing it again giving the tory government every opportunity to play out there blame game?

    The sickest thing too see is the Sun Newspaper running a campaign with the blessings of Cameron, while Murdoch has has defrauded this country of Billions worth of Tax`s.

  5. michael craig
    Sep 6th 2010, 5:33 am

    Another important figure which both the present and previous Governments choose to avoid is the number of people in part-time work. In the last decade this figure has grown to nearly 8 million, a significant proportion of the workforce. I see nothing wrong with the idea of distributing the available work hours more widely by reducing the working week, which would allow more leisure and family time and reduce stress.
    This could be achieved by replacing means tested benefits such as JSA and tax credits with a Universal basic income, which would immediately lift the long term unemployed out of the ‘unemployment trap’.
    The machinery used in the tax credit system could easily be adapted to distributing the basic income, and the administration costs of this would be minute when compared to means testing.
    Part-time work is only viable for the employee if it pays enough to live on, and the complex and unfair tax credit system does not ensure this, as for example, only those with dependent children or with a disability are entitled to claim it.
    The U B I system would help small businesses as well, who may not be able to take on full-time employees.
    The Government would not consider such a logical proposal as it goes against their doctrine, and would require the recognition that people are more important than profit. Capitalism requires unemployment, it is a mechanism which is used to reduce wages during a negative swing of the economic cycle, in order to balance the books in favour of profit. U.B.I. would give employees more individual bargaining power on the terms of their employment, and this is not a recipe for reducing wages.