Guaranteed jobs are not a guaranteed solution to long-term unemployment
Authors: Karen Steadman
04 January 2013
The Labour Party today called for the introduction of a Jobs Guarantee scheme, which would provide the 130,000 people in the UK who have been unemployed for over 2 years, a minimum wage paying job for a period of six-months. After this period, recipients would be expected to find a permanent job or revert to benefits. Those refusing to take the job would potentially lose their benefit entitlement. This follows Labour’s call for a ‘Youth Jobs Guarantee’ scheme (for those aged 16-24) last year.
The benefits of work are well evidenced – not only in terms of the economy, but in terms of individual health and well-being. However, whilst getting people who are able to work into employment is a worthy policy objective, solving long-term unemployment is not as simple as just forcing people into any job.
The quality of the work is an important factor. Not all work is seen as ‘good work’, and evidence shows that those who are in ‘bad jobs’ (characterised by factors such as involving monotonous, repetitive work, not providing a balance between effort and reward, or involving periods of intense pressure without providing the necessary skills to cope) are at greater risk of poorer health (including mental illness, heart disease and musculoskeletal disorders).
For the Jobs Guarantee scheme to be successful, preparing people for the world of work beyond the 6 month trial-job is paramount. It is therefore important that the work is ‘real’, i.e. it presents a viable employment opportunity, giving individuals experience that will help them to find another job and remain in the employment market. There are multiple other factors that will also affect people's ability to find and maintain employment in a competitive environment, including education attainment and access to training, housing and homelessness, and physical and mental health, all of which need to be tackled.
A further important barrier to finding a new job after the 6 month work placement is over, is the way people who have been unemployed for a long time are seen by employers. The caricature of the unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed, as lazy and feckless is pervasive in UK society, with many believing the unemployed choose to be so, despite the evidence to the contrary. The continuation of such views undermines people’s attempts to be taken seriously by employers.
In order for the longer term benefits of a scheme such as this to be realised, we need to ensure that the jobs provided are of an appropriate quality, and offer valuable experience for gaining future employment. However, the bigger picture remains, and fixed term work experience schemes alone will not address the complex socio-economic and cultural issues hindering many of the long-term unemployed seeking a return to work.
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