The fact that unemployment has dropped by 50,000 is undoubtedly news to give us hope.
However, the additional fact that 2.53 million are not in work tells us the scale of the problem. In addition, the 957,000 out of work aged between 16 and 24 is not only a scandal, but potentially the biggest threat to our future as an international economic force.
It gets chillingly worse when you realise that a sub-set of this frightening figure, the 16-24s who have been out of work for more than two years has skyrocketed by 168% since 2008. Clearly we have a deep structural problem.
Yesterday in the blog that appeared on the Business Matters website, I said I knew the answer, and this is how it goes.
The trick is to get back to the basic idea that you must expect to work for a living. And the way to get everyone back to understanding that point is to make sure that from the moment a child becomes an adult, and by that I mean is no longer in education, that child must pay its way.
Fifteen-year-olds must be beginning to think ‘what am I going to do to earn a crust?’ When they leave full-time education there must be a job, and if they don’t find one of their own choosing then one will be found for them that involves, not only the discipline of going to work, but also includes an element of training. And if there are not enough employers who can afford to pay all those in need of a job then the government of the day must step in.
And, before you string me up for being some kind of outdated socialist, consider our current practice of teaching our kids that there is an option – to stay at home, and we will still pay them.
We teach no work skills; In fact, the only thing we drill into them at such a young and impressionable age is that not working is a legitimate life choice.
The first thing people think when they wake up in the morning has to be: ‘time to go to work!’
Don’t get me wrong, in my ideal world the job market would be able to cope with employing everyone and government help would not be required. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. And since we don’t, as I wrote yesterday, surely charging the battery, by training people for the future, must be a better answer than draining its cells, to the point where in the future it’s completely flat, and is simply unable to work at all?
That’s my specific view, if there are not enough jobs, create them with funding. I don’t mean return to the YTS (Youth Training Schemes) of the past. I mean sort out the structural problem of a lack of work ethic by adding those without a job to the national economic effort, not just giving them something to do on the side.
And hopefully in time we will manage to change the way all people think about going to work, so, in future, working becomes just ‘what you do’.