May brags about record employment — but what are those jobs really worth?

Too much of the increase in employment is down to unstable, poorly paid jobs that don't take people out of poverty

TMPMQs

Theresa May opened her first Prime Minister’s Questions with a celebration of the ONS jobs figures released this morning.

And indeed, they show that a record number of people are in employment. However, any deeper analysis of the state of UK employment undermines her claim that the Conservatives are building ‘an economy for everyone’.

Analysis published by the IFS yesterday showed that two thirds of children below the government’s absolute poverty line are poor are poor despite the fact that at least one of their parents is in work.

In other words, the much-heralded increases in employment are not reducing rates of poverty and the IFS describes increasing the incomes of poor families as the government’s ‘big challenge on living standards.

‘Tackling low income is increasingly about tackling the problems faced by low-earning working households,’ commented associate IFS director Robert Joyce. ‘Ultimately substantial progress will depend crucially on economic policies that push up productivity.

‘Economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote will only serve to make these challenges all the tougher.’

The prime minister should also pay more attention to the huge increases in self-employment, which account for much of the increase in employment. This trend is not attributable to greater entrepreneurship, but to more workers signing unstable contracts with fewer rights, less pay and little job security.

self employment

‘We need more decent jobs,’ commented TUC general secretary Frances O’ Grady in response to the ONS figures. ‘Not working conditions like those exposed at the courier firm Hermes these week, where workers were pushed on to self-employed contracts with fewer rights.’

For months, employment figures have offered the Tories something to crow about while the country collapsed, and working people around the country battled to make ends meet.

May, who is keen to paint herself as a social justice warrior, must be pressed to explain why she’s bragging about new jobs that aren’t actually bringing the most vulnerable out of poverty.

14 Responses to “May brags about record employment — but what are those jobs really worth?”

  1. Jacko

    Where do you think ‘well-paid’ jobs come from ? From private business, seeking employees with skills. If you want a better paid job you have to acquire those skills. That’s all there is to it. Politicians can’t help you, you have to help yourself. These kind of articles just perpetuate that helpless, victim-mentality homogeneous view that the Left has of ‘the poor’.

  2. Richard MacKinnon

    Jacko,
    I agree. Even after that crazy period under Labour when it was better for the poor to claim social security benefits rather than work there are still deluded left wing do gooders that think its politicians that create jobs.

  3. Brumanuensis

    Jacko:

    “Where do you think ‘well-paid’ jobs come from ? From private business, seeking employees with skills. If you want a better paid job you have to acquire those skills. That’s all there is to it. Politicians can’t help you, you have to help yourself”.

    Are you really arguing, Jacko, that only private-sector organisations offer well-paid jobs? Have you got any evidence for that?

    I’m also intrigued by your claim that people need to ‘acquire skills’? Which skills and how? How will the training required be funded? Who should it be obtained from? What if the training in question is not available in your area? Details please.

    Richard MacKinnon:

    “I agree. Even after that crazy period under Labour when it was better for the poor to claim social security benefits rather than work there are still deluded left wing do gooders that think its politicians that create jobs”.

    Could you explain which period that was, which social security benefits you are referring to and what evidence you have for your claim? Am I also to understand that you think macro-economic policy has no effect upon the labour market?

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  5. ted francis

    Well said Brumanuensis. It seems that Jacko and his fellow travellers seem to be Sun economists. Their ideological view of their countrymen is not only wildly inaccurate but factually unfounded. The much vaunted million new jobs are almost exclusively in the service sector and includes 000’s of couriers receiving below the minimum wage (vide today’s Guardian survey). How are you employed Jacko? Are you a beneficiary of this blessed employment renaissance? Or are you a Central Office messenger boy?

  6. Richard MacKinnon

    Brumanuensis,
    The period where the poor realised that it was better to claim benifts rather than take poorly paid jobs started back in the 70s as the UK began to lose its heavy industries, coal mining, steel making and ship building. Workers within these industries based mainly in the north of England, Wales and the cenrtal belt of Scotland saw no prospects because there were none. During the next 30 years no governemnt attempted to address the issue and as the economy moved toward service based, unemployment within these parts became the norm. Children grew up with parents that had never worked. Unemployment benefits, along with housing benifts, and council tax exemption far out weighed the money that could be earned in a poorly paid job if one could be found. We got to a point under the leadership of Gordon Brown of the madness of family tax credits. This was where the man with the moral compass after he had scrapped the 10% income tax rate then realised that the working poor were getting so heavily hit the government had to give them them some of their money back. Hard to believe but true. Of course it was sold as a benevolence ‘fill in this 24 page application form once a year and we will see what we can do’. So not only did the working poor under Brown have to go hungry they were put through the humiliation of having to claim handouts.
    The situation is still not sorted. The hardest hit in society are still the working poor not the unemployed. Why bothering working?
    Cameron and Osborne at least understood the dangers of the anomoly and tried to tackle it. Its still a work in progress. Lefties like to call it austerity. And I bet it is austere if you happen to be in a poor paid job.
    With regards your question about macro economics and job markets: I believe that government has no place in any market , jobs, housing, financial and any other you can think of. Markets are not the place for governments. A good example of what happens when a governemnt feels it necessary to intevene in a market would be in 2008 and the collapse of parts of the UK financial market. Rather than leave well alone and let the successful stalls in the market buy out the failures the governemnt of the time felt it their duty to step in and bail out the failures with what I believe are and are still to be dealt with, disasterous consequences.

  7. patrick newman

    Mr Mackinnon I think your views (views with no apparent evidence supporting them) would embarrass even those at the IEA indeed they are absurd. Laissez faire ideology is a major factor in the current state of the economy especially in the UK. You will be telling us next that the current failure to exit the 2007/8 crisis is due to too much interference in the otherwise perfect free markets!

  8. Mike C

    The Original Question was”Where do well paid jobs come from” The answer is and always has been From an increase in Public spending..
    Entrepeneurship satisfies demand by using the mechanics of `the market. It cannot create demand.
    Note that during `the Industrial Revolution the main employer both direct and indirect wqas the Admiralty .Thje prosperity which arose was on ther back of a thirty year war with france.

  9. Richard MacKinnon

    Patrick Newman, I honestly do not know what your talking about.

    Mike C, I can understand you, but you are wrong. “Where do well paid jobs come from” The answer is and always has been From an increase in Public spending..” if that is the case, ask yourself why not just spend a lot of public money so everone has a well paid job.
    And then you claim “Entrepeneurship satisfies demand by using the mechanics of `the market. It cannot create demand”. So the guy that invented the Dyson vacum cleaner, (cant remember his name) didnt create a demand he only “satisfies demand by using the mechanics of `the market.” whatever that means.

  10. Brumanuensis

    Richard MacKinnon

    “The period where the poor realised that it was better to claim benifts rather than take poorly paid jobs started back in the 70s as the UK began to lose its heavy industries, coal mining, steel making and ship building. Workers within these industries based mainly in the north of England, Wales and the cenrtal belt of Scotland saw no prospects because there were none. During the next 30 years no governemnt attempted to address the issue and as the economy moved toward service based, unemployment within these parts became the norm. Children grew up with parents that had never worked”.

    The numbers of children in ‘never worked’ families is minuscule. It is not an endemic problem, contrary to stereotypes encouraged by a former Cabinet minister who shall remain nameless.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/02/workless-families-convenient-truth-editorial

    “Unemployment benefits, along with housing benifts, and council tax exemption far out weighed the money that could be earned in a poorly paid job if one could be found. We got to a point under the leadership of Gordon Brown of the madness of family tax credits. This was where the man with the moral compass after he had scrapped the 10% income tax rate then realised that the working poor were getting so heavily hit the government had to give them them some of their money back. Hard to believe but true. Of course it was sold as a benevolence ‘fill in this 24 page application form once a year and we will see what we can do’. So not only did the working poor under Brown have to go hungry they were put through the humiliation of having to claim handouts”

    Abolishing the 10% rate actually benefited middle-class households more than working-class ones, just like increasing the personal allowance does. The whole point of tax credits was to make the transition into work easier, from a financial point of view, which it succeeded in doing. I’m not sure how this was madness. You are almost always better off in work than you are on benefits (there is a small anomaly around the 16 hour mark for workers, but the overall claim is still true).

    “Cameron and Osborne at least understood the dangers of the anomoly and tried to tackle it. Its still a work in progress. Lefties like to call it austerity. And I bet it is austere if you happen to be in a poor paid job.”

    How were they tackling it? Through the ever-delayed Universal Credit?

    “With regards your question about macro economics and job markets: I believe that government has no place in any market , jobs, housing, financial and any other you can think of. Markets are not the place for governments. A good example of what happens when a governemnt feels it necessary to intevene in a market would be in 2008 and the collapse of parts of the UK financial market. Rather than leave well alone and let the successful stalls in the market buy out the failures the governemnt of the time felt it their duty to step in and bail out the failures with what I believe are and are still to be dealt with, disasterous consequences”.

    Sorry Richard, but that’s magical libertarian thinking. If the governments around the world had taken your attitude, the entire global financial sector could have collapsed. The scale of contagion was such that there were no buyers waiting to buy up failed rivals. If action hadn’t been taken in the UK, the UK’s financial sector would have disintegrated and after Lehman Brothers, we could have been in a situation where cash machines would have stopped working and a second Great Depression would have hit us. Letting the market liquidate banks sounds fun, but the human consequences would have been disastrous. Millions of businesses, good and bad, would have folded and unemployment would have gone into double-digits.

  11. Brumanuensis

    Richard MacKinnon

    “So the guy that invented the Dyson vacum cleaner, (cant remember his name) didnt create a demand he only “satisfies demand by using the mechanics of `the market.” whatever that means”.

    Yes, Patrick Newman is right. Dyson didn’t create demand for his product; he satisfied a consumer demand for better hoovers by designing a new and superior-quality hoover. At the moment you appear to be advancing an argument known as ‘Say’s Law’ which is now considered discredited by most economists. Basically, you’re arguing ‘supply creates its own demand’, which it doesn’t usually. Unless products meet a particular market need, then regardless of how well-designed they are, they won’t sell.

  12. Richard MacKinnon

    Brumanuensis,
    You know so much you even think you know what I’m arguing, that “‘supply creates its own demand’, which it doesn’t usually”. You even have a name for it “Says Law” and that what I am thinking is now “discredited”.
    For a start I am definately not arguing that “‘supply creates its own demand’,” because that just does not make sense. That is so bonkers it is laughable. Infact the opposite is the case, a lack of supply can create demand. As for “Dyson didn’t create demand for his product; he satisfied a consumer demand for better hoovers” What does that mean? Do you think the demand for a new type of carpet cleaner came before Dyson invented a Dyson? That there was ground swell of public opinion that demanded a better carpet cleaner because all the vacum cleaners up to that point were all useless?

    Brumanuensis, please think before you write you are starting to sound like a demented John McDonnell.

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