Belfast Telegraph

Tory dole clean-up doesn't wash

Editor's Viewpoint

It may be almost two years to the date of the next General Election but already the battle lines are being drawn during the party conference season. Labour is trying to establish its credentials as the party of the ordinary people by promising to freeze power prices for nearly two years if it gets returned to power.

The Tories big policy is to make the unemployed work for their benefits through community projects.

This can be seen as both parties reverting to type in what is simple electioneering.

Yet the Tories plans should strike a chill into the heart.

While there is no doubt that there is abuse of the benefits system and there are claimants who are falsely obtaining money, the work for benefits policy can be viewed as an appeasement to those who think all unemployed people are feckless. That flies in the face of the facts. It presumes that there are well-paid jobs available which are going unfilled because people would rather live on benefits.

The reality is that four out of five new jobs created in the economy recently have been filled by women working less than 25 hours a week. In other words, most of the jobs available are part-time and therefore low-paid.

In Northern Ireland there are many more people looking for jobs than there are employment opportunities.

While Chancellor George Osborne says the 'work for the dole' policy will equip the unemployed with the skills to enable them to compete for jobs, that again is a flawed theory.

We already have many highly educated people who cannot find jobs commensurate with their qualifications, so where does the Chancellor think that the long-term unemployed with lesser skills can obtain employment? The Tories, like Labour, are appealing to their traditional supporters by cracking down on the unemployed and big business respectively. It is a tactic which is used every time an election looms, but is aimed more at securing the long-term employment of politicians rather than improving the lot of their constituents.

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