A Closer Look

Unpaid Work | Welfare reforms | Won’t Work

AS ANY middle-class parent knows, unpaid work experience can give youngsters a valuable introduction to a secure job. The coalition government has recognised it too, scrapping rules in 2011 that had formerly stopped 16- to 24-year-olds from doing unpaid work while claiming unemployment benefit. But moving from that to forcing them to work gratis in order to collect these benefits has proved a big step. A worthy welfare-to-work reform has backfired badly on the government.

More than 1m young people in Britain are unemployed, the highest number since the mid-1980s. Keen both to cut the welfare bill and to avoid the depressed future wages that may result from early unemployment, the government has introduced an ambitious programme of reform to get youngsters off welfare and into work. A key part of it is ensuring that no one loiters on the dole for long; ministers are keen to avoid what happened after the early-1980s recession, when unemployment persisted in some parts of the country for a long time after the economy began to improve.

To help young people into work, ministers had persuaded lots of employers, including bakery chains, bookshops, burger bars and supermarkets, to take on unemployed youths, who receive work experience but no pay, with the prospect of a proper job for those who shine. Some 35,000 youngsters participated last year; half found paid work soon after finishing the scheme…

via Welfare reforms: Can work, won’t work | The Economist.

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