Why Work Doesn’t Pay / Too Poor to Get a Job

Jobcentre - Berwick

There has recently been a lot of talk about making work pay but most of the speakers and indeed the media reporters seem to miss the biggest reason why work doesn’t pay.

When someone is working part-time and claiming benefits to top up their income they are only allowed to keep £5 of their earnings before the benefits are withdrawn pound for pound. To my knowledge, this amount has not changed since at least 1983 and probably much earlier. Presumably this was originally intended to cover their travel costs to and from work, but 1983 was 30 YEARS AGO. How much have bus fares risen in the last 30 years?

This now means they are not even allowed to work one hour at minimum wage before their benefit is clawed back, yet they are expected to be prepared to travel for up to an hour and a half for work. The costs of travelling such a distance could take most of their wages, let alone the pittance they are allowed to gain, and leave them well out of pocket.

I can understand that as travel costs are variable they are seen as the responsibility of the employee, but come on, why would anyone in their right minds take a job that will leave them drastically worse off due to transport costs?

George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith & Co. in their ivory towers don’t seem to realise that it costs money – and often quite a big percentage of benefit money to travel to a job – as they swan around in their cars. Perhaps they think we lesser mortals can sprout wings and fly to our places of work.

Unless and until the issue of transport costs is taken into consideration alongside benefit withdrawal rates it is never going to pay to work part-time, yet at the moment part-time is all many people can find. This can sometimes be a stepping stone to full-time work, depending on the company, but not if you can’t afford to start work in the first place!

Why are there so many part-time jobs?

Of course there are all sorts of explanations for part-time work being offered, keeping costs down, targeting the work force numbers to the busy times, etc. However, there is also a new excuse. Since the employers share of pension contributions for their employees has risen and become compulsory for certain levels of work, it has become more cost effective to businesses to cut all hours to part-time, below the thresh-hold where they have to pay the compulsory contributions. Two part-timers may now be working the hours that used to be one full-time post, but the employer avoids paying the pension contribution.

This isn’t helping employees build up their pension-pot but many employers don’t care about that, as long as they keep their costs down. With the current government threatening to sanction part-time workers for not working enough hours, once again the workers are being penalised for the actions of their bosses.

See also: Has Capitalism Gone Too Far?

Too Poor to Get a Job?

Cutbacks have consequences – especially for the poor. Is this present government, in its relentless attack on the poorest in society, shooting itself in the foot when it comes to the stated aim of trying to get people back to work?

If someone has been out of work for a long time and dependent on benefits they are less likely to be able to afford:

  • Suitable clothes for the working environment
  • Regular haircuts
  • Suitable footwear for work
  • Travel costs
  • All sorts of extra expenses connected with working

Work would also leave them much less time for making the economies that may still be needed in low-wage Britain.

If the unemployed/ under-employed are too poor to be able to present themselves properly at interview, they are unlikely to be offered the job in many instances – especially if it is a customer-facing job.

If the person concerned is in receipt of jobseekers allowance, they may be given enough money to enable them to travel to interview, (or at least that used to be the case, if it hasn’t been another victim of the cuts) but if they are offered a job at a distance from home, how doe they pay for their travel costs until their first monthly pay? In some cases, I have known the first pay packet to be simply a token amount and there was a wait of seven weeks before the first full pay was received. How is anyone supposed to survive that long?

Still penalised for working

Part of the government’s thinking on Universal Credit (UC) was that being paid monthly would supposedly make the transition between unemployment and work easier, but if that monthly UC payment is not enough to cover the travel expenses as well as everything else, people will fall behind with other bills, because they are taking a job.

 The more the income of the poor is reduced, the less the chances they will be able to obtain or keep a job.  If the government goes ahead and sanctions part-time workers for not working enough hours, even through their housing benefit, they may find some people will be too poor to attend their work, as the natural inclination may be to shift money around to keep a roof over their heads, which may in turn leave no money for travel to work. If they go without food to find the fares, they may not be in a fit state to work – especially if they operate machinery or drive as part of their job.

If the most of the country – including many children – can see the problems that are likely to occur with the proposed plans, why can these idiots in government not recognise them?

At one time Iain Duncan Smith talked about allowing benefit claimants to be able to keep more of their benefits – up to 35 per cent. That made sense to many people who have been there in that situation. However, this has not been mentioned for quite some time. It seems that George Osborne has not only over-ruled Iain Duncan Smith on certain points (or so it is rumoured) but has virtually taken over his job. Is it just me, or is the expression on George’s face, when he makes these announcements about cuts and sanctions, becoming increasingly fanatical?

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, when in office, were always very cautious about the possibility of creating an underclass in our society that might rise up and cause trouble. The current government seem to have made it their number one priority to turn all the lower classes into starving peasants and slaves, grovelling for food and shelter.

No wonder they want to take us out of the jurisdiction of the European Human Rights Act. They clearly don’t believe the poor deserve any human rights. Voters beware! (And don’t trust UKIP either, as they are even further to the right than this shower.)

What do you think?

Link

Jobcentre - Berwick

Politicians, economists and economic reporters in the media are always talking about the peaks and troughs in our economy and the cycles of boom and bust. Each time the economic plans falter and unemployment rises, there is great worry about youth unemployment and a ‘lost generation’ who are never able to take the first steps on a career path because of the lack of jobs. But then politics move on and when the recovery begins, all the media comments are angled to promote optimism and confidence in the economy at last.

The politicians are keen to take the credit for sorting out the problems and setting the country on its feet again. But what happens to all those young people who couldn’t step onto the career ladder? No one mentions them again.

Many people will generally assume that when more jobs become available, this lost tribe will find something they can do to earn a living, even if it is not what they expected. This is what we’re supposed to think. Successive governments have also come up with their own ‘schemes’ to ‘help’ these people into work, and maybe a few are helped this way. But for many who have had experience of some of these initiatives, they are nothing but a farce, a way of manipulating the employment figures to make them look better than they really are and providing the participating businesses with a few months of free labour.

Every decade seems to bring some sort of recession and employment problems, for whatever reason, and it isn’t just school-leavers who are affected. Those who worked hard at school and gained the qualifications to go to University can also be caught up in a lost generation if they happen to be leaving education at the wrong time. Politicians and those who work in education often speak as though a qualification or degree is a passport to prosperity, but in the real world, even a degree is not enough any more. Vocational qualifications and experience are also needed to land a well-paid job. In many areas you also need your own car.

Unless a graduate has parents wealthy enough to provide them with a car and support them through two or three unpaid internships, they can still have little chance of landing a decent job. A graduate forced to sign on for Jobseekers Allowance at the end of their degree will probably have little chance of progressing. If they take an unpaid internship to gain relevant experience, their benefits are likely to be stopped as they are deemed to have made themselves ‘unavailable for work’ (i.e. unavailable for low-level work).  Then what are they supposed to live on? Jobcentres are not set up to deal with graduates and their staff often don’t know what to do with claimants with higher qualifications.

Other groups caught up in these ‘lost generations’ scenarios are women returners and mature students. Taking a career break for any reason may be seen as risky these days, but more commonplace in the past when child care facilities and jobs tailored around working mothers were like gold. Mature students clearly have some initiative to work hard and better themselves, after perhaps being unable or prevented from gaining their qualifications earlier in their life. These groups are equally as much at a career crossroad as the school-leavers and graduates, but much less acknowledged.

All of these groups of people have the potential to be left behind when the economy moves on again and if they still haven’t found their niche by the time the economy dips again, their voices will be swamped by the new wave of unemployed, making it even harder for them to compete for the remaining jobs. Outside the major cities and the south-east this is likely to be even worse.

Both of the most recent governments have brought up, and complained about, the parts of the country where there are families of sometimes three generations where no one works. These seem to be mostly in the old industrial areas where the jobs wiped out by Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the 1980s have never been adequately replaced. Even where some new jobs have been created, there are in restricted numbers. There may also be public transport issues in these areas, so that it would be impossible to travel to where the new work has been set up. Predominantly though, it is the same ‘lost generation’ problem, where there are wholesale local redundancies from the area’s main source of employment shutting down. The principle is the same, though the workers may be of widely differing ages, they are still effectively a ‘lost generation’ who may, in this case, never find work again.

Taking all these strands into consideration, and the number of ‘downturns’ we have had in this country since the 1960s, (How many have there been? I’ve lost count.) perhaps it is more amazing that the successive governments are still surprised at the existence of clusters of long-term unemployed. Especially the Conservatives, who seem to have deliberate policies of wiping out the jobs of the less-well-off, whenever they are in power.

These are the people who become the hard-core at the centre of the unemployment figures – not necessarily through their own fault, but because they become trapped by the systems and economic problems caused by those at the top. They are then unable to find a way out of that trap when the economy starts to recover.

Arrogant politicians think they know all about the long-term unemployed when they know nothing, and deal with it by increasing the ‘stick’ and reducing the ‘carrot’ but this may only make things worse. It is possible to be too poor to get a job.

The government needs to stop dictating to the unemployed and blaming them for being unemployed. It needs to START LISTENING – REALLY LISTENING, to what the barriers to work really are, instead of deciding for themselves what they think those barriers are – they are NOT always to do with literacy, numeracy or ignorance. They may be different in different parts of the country, but unless these real problems are addressed, as opposed to the imagined, top-down versions, these poor, people trapped in a cycle of despair are never going to find the help they really need to climb out of the hole into which their lives have been pushed.

What do you think?

See also:

https://wendybscott.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/could-this-be-the-future-for-berwick/

https://wendybscott.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/are-modern-customer-service-methods-making-life-easier-for-pick-pockets/

http://wendybellscott.hubpages.com/hub/Where-is-Berwick-upon-Tweed