When I was growing up in the North East in the 1980s, unemployment wasn’t just an economic consideration – it was a part of life. At school, in our family, that sense of lost opportunity was in the air. Tory recessions, combined with major shifts in the economy away from traditional industries like shipbuilding and coal-mining, required an active government response that was never forthcoming. I believe the consequences of those years of Conservative mismanagement are still felt by the country today.
Now, 30 years on, we are faced yet again with a Conservative-made jobs crisis that risks wiping out a generation’s potential. Successive Conservative governments have weakened Britain’s foundations and robbed too many people of the opportunity to achieve their ambitions.
Our analysis of the scale of the unemployment crisis facing the country has shown that over a million people will become ‘long-term unemployed’ across 2021 and 2022. What’s more, a staggering two-thirds of a million 16- to 24-year-olds will reach six months out of work, education or training in the next two years.
That’s why Labour have called for a jobs promise that would support young people and the long-term unemployed into guaranteed work or training. For young people, that support would kick in after six months, guaranteeing them access to a job, education or training opportunity. For older workers, Labour would have a cast-iron guarantee that anyone out of work or education for 12 months would be offered a job or training opportunity to make sure that nobody is consigned to the scrap heap.
A Labour budget would bring forward funding for existing employment schemes to create one million additional opportunities and tackle long-term unemployment when it is at its peak. The Conservatives failed plans have seen just 2,000 people start work on the Kickstart scheme while their Restart scheme for older workers won’t start in earnest until after unemployment has peaked.
If we are to build a secure economy and offer a genuine route out of unemployment, we must support job creation in the sectors the country will need to recover. That’s why our jobs promise would be supported by job creation, including 400,000 green jobs, 100,000 new start-up businesses and action to address the 127,000 vacancies currently in health and social care.
There is a choice at this point about the society and economy we want to rebuild emerging from the pandemic. We know how much of a scourge unemployment is on people’s potential. With the right choices, we can build resilience into our economy so that the precariousness that has loomed over too many communities during the last decade can be replaced with opportunities and good local jobs.
Throughout this crisis, we’ve seen the Chancellor determined to pull support away as quickly as possible, threatening our potential recovery. Labour would take a different approach: building a secure economy that leaves no-one and nowhere behind.