The Tory unemployment lemons: A lesson in smoke and mirrors

Updated: Aug 9, 2018

This blog is dedicated to the adages of old. It is an epitome of how the 'truth' can be distorted to tell any truth you want to. As a left-wing proponent, you can hardly be surprised by my support for a more social society. Never-the-less, even I get surprised by the low political levels to which the UK conservatives are willing to stoop in trying to win their arguments. The two adages I was referring to are (a) A leopard never changes its spots (Tory greed) and (b) if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck ...

There is one number the Tories use for which I have no real answer. That is the fact that unemployment figures are (we are told) at an all time low. To me, given the state of society and business, to be in complete contrast to the "feeling" in society. How can GDP growth be low and have full employment? How can investment be so low if manufacturing is doing so great?

How can there be so much misery in full employment? How can so many people be reliant on food banks and state aid and be working? How can so many people be 'trapped' in a job, unable to change occupations in full employment circumstances? How can there be so much hate for immigrant workers if everybody is happy with their work?

I have always claimed it was the nature of the 'gig' economy, but in all honesty, (a) I never fully understood how that worked and (b) I always felt as if it was a lame excuse, so I don't use that much. However today's Daily Politics explained to me some details which when investigated explain how the Tories pulled off this wonderful conjuring trick.

I refer you first to the graph above. To me it explains a lot. It paints a picture of how employers are taking on more young people in full time employment. Good news I hear you say, except it isn't. Because the young are paid considerably less that their elders. "Ah! experience" I hear you say, except I am not convinced it takes 8 years to learn how to serve a drink in a restaurant or how to serve a customer on a shop. Why is this relevant?

Minimum wage table - April 2018

That's why! Because I didn't know that it was permissible to pay less than the minimum wage. Two waiters, a 18 year old, forced to live at home or with friends gets around 35% less for exactly the same job. If you can't live on a minimum wage of £7.83/hr, how do you expect someone to survive on £4.20? Equal pay takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the youth of today.

Then of course, there is the other "news". I say news in inverted commas because i only just read a one-year old Guardian article that refers to employment in 2016. I quote:

The latest jobs figures provided some small bit of good news, but also highlighted that while men have finally started getting more full-time work, the past year has seen such work for women drop dramatically.

When the latest jobs figures were released last week by the Bureau of Statistics, the slight drop in the unemployment rate from 5.8% to 5.7% was mostly overshadowed by the news that while total employment had risen by 13,500 jobs, full-time employment had fallen by 44,800 jobs.

...and goes on

Although women only account for 35% of all full-time employment, in January (2017) 80% of full-time jobs lost were women’s jobs

It seemed to be another kick in the teeth for workers coming out of 2016 which was the second worst year for employment growth in the past 20 years, and only the fourth time in that period where full-time employment went backwards:

Is there no level the Tories are unwilling to stoop? All this misery and for what? To lower a deficit, when all the time running up the tab (bill) required to fix the economy post Tory era. Yes, the next government will end up having to spend money to fix the mistakes, but there is no other solution if Britain is to stop this downward trend and reclaim its place as one of the world's leading economies, rather than as a 'has-been'.

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