It is a disgrace that Clegg and Cameron can describe this week’s employment figures as an improvement, when in Ogmore and Bridgend almost 500 more people are out of work in the last year. This Tory government, propped up by fellow-travelling LibDem MPs, is sacrificing the talents of young people and old for ministerial boxes and chauffeured cars. They have no plan for jobs and economic growth, and are strangling the economy of Wales and the UK. This government is not working, and thanks to them, many people who could be in jobs are also not working.
While many countries such as the United States can now see improvements in employment rates and financial stability, the UK is drifting. On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the UK’s unemployment rate rose to 8.4%, with 28,000 more people, young and old alike, unemployed since January 2012. This means that the number of jobless people in the UK has now reached a 17-year high, and stands at a staggering 2.67 million.
As these numbers continue to grow and unemployment continues to increase, the government claims the situation is ‘stabilising’. However, as the figures show, their schemes to improve job growth are failing. In my constituency of Ogmore, the number of unemployed claimants is 274 higher than in February 2011 and 53 higher than in January 2012. Despite these frighteningly high figures, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition continues to slash programmes that were put in place to support the unemployed, and help them find job placements. In March 2011, they ditched the Future Jobs Fund, which provided jobless young people with training and opportunities to learn valuable skills that could lead to long term employment. The government’s replacement Work Programme appears to be doing nothing to help them. Youth unemployment jumped 16,000 during the past three months to 1.04 million. The Government is failing to help these young people find work and is creating a jobless generation.
Women are also feeling the brunt of this problem disproportionately to men, as 22,000 out of the 28,000 who became newly jobless the past 3 months, are women. They are experiencing pay freezes, pension reforms and job cuts across the spectrum, while the coalition government claims it is creating job opportunities for them and seems satisfied with female employment numbers.
According to Unison, 625 public sector jobs have been lost every day since the coalition was formed, which means there has been one job loss every 2 minutes and 18 seconds and not enough private sector jobs are being created to replace them. This data is devastating for people trying to find work, and many, especially young people, are beginning to feel hopeless. Now more than ever the people in my constituency as well as across the UK need support in finding work, yet the coalition government remains adamant that somehow jobs will magically appear from the ashes of slash ‘n’ burn cuts, not investment in vital programmes to get people back to work.
With this Coalition Government, the outlook looks dismal. Yet, there is an alternative. The Welsh Assembly Government has revealed their ‘Job Growth Wales’ flagship programme that will create 4,000 jobs a year for young unemployed people aged 16-24 in Wales. Participants will be paid at or above the national minimum wage and will be working at least 25 hours per week for at least six months. Support will be provided for the private sector, voluntary sector, micro-businesses, and even for young people seeking self-employment: a real-life labour alternative to Tory complacency.
Despite the current economic restraints, the Welsh Assembly Government is taking initiative to help our young people find work and support Welsh businesses expand and grow. Rather than following the coalition’s agenda of slashing crucial programmes helping unemployed people back to work, the Welsh Government is forging a different more progressive path. Through Job Growth Wales, this Welsh Labour Party policy has the potential to have a real impact on the unemployment in Wales and pave the way for an optimistic economic future.
In these tough times, Cameron and Osborne argue that austerity is the only way. But austerity without a parallel plan for jobs and growth is all pain for zero gain. Perhaps the only way that ministers will understand this is if the British electorate make them suffer unemployment for a while...
Article by Huw Irranca-Davies