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Sunday, April 08, 2012


you just have to love the business community. they are currently urging the government to do more to encourage job creation. a lofty goal. on the face of it the same ambition that is held by the majority of those who are unemployed and the trade unions. but only on the face of it. you may remember the furore over the way certain companies used the workfare programme, the programme that allowed them to employ the long-term unemployed for little or no cost, with the vague promise of a job at the end of it. the 'worker' would get their regular job seekers allowance with maybe some expenses for travel. if they didn't stick with the work placement they could lose their benefits. it was this compulsion bit that the various companies who were involved in the scheme got all righteous about: pretending they didn't know. as if. if they didn't then their human resources departments are less than useless. now there is a sensible point to the workfare idea - to get the long-term unemployed back into the rhythm of working life again, not to mention to give them a sense of contributing, it is an important factor in many people's lives. so in principle there is nothing wrong in trying to get the long-term unemployed weaned away from watching daytime tv and get them doing something useful. the companies who were involved with workfare 'sold' the idea of it as a route into work - learning useful skills, as long as you consider stacking shelves to be a useful skill. the benefits to the company are obvious - a (very) cheap source of labour and a guaranteed supply of labour, little need to train them up fully because you can replace them with new ones once the workfare period was up. it wasn't so much creating new permanent jobs, it was about generating churn in the labour market: getting people off the long-term lists. why do i say this? if it has been about proper job creation the companies would have taken advantage of the apprenticeship scheme the government has been pushing - except then you would have to pay the worker a wage (not much, but more than getting them as a state paid skivvy). several companies responded to the public outcry by withdrawing their support from the workfare scheme - no doubt the jobs that were being filled by those who were participating have been filled with full-time full-paid members of staff? probably not. you would have thought that the business community would have learnt from that. obviously not. their latest wheeze to help job creation is effectively (and i may be doing them a disservice here) to ask the government to remove some of the protections that the employee has in the workplace amd to make it easier for the employer to sack staff. that is pretty much it. i am struggling to see how that actually creates jobs. i can see how it might make a workforce compliant. i can see how it might allow an employer to place undue pressure on their staff to put up with harsher work conditions. what i can't see is how it will create jobs. it will create job churn. that isn't the same thing. perhaps if industry spent less time trying to get something for nothing from the government )remember they want to pay less tax but they also want to have the government subsidise their employees either by workfare or working tax credit - hey why pay people a living wage when they can get money from the state?) and spent more time working out how to do what they are supposed to do best they would actually be in a position to create real jobs.

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