The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

On The Fourth Day of Xmas, My True Love Gave to Me... Four Grades of Unemployment

The unemployment statistics show a rise of 128,000, in the three months to October, meaning a total of 2.51 million people are officially unemployed in this country. 

That is 8.3%, with dramatically bigger rises in London and the North East.  But do people know what the statistics actually mean?  

Employment and Support Allowance is the controversial replacement for Incapacity benefit, brought in by the Labour government in 2008 for new claimants, and gradually extended to all Incapacity Benefit claimants.  

After the first 13 weeks of the claim, the claimant is reassessed,  then put in one of three categories - fit for work (at which point they must find a job or migrate to jobseekers allowance), Work Related Activity group (or WRA) and support group.  Only 7% of claims are awarded support group status - ie judged completely incapable of work (although, as we have seen on Frothers, many of these decisions are reversed on appeal).

 17% of ESA claimants are placed in the WRA group.  This amounts to over 400,000 people who are judged to be fit for work if appropriate adjustments are made, or in the near future.  These people are required to attend work focused interviews where they will discuss how they will get back into work, and can have their benefits docked if they fail to attend. 

These are the people who were described as “work-shy scroungers” in certain papers when the latest set of ESA claimant data was released.  Yet they are not included in the latest unemployment statistics.

“Unemployed” people are jobless, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks; or they are out of work, have found a job, and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks. 

As ESA claimants in the work related activity group are not required to actively seek work, only prepare to seek work, they are not counted.  Yet they are legally required to prepare for work.  So, which are they?  

Are they incapable of work, and so not included in unemployment statistics, just the“economically inactive” group (more on which later), or are they able to prepare for work, as they are legally required to do?  This may sound like a dry statistical question, but those 400,000 people in the WRA group are facing uncertainty about their lives - the status is causing confusion and anger amongst some of the most vulnerable sectors of society.

The Economically Inactive group is, by the most up to date statistics, 23% of the population.  These are people who are without paid work, but are not classed as unemployed.  They may be sick or disabled, carers or not seeking work for some other reason.  This does not mean that they don’t wish to work, only that they are not counted as seeking work.  They may in fact be looking for a job, but unable to start in the next two weeks due to other responsibilities.  They may wish to work, but are prevented by disability or high costs of childcare.  Or they may be stay at home parents or carers.  Of course, some will be rich kids living off trust finds, but somehow I doubt that counts for 23% of the population.

Another group to consider is those who are in part time work, but are looking for full time work.  This figure increased by 70,000 in three months to reach 1.28 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1992.  Here are more people who are looking for work, but unable to find it, and are not included on the unemployment statistics.  Workers on low wages are still entitled to many income related benefits, and can even sometimes receive more in welfare benefits than someone out of work.  Many part time jobs are unreliable and low paid, yet the workers are not counted in the unemployment statistics. 

In many ways, these can be the most exposed to the twists and turns of the economy, as they face placing new or changed claims if they lose the jobs they do have, but are without the small security that having an established claim can provide.  They find themselves without enough work, but not “unemployed enough” to become a target for the limited amount of work finding schemes that are available.

The unemployment statistics may be awful, but they hide an even more shocking truth.  There are simply not enough jobs in this country, and the statistics show more than we are being led to believe.

We have four groups not included in unemployment statistics:

- the unemployed (about 2.64 million)
- those in Work Related Activity schemes (400,000 people)
- economically inactive (9.33 million)
- part-time workers, looking for full-time work (1.28 million) 

Of those four groups, only the first - the 8.3% of the population (or 2.64 million) are reflected in government unemployment figures. And that figure is estimated to rise in the next year, peaking at an estimated 2.85 million in 2013.

120,000 jobs lost in the public sector, and too few jobs in the private sector. Yet the government still insists that their plan is working, that the employment market is stabilising.

More annoying than that is the comment by Shadow Work and Pensions Minister, Ian Austin who stated that it was, "crystal clear that this government is failing to get people off benefits and into work".

That was a cheap shot, Mr Austin. Try bashing the ConDem government for their policies, instead of the benefit claimants, many of whom would dearly love to have a job.

In some sectors there are over 40 applicants for every job. The politicians on both sides of the spectrum need to accept that most people want to work, there are simply not enough jobs out there.

By Alicia Duffy and MmeLindor

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  1. Friend just had 120 people apply for a maternity cover last month.

    Last year we couldn't recruit social workers last month there was 35 applicants for one post

  2. Whilst looking for a job as a Teaching Assistant this year I have regularly been one of over a hundred applicants. Around a quarter have been teachers who have been unable to get teaching jobs.
    I now have a job, but it made me so angry to be treated as a scrounger when I was working part time and caring for my three children just because I wasn't working enough hours to be classed as employed.

  3. The environmental/wildlife conservation sector is just as bad...I have applied for jobs where there has been between 200-300 applicants per job!


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