Welfare realism

Here in the UK Commonwealth the mainstream media often runs stories about unemployed locals unwilling to take up temporary jobs in areas with high levels of unemployment. However, the MSM rarely discusses the reasons why locals are reluctant to do these jobs.

One reason is the way in which unemployment benefits are managed.

Since the 1980s we’ve been told we most adapt to a neoliberal economy with flexible labour market, which means there aren’t as many permanent jobs as there used to be. However, 30 years later we still don’t have a flexible and accessible system of unemployment benefits. Indeed, the welfare system in most parts of the Commonwealth is actually getting more inflexible and less accessible.

Thanks to right liberal reforms, it now takes more time and effort to access unemployment benefits. The thinking behind this is if it’s harder to access unemployment benefits then the unemployed will try harder to find full-time jobs (right liberals think everything is about willpower). Perhaps they do try harder, but this policy hasn’t reduced the number of people on welfare.

On reason is more people have decided to get off unemployment benefits and move onto sickness benefits. Another is that once people have gone through all the hoops off getting on the unemployment benefit, they are reluctant to take up short-term or seasonal work for fear they will have their benefit cancelled, and thus have to go through the whole application process again when their work ends. Often there are also long stand down periods if workers are sacked – not a great incentive for a marginally employable person to take up a new job and risk losing their benefit.

While access to benefits has got harder, actual benefit rates have tended to increase, with lots of additional handouts now available for operators who know how to milk the system. Perversely, the unemployment benefit has now become a job itself for those with the nerve and patience to make full use of it.

If welfare reformers were really serious about reducing the amount of money spend on unemployment benefits, they would be trying to encourage more people to take up easy to find temporary work and spend less time filling in welfare forms, looking for extra perks, and applying for hard to find full-time jobs for which many of them don’t have the skills or references for anyway.

One way to do this would be to introduce a temporary workers unemployment benefit. This no frills benefit could be set at a slightly lower rate than the full-time worker’s benefit, but would be more flexible and easier to access. As well as encouraging more unemployed people to find work, such a benefit would also help them gain skills and references for harder-to-find full-time work.

 

 

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One Comment on “Welfare realism”


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