Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jobs for all?

One really good thing that James Purnell did when he was a government minister was to set up the Future Jobs Fund.

The Future Jobs Fund subsidises employers to create jobs for young people who have been looking for work for a year - the subsidy is roughly enough to employ someone for 25 hours/week for 6 months. In the day job, I'm hoping to employ a couple of people in January through the Future Jobs Fund.

Purnell and Graham Cooke have a good idea that the Jobs Fund should be extended to include older people, so that eventually everyone who has been unemployed for a year should have a guaranteed offer of a job. Their reasoning, that the government should become employer of last resort, is spot on.

Two concerns - firstly, the Future Jobs Fund has only just started up, so before extending it we should probably find out things like whether it actually works in practice (e.g. what percentage of people complete six months, what happens to them when the funding stops, is it beneficial for employees and employers), and secondly it is an enormous temptation for employers to reduce wages, by replacing people who are on higher wages with a government-subsidised job on the minimum wage.

They also have an idiotic addition to the policy, which is that they want to make it mandatory for people to take a job if offered. As an employer, I want to create jobs for people who are keen to work, learn and develop - not someone who has been compelled to turn up, which is bound to be a total waste of my time and theirs. It's politically correct dogma - fixated on sounding tough about a tiny minority who absolutely refuse to work (or who won't be able to hold down a job and who would be better off volunteering) rather than focusing on guaranteeing work for the overwhelming majority who want to work but can't find a job. They don't go into any detail about this, but a related concern would be what they envisage if the job doesn't work out - would people lose their entitlement to benefits or face other sanctions?

But with those caveats, I think this is an exciting policy and one which it would be good to see the government adopt.

The very next item on the Demos website announces that they are seeking an intern to work on the Open Left project. Instead of creating an unpaid internship for someone who has the independent means to work without pay to boost their CV, they could have recruited someone through the Future Jobs Fund and done their bit to help tackle youth unemployment and give someone a potentially life-changing opportunity. Wouldn't this have been a good opportunity for Purnell and Cooke to practice what they preach?

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