Why we can’t turn into ‘part-time’ Britain


Women at workBy Vincenzo Rampulla / @VMRampulla

Yesterday’s labour market figures are truly depressing. 38,000 more people unemployed than the previous quarter, 2.49 million people without work. It puts Eric Pickles’ trumpeting of the Government Enterprise Zones, with the promise of 30,000 jobs by 2015, into perspective.

As David Blanchflower predicted last month, the Prime Minster is going to have to do some nifty footwork given his assertion that unemployment will fall each year this Parliament, both the PM and the Chancellor have been given their come-uppance.

But policy makers and politicians need to be mindful of the longer term social effects of this economic pain. George Eaton has pointed out the five worrying trends in the published figures but there are two areas Young Fabians should be especially concerned about:

1) Youth unemployment continues to rise and it is lasting longer

One in five economically active 16-24 year olds are not working. A massive 39% of have been unemployed for over 12 months (up 2.5% on last year) and 95,000 have been waiting over two years for a job.

That means more young people starting life out on benefits which is precisely what the government says it doesn’t want.

More worryingly, the longer young people stay out of the workplace the deeper and longer-lasting the social and economic consequences (David Blanchflower lists 10 reasons why politicians should care).

So the question is: how is the chancellor’s Office of Budget Responsibility going to cost these long-term social and economic effects? And what is this going to cost us in the long run?

2) There’s a deepening dependence on part-time and temporary work – both the number of people in temporary and part-time work are up (1.2% and 0.1% this quarter).

But it is the number who fall into this type of work because they couldn’t find permanent or full-time work that is most worrying: up 5.1% and 7% respectively.

Let’s not pretend a job is a job is a job. The government should recognise the negative and perverse effects of long-term involuntary involvement in part-time and temporary employment. It can be a trap as well as a short-term solution.

If young people are starting their careers here it needs to be out of choice not desperation. And there needs to be a clear route into permanent, full-time work.

It is easy to just see numbers when we talk about jobs and the economy. Instead young people need to start championing the kind of job creation they want to see, not just what politicians think they can make do with.

Vincenzo Rampulla sits on the Young Fabians Executive, and this post was originally posted here.

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