Compulsory Jobs Guarantee

Labour have announced their answer to unemployment. They have called it a “compulsory jobs guarantee”.

“A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support those who cannot, but those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as a result – no ifs or buts.” – Ed Balls

Under the scheme those who have received Job Seeker’s Allowance for two years would be sent to work for six months. The scheme would be funded by reinstating tax on income used for pension contributions. On the face of it, guaranteed work is a great idea. Providing jobs for anyone that wants them is fine with me. I see a few problems though.

  • The work will only last six months.
  • Only people unemployed for two years will get it. (At first, anyway.)
  • We have no idea what that work will be, what organisation it will be with, or if it will be meaningful work or just activity to pass the time.
  • Removal of benefits for those who do not take up this unspecified compulsory work.

The compulsion is the biggest problem to me. There are lots of reasons why this work may not be a good idea. Off the top of my head, the unemployed person may be in training towards finding a job for themselves, they may be engaged in voluntary work in their field to keep themselves employable, or, indeed, voluntary work providing valuable services, they may have been judged fit for work and removed from sickness benefits while not actually being fit enough to do the compulsory guaranteed work, they may have childcare or other carer responsibilities that their work must fit around.

I have serious reservations about what organisations this work will be for. Current schemes, commonly derided as Workfare, involve sending people on benefits to work unpaid for supermarkets and shops such as Tesco and Argos, or in charity shops. These schemes are a direct subsidy to those businesses with free labour and result in less work available for paid employees. Sending people to work for a business for six months at a time would make this situation even worse with more loss of paid jobs.

It is my belief that there are not and cannot be enough jobs available for everyone. We are able to fulfil all our needs with less than full employment, and capitalism has already got providing things that we want covered. There are places where people could find work if only funding were available – healthcare, housing, and education and all those services and public sector jobs that have been cut. Government should invest in teachers, social housing and the NHS, which would boost jobs in those fields. The so-called “culture of worklessness” is a myth, and I believe that people would happily work in those jobs.

In my ideal world we would pay every citizen enough to live on, and working for more income would be optional but until then let’s at least get some social security that isn’t based on scrounger rhetoric.

https://twitter.com/itsmotherswork/status/287097851266351104

More information

Ed Balls: Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works – Politics Home

Labour announce compulsory work scheme for long term unemployed – and those who refuse to take part could lose benefits – Labour List

Labour proposes ‘tough but fair’ jobs and welfare scheme – The Guardian

Recomended Reading

Why does everyone have to work? – A Latent Existence

Poor vs poorer – A Latent Existence

What might a world without work look like? – Nina Power – Comment Is Free

Are ‘cultures of worklessness’ passed down the generations? – Joseph Rowntree Foundation

 

Voters ‘brainwashed by Tory welfare myths’, shows new poll – The Independent

 

People on benefits? They’re all scroungers aren’t they?

This article was written for The Broken of Britain.

In spite of all that I have written on my blog about wanting to work, about my efforts to keep working even as my body fails on me, about how my wife (a qualified science teacher) is doing cleaning work that pays less than Job Seekers Allowance and creates havoc with our other benefit claims, I often receive criticism for my views. People think that because I fight against benefit cuts, I support lazy people that simply want handouts and expect a free ride from the state. That could not be further from the truth.

I can’t deny that there are lazy people out there. While visiting the job centre in the past I have talked to people that see having to sign on as the height of inconvenience, that complain about the job searches they are asked to do. And quite honestly, with the attitudes I have seen, I wouldn’t employ some of them either. But they’re a minority. Living on benefits is hell. There is never enough money. You never know when someone might decide that you have been overpaid and start clawing the money back. For Job Seekers Allowance, you have to sign on every fortnight, attend meetings seemingly at random, and take training courses that you could teach. You can be “fined” for being five minutes late to an appointment. You are only allowed to miss an appointment through sickness twice in your whole claim. For sickness benefits it isn’t any better. While on incapacity benefit in previous years I had to attend regular meetings to discuss the possibility of me finding any work at all that I could do with such poor health. Those meetings and travelling to them made me ill for a week each time. The whole system could have been designed with the express intention of utterly destroying your soul. Most people hate claiming benefits, and most people would actually like a standard of living that is not attainable on the meagre amounts that benefits pay.

The infamous “families with 3 generations unemployed” do exist. Perhaps that does affect the attitude and desire to work in the youngest, I couldn’t say. But there is a reason that these people are unemployed. There are no jobs! There are approximately 2.5 million unemployed, and an estimated 0.5 million jobs, most of which are only part time. However you look at it, 2 million people will not find work. Some may argue that they should take responsibility and start their own business, however most people simply don’t have it in them to come up with a business idea, or have the knowledge and perseverance to run their own business.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

The Department of Work and Pensions keeps official statistics on levels of benefit fraud. Here are the figures showing the total amount of expenditure on benefits that is fraudulently claimed.

  • Income support fraud: 2.8%
  • Job Seekers Allowance fraud: 2.5%
  • Housing Benefit fraud: 1.3%
  • Incapacity benefit fraud: 0.5%
  • Disability Living Allowance fraud: 0.5%

Total benefit fraud is estimated to be 0.7%. Total error by claimants is also 0.7%. And error by officials? Another 0.7%. So administration error costs the same as fraud. That’s not to mention the 0.3% error causing underpayments, or the 0.9% (£60 million) that administration errors deprive incapacity claimants of.

Ultimately, the vilification by the tabloids of everyone on benefits and everyone who is sick and disabled is incredibly harmful. Public opinion is shaped by the lies and the twisted numbers put out by the tabloids which cause the public to back the government in cracking down on benefit fraud and in ruthlessly cutting benefits. In the end that causes great hurt and anguish for the vast majority of people that genuinely need the help.