It is one thing for the Conservatives to let the Liberal Democrats make the political weather. It is quite another to cede the terrain to the Socialist Workers Party. Yet this week, SWP activists have managed to whip up a storm of protest over the Goverment’s flagship work experience scheme, claiming – absurdly – that it is tantamount to “slave labour”.
Such criticism is, on the face of it, nonsensical. The “workfare” programme offered the unemployed a chance – voluntarily – to spend their time getting a taste of the employment market, rather than rotting in the dole queue. In doing so, they lost nothing, and gained much. Yet such is the febrile state of the political climate that Tesco and other major employers felt, understandably but regrettably, that they needed to modify the terms of their participation, lest they find themselves in the tumbril alongside the bankers.
As politicians of all parties have accepted, youth unemployment is probably the most pressing problem that our economy faces. According to figures released last week, it now stands at the alarmingly high level of 22.2 per cent. Unless growth returns soon, there is the risk of creating a “lost generation” whose lives and employment prospects will be permanently impaired…
- Our prolonged employment gap – Rex Nutting – MarketWatch (jobmarketmonitor.com)
- These companies use Workfare – help us tell them to stop using it (liberalconspiracy.org)
- The revolt against workfare spreads (newstatesman.com)