Jobless rise exposes coalition’s lack of strategy
Why has unemployment hit 8.1 per cent? Because the private sector is NOT taking up the slack from state cuts
WORK is the most potent social glue known to humankind. Whether we like it or not, our work shapes the day, obliges us to make contact with others, to take part in collective endeavours, be useful. Without the resources and the routines it brings, people and communities go to pieces in many dramatic and subtle ways.
Which is why politicians observe the discontents of the world of work with particular vigilance and why today's unemployment figures showing 2.57 million people out of work - at 8.1 per cent of the workforce, the highest for 15 years - will stir deepening alarm inside the coalition.
Here is economic evidence – evidence of the kind that touches millions of people personally - that links the failure (thus far at least) of an economic strategy to social distress.
Far from the private sector absorbing the jobless from the state sector, as we were promised, the private sector jobs machine is faltering and only operating at all in the south east of England. For every 2.7 jobs being lost in the public sector, only one job is created in the private sector. In short, the coalition's state sector austerity cuts are driving dole queues.
It is not always realised the extent to which public sector employment preserved community life in many economically weak, typically previously industrial, regions by providing not just jobs, but good, flexible jobs.
As the public sector collapses in places like Middlesbrough, Merseyside, South Wales and even in such famously enterprising places as Birmingham, the jobs are going, and not being replaced. Currently, 5.6 people chase every vacancy, compared with 2.3 in March 2008 when the economy was formally in recession.
To begin with, the recession mainly harmed the prospects of men. Now women – an electoral weak spot of the Conservatives – are being made redundant only slightly less often than men, especially in sectors such as local government, while the numbers of women working part-time because they can't get full time work is - at 12.2 per cent - the highest since this statistic was first collected in 1992.
Currently, long-term unemployment is also rising fastest among women.
Meanwhile, so soon after the riots, youth unemployment has risen sharply, to 991,000 among 16-24 year olds. Yet at the other end of the workforce, 65-plus-year-olds still working experienced their sharpest fall in numbers ever during this summer.
Ministers look suitably ashen on television, but the obvious implication is that the coalition's repertoire of austerity, deregulation and low-value gimmicks such as enterprise zones is inadequate to the scale of the emerging jobs crisis – destruction devoid of a "creative" flip-side.
Does anyone imagine all the compassionately conservative talk of "making work pay" means anything if the jobs aren't there? ·
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