The Labour Government repeatedly claims that there are more people in work than ever. “This year, for the first time, there are more than 30 million in the workforce” boasted Gordon Brown recently. But sadly, there.s more to it.
On the face of it, Labour.s record on employment is good. According to the International Labour Organisation, unemployment in Britain stands at 4.8%, not bad when compared with the Eurozone.s 9%. But, as always with Labour, the devil is in the detail.
For instance, the unemployment figures do not take into account the 650,000 claiming long-term sickness benefit. Nor are the “economically inactive” (those who would like to work but for some reason (!) feel that there are no decent jobs to be had). The government itself estimates that 6% of the potential workforce currently falls into this category. If these “inactive” workers where added to the “official” unemployment figures, the unemployment rate would be in the region of 11%, and if the long term sick were added it would be even higher. So, we are hardly close to the near-full employment that Labour likes to claim.
What also has to be taken into consideration is the type of jobs being created by Labour. Quality is as important as quality, yet the biggest rise in jobs has been in part-time work. A third of all jobs are now part-time, and this figure is set to grow even further (last year alone, parttime employment grew more than one and a half times faster than full-time employment).
Even worse, many of the jobs that have been created under Labour are low paid, with no prospects or long-term security. Behind Labours spin, the British economy increasingly resembles that of the US, where a large underclass is dependent on low-income, part-time jobs to survive. The US experience has shown that, come recession time, it is the parttime jobs that are first to go, leaving a large sector of the workforce dependent on welfare (in many cases in the form of food vouchers).
Not surprisingly, this flexible “hire and fire” economy suits those companies who take on workers in boom time and get rid during recession. Crucial to the hire and fire economy is the welfare system. US welfare pays the bare minimum, with welfare payments being withdrawn if work is refused. Consequently, welfare is used to force the poor into terrible minimumwage (or worse) part-time, casual jobs in order to survive. The system ensures they are so desperate that they will take any job that comes along. With little or no job protection, these workers can be discarded at will, and thrown back onto welfare until such time as they are needed again.
It is this US-style “welfare” system that the Labour Government is trying to create in Britain. The value of unemployment benefit is being reduced in real terms, while a whole new load of benefits have been introduced for those willing to take on low-paid jobs. If this doesn.t coax/ force people to take these (crap) new jobs, the backup is to threaten to end benefit altogether if people refuse to take a job. What we are seeing in Britain is not the end of Thatcherite mass unemployment, but the creation of a semiemployed underclass, languishing somewhere between employment and welfare - a pool of casualised workers who can be utilised or discarded at will by employers. This is the true reality of Labour.s much-vaunted “flexible” labour market.
FLEXPLOITATION: The inevitable result of Labour's “flexible” labour market is more poverty and more dangerous working conditions - see health and safety features and focus on “accidents” at work inside...