Friday, September 17, 2010

road to nowhere

'Reform' is a word that has shifted meaning in the last twenty years. Like 'modernise', in the mouth of a politician 'reform' now means 'privatise' or 'cut'.

George Osborne told us last week

We are going to reform out-of-work benefits so there's a strong incentive for people who can work to get work.

This ignores the central fact that there are many people who can work, but there is no work for them to get.

There are 2,467,000 people unemployed. There are 467,000 job vacancies. So there are exactly two million people for whom there is no work. And that's before we start kicking people off sickness benefits and out of public sector jobs.

Given the government's plan to cut Housing Benefit for people unemployed for more than a year - leading to debt and eviction for a great many of them - it's also pertinent to know that there are 797,000 people who have been unemployed for over 12 months. So even if every vacancy in the country went to long-term unemployed people, we'd still have 330,000 people long-term unemployed being punished with homelessness for not getting a job that doesn't exist.

Osborne continued;

People who think that it's a lifestyle choice just to stay on out-of-work benefits, that lifestyle choice is going to come to an end.

'Lifestyle choice' implies a preference. It baldly says unemployed people choose their situation. With the unemployed outnumbering vacancies 5:1, unless we start a jobs-for-six-months rota, the only way people will get out of unemployment and into work is by clambering over the heads of others and pushing them back down into the increasingly inhumane and threadbare benefits system.

Nick Clegg defended the cuts, saying

A fair society is not one in which money is simply transferred by the central state from one group to another

One word: bankers.

It also makes me wonder whether this means Clegg opposes taxation in all its forms. He goes on;

Welfare needs to become an engine of mobility, changing people's lives for the better, rather than a giant cheque written by the state to compensate the poor for their predicament.

£65 a week Job Seekers Allowance is hardly giant. But whatever the price, you can only be mobile if there is somewhere to move to. For the overwhelming majority of unemployed people, there is no road out. As they are poor by no fault of their own, it is barbaric and cruel to punish them. A fair society would indeed compensate such people for their predicament.

As unemployment is, if we're honest, a permanent feature of our society, we should see if anyone out there actually does want it as a lifestyle choice. If they can find a way to lead happy, fulfilled lives on £65 a week then good luck to them. Automating their payments would, as Child Benefit has proven, take down the cost of administration. This would free up the job-finding help for those who do want it. Same number of unemployed, lower cost, far greater happiness.

1 comment:

Alice said...

The Future Jobs Fund is *kind of* a jobs-for-six-months rota for young people. The coalition is abolishing it and will end it in March.