Published on March 19th, 2013 |
by Joe Lo
Image © penguincakes 2008
The Long-Term Unemployed are the Real Job-Creators
The long-term unemployed are currently some of the most hated people in our society, up there with bankers, Justin Bieber and John Terry. Surprisingly, given the levels of youth unemployment, some of the most vicious scrounger-haters are young.
A new survey has found that 48% of 18- 24-year-olds, and 46% of 25-34-year-olds disagreed with the statement “for the most part [the unemployed are] unlucky rather than lazy” – almost twice as many as in the over-65s group, where only 25% disagreed with the statement. This villification of the unemployed has serious consequences. Firstly it stops people claiming the benefits they’re entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions showed that, in 2010, 610,000 people failed to claim the jobseekers allowance they were entitled to, a total of £1.95 billion. Many will celebrate this as a saving for the taxpayer but it is worth remembering that benefits are underclaimed as much as overclaimed. A more gruesome and extreme symptom of the demonisation of jobseekers was the arson attack on the Phillpot family in May last year, the trial for which is currently ongoing. Right-wing commentators like Carol Malone linked the attack to the family of seventeen’s receipt of benefits. Six children burned to death and Malone’s tone suggested the family got what they deserved even if she did not say so explicitly.
Why do we hate the long-term unemployed? We see them as lazy. In most cases this is untrue but, even where it is, are they doing any harm? I would argue that they’re not and if they want to spend their life on benefits then that’s a cause for celebration for all of us who want to work. As an example, last summer me and a friend were applying for jobs, marshalling traffic at musical festivals. I got one, he didn’t. When I arrived, I met three colleagues who didn’t want to be there but had been forced by their jobcentres to accept work. So people who didn’t want to work were forced to in favour of those who do.
What the demonisers overlook is that, in a capitalist society, we need unemployed people. The Labour party long ago abandoned its commitment to full employment, thereby accepting unemployment as part of its right-ward shift towards the stance of the Conservatives and Liberals. Under this consensus, unemployment is inevitable at the best of times, let alone in times like these. At the moment there are 2.5 million people unemployed and 0.5 million vacancies which are filled almost as soon as listed. This means we need 2 million people to be unemployed and as a reward you get £56 a week if you’re under-25 or £71 a week if you’re older than that. Any volunteers?
Not me, and not most people. Anyone can become unemployed if they want, just quit your job. If it’s such a cushy number then why don’t those in work take it up? There’ll be plenty to replace you.