So this year’s Tory Party conference is to be given the exclusive news – well, except for those who already saw it in the Maily Telegraph – that Young Dave and his jolly good chaps are going to get tough on the long-term unemployed, and make them jolly well give something back in exchange for their dole money, because, well, they need to throw the electorate some kind of populist bone, that’s why.
Popular opinion favours the idea of “work for the dole”, we are told, but then, it also holds that unemployment benefit takes up a far greater proportion of welfare spending than it actually does. But the Tories are not going to bother explaining such things when they can look dead hard instead. And it is here that we see who is really driving the policy – and why that may not be good for Cameron and Co.
“Work for the dole” is also the title of another slice of suitably loaded propaganda from the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which made the claim that it was “A proposal to fix welfare dependency” (note the assumption that long-term unemployment is equivalent to “dependency”). This was duly filleted in a Zelo Street post early last month.
Such matters, like questionable assumptions and iffy costings of the TPA study, are not allowed to enter as the Tel’s James Kirkup tells readers “Tens of thousands of long-term jobless welfare claimants will have to work for 30 hours a week doing community service or lose their unemployment benefits. The announcement is the latest toughening of the Coalition’s welfare rules, a key part of the party’s pitch”.
So this is one of the Tory offerings in the run-up to 2015. But, although the TPA has claimed that this approach works, previous Government studies have examined the idea and the feedback has not been promising. Here, for instance, is the conclusion of a 2008 study which looked at schemes in the USA, Canada and Australia.
“There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers. Subsidised ('transitional') job schemes that pay a wage can be more effective in raising employment levels than 'work for benefit' programmes. Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high”.
Weak labour markets where unemployment is high? That rings a bell. Note also mention of subsidised job schemes that pay a wage – something that is anathema to the TPA, as it means Government intervention. Paying a wage is what the TPA does not want to do, and this is an excellent opportunity to get around minimum wage rules, which the TPA opposes. So now we know who’s driving this particular bus.
Something to think about when listening to Osborne’s speech today.