Liam Byrne MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary was quick to respond to recent Youth Contract statistics which show just 4,690 wage incentive payments have been made since the scheme began.
Survey’s also continue to indicate that many employers don’t know much about it , or are not interested in taking on young people. The Youth Contract is also heavily skewed towards private sector employers –in contrast to New Labour’s previous ‘Future Jobs Fund’ that primarily relied on the public and voluntary sector, was more generous in its employer subsidies, but was considered ‘too bureaucratic ’by the Coalition
In contrast, according to Byrne, Labour’s new ‘Compulsory Jobs Guarantee’ would get anyone out of work for two years, or one year if they are under 25, into a real paying job This is positive and reflects a recognition that youth joblessness is as much due to lack of jobs for young people, rather than a problem with their skills.
Less encouraging is Byrne’s statement that young people offered work under the scheme, would be required to take it “or risk losing their benefits.” No doubt included to appease ‘workfare’ supporters and to demonstrate Labour will not be soft on ‘scroungers’; the real question is about the sorts of jobs that will be available under a Labour government –as much as young people’s willingness to do them.
How does Labour respond to current trends in the labour market –where official falls in unemployment rates obscure huge rises in involuntary part-time working in the absence of full-time work and the increasing misuse of ‘zero-hours’ contracts for example. With most people experiencing cuts in ‘real’ pay, few employers are signing up to the ‘living wage’ agreements backed by Ed Miliband and others.
Other Labour policies for reorganising and revamping apprenticeships, particularly regional clearing arrangements that put employers in touch with applicants, should also be welcomed; but they will mean little without an alternative ‘Plan B’ (Rather a Plan B+). In this respect and after endorsing Coalition spending plans for 2015/16, is there anything to suggest that Labour will be offering more?