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For a Civic and Constitutional Republic 


Issue No 74 Friday 29 July 2011

This Week

  • The Jobs Don’t Work

  • Obama Campaign Raises Record Sums From the Wealthy

News Stories

Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.


  • The Jobs Don’t Work

Peter Kellow writes

David Cameron chose Tuesday of this week to hail the figures, published by the Department of Work and Pensions, that seek to demonstrate that many people claiming incapacity benefit could in fact work or partially work. The irony of the abysmal economic growth figures at 0.2% for the second quarter of this year being announced the same day clearly did not register with him. Or was it a classic case of diverting attention from bad news?

With unemployment at 2.45 million, the government has yet to find an economic policy to apply to the problem. Growing the economy to create jobs organically is apparently a failed option and the government’s main plank of policy, the austerity measures, are designed to put people out of work, not in work. So if the solution cannot be found in the economy’s performance, then they need to look somewhere else. So they blame the unemployed themselves. They can’t or won’t work. Hence Cameron seized on the DWP figures.

There may be a kind of truth in the idea that people without jobs are sometimes reluctant to take jobs – if jobs exist. But what the politicians of all parties fail to address is how the working culture in Britain has changed over the last forty years. But this change cannot be understood simply as the people becoming more feckless as the Tory narrative would prefer. The problem is in the working environment in which they live.

The quality of lower paid work and the privileges and status that go with it have been massively degraded over the last four decades. Cameron may not have observed this but the working population have.

Before public services were privatised and contracted out there was often a real sense of continuity and pride in council jobs. But the same applied to many private companies. The big difference between now and then resulted from the relative stability that councils and private companies enjoyed. However, Thatcher and Neoliberalism put an end to all that with their determination to introduce competition into all types of provision. This was ideologically driven with no regard to overall costs and efficiency. While the direct cost of provision of services may have been scrutinised the costs of armies administrators to arrange tenders and check performance were ignored.

The turbulent work environment that we now have represents, for adherents to the post-Thatcher consensus, a natural and desirable Darwinian jungle. The real effect on society and production does not register with them.

Coupled with these changes in employment, there has been an inflexible benefits regime that provides disincentives to people to transfer off benefit into work. The sudden withdrawal of benefits when someone finds a job, which happens in many cases, produces a psychological stress and insecurity that Cameron, Clegg and Milliband could never appreciate. Unfortunately, the serious proposals addressing this problem by the Centre for Social Justice (the think tank of the present Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith) seems to have got lost. Its 2009 report sensibly recommended that benefits be withdrawn gradually  after someone finds a job to avoid this rupture

The degradation of lower paid jobs can be represented by the following imaginary, but entirely realistic accounts, of someone in a pub who is telling friends about the job they have just landed.

In the sixties or seventies it might have gone like this: “I have just got a job. There is a good bunch of guys there. Most of them have been there for more than ten years and some since they left school. I’ve been given a uniform and the company have just ordered some new equipment. The pay is not that great but the security and pensions make up for it. The job means I can marry my girl and go on to have kids”.

Today it would go like this: “Having been hassled by the Job Seekers office I have had to take a job with the Fly By Night Cleaning Co. They are not too sure how long the job will last but they expect their current contract to last for at least eighteen months. I can see that things are a bit dodgy as all the equipment is second hand with their logo stuck on it. There is a high turnover of staff and so there is no one to ask if you have a question. Still I make do and no one really checks your work. I’ll stick it out until I can find something better”.

The other aspect of this is that the second type of job is perfect for immigrants who have no long term interest in the country and for whom short term contracts are fine. And so problems of immigration combine with a degraded work culture in a toxic mix.

The instability of companies is a major factor for those looking for work as the recent failure by Southern Cross, the retirement home company, reminds us. That was a clear case where the government policies had permitted a private equity company to suck out millions from the company leaving it under capitalised. Where is the joined up thinking that allows us to see the connection between what happens with financial manipulations like this and the attitude at the other end of the scale of those needing a job?

The post-Thatcherite consensus promotes an unproven ideology that produces turmoil and uncertainty in people’s lives and this affects disproportionately the lower paid. “Chav” culture was produced not by the working classes but by the political classes.

The government should stop blaming the unemployed and look to the alien work environment that Labour and Conservative governments have systematically created.

Recommended article of the week


  • Obama Campaign Raises Record Sums From the Wealthy

DEMOCRACY CANNOT OPERATE if policians collude with the plutocracy and speculative banking. Does anyone really believe that Obama will not have to deliver on the sums he receives from Wall Street. The same thing happens in our Kingdom when policians accept money from the city. THIS PRACTICE MUST BE BANNED BY LAW.

Read Article

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