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Unemployment shows we need alternatives to austerity

Today marks the three year anniversary of unemployment breaking the 2 million mark, and figures out today show the 8th consecutive month of rising unemployment. Unemployment jumped by 48,000 in the quarter to December to 2.67 million, a jobless rate of 8.4%, the worst figure since the end of 1995.

The Government’s austerity plan is not working

Private sector jobs have only risen by 5,000 but cuts in public sector employment, for the same period are 67,000 in the latest quarter (June to September). As women are more likely to be working in the public sector it has had a devastating impact on women’s employment. The number of women claiming job seekers allowance increased by 1,500 last month to 531,700, the highest figure since the summer of 1995.

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said:

As it is clear that austerity and deflation as a policy is not working, it is both surprising and shocking that there are so few demands from Tory backbenches, from the CBI, from the City and from the Liberal and Labour parties that the policy be abandoned in favour of sure fire ways of getting people back to work.”

Youth unemployment

Other data from the Office for National Statistics showed a 22,000 increase in youth unemployment to 1.04 million, which includes 307,000 in full-time education who were looking for work. Of those, 247,000 young people (aged 16-24) have been unemployed for more than a year; the longer someone is unemployed, the less likely they are to ever return to work. Being out of work for more than a year can have a scarring effect, making it harder to get a job as well as having a negative impact on one’s health and well-being. This means that even when employment starts to pick up again, they will find it hard to compete with other jobseekers and could find themselves permanently shut out of the jobs market.

Graeme Cooke, IPPR Associate Director, said:

The government should guarantee everyone who has been unemployed for more than a year a job at the minimum wage in local government or the voluntary sector. But with that right should come the responsibility to take that job or risk losing their benefits.”


There are also 600,000 more people working part-time who say they want to work full-time, compared to three years ago. A record number of people are working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs – up by 83,000 over the latest quarter to 1.35 million. Employment increased by 60,000 to 29 million, mainly due to a rise of 90,000 in the number of part-time employees to 6.6 million.

North-South divide

As I blogged last week the recession has widened the North-South divide and IPPR North analysis shows the number of unemployed people compared to a year ago is:

  • up 25 per cent in the North East (31,000 more people unemployed)
  • up 16.9 per cent in the North West (44,000 more people unemployed)
  • up 11.6 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber (23,000 more people unemployed)

It is clear that the government’s austerity plan is failing and we need growth and jobs not just for the economy but for young people’s futures too. It is a scandal that over 1 million young people have been thrown onto the unemployment scrap heap and their futures are being scarred by a failing political ideology.

Join Next Generation  in discussing why Austerity isn’t Working on 21 Feb.

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