Working towards the future

In four years’ time I will graduate. I, and many others, will step out of the cosy bubble of university and into ‘the real world’. A world in which, somehow, I am going to have to find a job. I can’t be the only one who’s absolutely terrified, can I?

A Futuretrack survey has shown that today’s graduates are facing an increasingly dismal job market. ‘Significant’ periods of unemployment were reported by ten per cent of graduates, with another forty per cent saying they remained in non-graduate posts for up to two years after graduation. With youth unemployment approaching one million and apprenticeships becoming increasingly difficult to find, things aren’t exactly looking good.

Many of the long-term unemployed have turned to the government for help in finding sustainable employment, in particular to their flagship scheme, Welfare to Work. Private contractors are paid commission to successfully get people into work. Despite having spent £435 million on the scheme so far, Government figures have shown that in the 13 months leading up to July 2012, none of the 18 Work Programme contractors have reached the target set: to get 5.5 per cent of unemployed people into a job lasting for six months or more.

According to data released by the Department for Work and Pensions, a measly average of 3.5 per cent of the long-term unemployed referred to the program are still in work six months later.

These figures raise huge questions about the government’s ability to get people off benefits and into work. Mark Hoban, Employment minister and Work Programme providers such as A4e blame these failings on a weak economy, but the fact of the matter is that compulsory unpaid work for those on welfare does not lead to sustained employment. It simply replaces paid jobs by providing employers with unpaid staff.

Stores such as Argos and Tesco have used Workfare, essentially just state subsidised labour, to reduce the hours of paid employees and keep costs down. The Workfare programme exploits those who need help most and erodes welfare rights.

The programme was part of what ministers deemed a revolution in welfare. As far as I can see, no such revolution has occurred.
As Mark Hoban has stated, 56 per cent of those who joined the scheme are no longer receiving benefits, but no longer being on benefits is not the same as being in work.

Many have dropped out of the system entirely or have gone back into training. Thousands have been sanctioned and stripped of their Jobseeker’s Allowance for failing to comply with the scheme and undertake unpaid work. The Welfare to Work scheme does not work simply because the required number of jobs are just not there.

The government must start prioritising job creation over deficit reduction if they have any hope of getting the long term unemployed into sustainable jobs. I can only hope that come 2016, when I am saddled with the student loan debt, and flung out into the big, scary world of employment, that I will not be faced with such an abysmal economy and a government incapable of encouraging growth to provide the jobs needed.

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