Thursday 15 November 2007

For once I am not sure what I really think

It started with an item from Chris Dillow painting the immigration spike as a symptom of the skills gap using the latest unemployment figures to support the idea. Then Jackart responded with the thesis:

The "skill" in question is the willingness to turn up for work, work for a full day, then turn up again the next day, sober. This "Skill" needs to be repeated 5 times a week, 48 weeks a year.

Chris has now posted over on Liberal Conspiracy something that I can only suppose is meant to be a rebuttal. It lacks somewhat given that all it actually does is throw into the ring a bunch of statistics. Yes it is fair enough to point out that the headline figure includes people who while not "employed" are making themselves useful, keeping house, or worshiping at the temple of knowledge for example, but that doesn't actually counter the key point of Jackart's argument. There are at the core of the figures a number of people who are doing their damndest to avoid acquiring or holding down a job. How long should the welfare state support these people for? Is it just a touch of crypto-fascism within me that means I occasionally agree with those that say that there should be a cut off point after which someone who has no intention whatsoever of being a useful member of society, whether through employment or otherwise should be cut off, completely. And if we go down that route how do we safeguard those that need the help, those that have genuine health problems that prevent them from being part of the workforce for example. Or is this country rich enough that we can afford to keep a few spare humans knocking around for the hell of it and pay economic migrants to do the work instead?

As the title suggests unlike most of these posts where I rant away and make firmly sure you know what I think, on this subject I really don't know my own mind.


Anonymous said...

It’s well known that there is a hard core that ‘won’t work’ and various initiatives have been devised to target them. It’s an uphill struggle when all they have to do to loose the job is not turn up. I’m guessing there’s probably cases where they work harder to screw the system than they would if they were actually employed.

As well as the issues you mention, there’s other things to consider:

What happens if support is removed? Will charities be drained as they pick up the slack? Will friends and family (who may not be able to afford it) support them? (Will that cause a negative impact on the benefits / health /housing systems?)

Are we willing to face the consequences of extreme-non-workers who would rather become homeless/starve than become productive members of society? Even though won’t-workers don’t contribute and are simply a drain, do we have a moral duty to provide the basics for life? If yes, does that take the form of cash / vouchers / institutions?

Do employers want the won’t workers? Would employees want to work with them? (I can imagine the re-work needed to pick up what they haven’t done/have done badly/have sabotaged.)

From what happens today it seems the easy answer is to accept that some money will be ‘wasted’ on trying to help/bribe/threaten the won’t-be-helped in return for not penalising genuine cases, fobbing the problem off onto others or facing the tabloid reaction to a government that would allow families to starve on the streets.

IIRC, in ’96 I was told, while on holiday there, that there wasn’t any unemployment benefit in Turkey. If you didn’t work, you had to live on savings/friends/family(most likely) or starve. I wonder if there’s a way of comparing unemployment levels in countries that do/don’t have unemployment benefit?

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much of the concern over the "won't work" demographic stems from a fear that someone, somewhere is getting away with something and that we're missing out. Let's be honest, very few of us would do any of the jobs we do if we didn't feel that we had to.

That aside, if you have endless free time but your only source of income is the dole you're probably not having a whale of a time. I didn't. When children skip school we don't immediately accuse them of "refusing to learn" - we look for causes like bullying or abuse. How many of the putative "won't work-ers" suffer from depression, anxiety, crippling lack of self-esteem?

I don't know. Probably no-one else does either. But we all figure that since we have to suffer, why should some other bugger "get away with it"?

Finally, I suspect the largest single demographic who avoid regular employment draw the dole to give themselves a legitimate source of income, even though they work jolly hard and make a very good wage in the personal lifestyle-enhancing pharmaceutical sector. We should be taxing them, not trying to force them to abandon their successful small business for a low-status, low-pay McJob. ;)