This week’s UK wide unemployment figures were as damning as they were distressing, particularly when it comes to the plight and prospects of the next generation. Youth unemployment across the UK is now frighteningly close to the one million mark, reaching a record high of 991,000.
Yet, last year one of the first acts of the Conservative – Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition was to scrap the Future Jobs Fund, the scheme that supported young people out of work into work placements, training and other opportunities to learn new skills. Despite what critics of the scheme would have you believe, for the majority of people taking part, the Future Jobs Fund meant a long term return to full time work or training. The impact of the axing of the UK wide Future Jobs fund on the employment of and opportunities available to young people cannot be coincidence nor understated, yet the coalition government remains adamant that cuts, not growth through investment in jobs, are the answer.
Contrast this approach with that of the Welsh Labour Government. This same week, the Welsh – Labour – Government has unveiled ‘Jobs Growth Wales’. The new £75 million scheme will create 4,000 jobs a year across Wales for unemployed young people aged between 16 to 24. Participants will be paid at or above the minimum wage for at least 25 hours a week, not simply supporting young people into work but helping Welsh businesses to expand and having a positive knock on effect on the economy as a whole. This builds on previous schemes, such as Adapt, which targets people in the public sector who have lost their jobs or face losing them and helps them to get back into work through retraining and guidance.
The Welsh Government commitment to investing in the next generation and supporting people into work, despite the current economic constraints, demonstrates an actual economic alternative to the austerity and cuts agenda of the Westminster coalition and brings home the difference a Labour government makes to peoples’ lives. Going one step further, it makes clear the policy options out there for a future UK Labour administration and flies the flag for more positive and active labour market polices.
Indeed, Ed Miliband said himself in a recent interview that the Welsh Labour Government is “charting a different way forward for Wales and indeed the rest of the UK. Our job is to learn from this.” It seems that Wales has the potential to lead the way in the world of Labour Party policy as well as in the rugby world cup…