We can’t afford another term of Tory rule if we want an economy that works for all

Unemployment has surged up by 166,000 over the last quarter and now stands at a worrying 1.49 million.

rishi sunak interview

Paul Nowak is General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress

This week’s ONS labour market figures brought yet more grim news for our jobs market.

Unemployment has surged up by 166,000 over the last quarter and now stands at a worrying 1.49 million.

The number of job vacancies fell and the number of workers in employment also dropped.

We’ve still got over a million people are trapped on zero-hours contracts.

These are the worst contracts, with the worst pay and conditions, and no guarantee of shifts from one week to the next – leaving families unable to plan budgets or childcare.

The Conservatives have presided over the longest pay squeeze in modern history. Real wages are still worth less than in 2008 and are not on course to recover until 2028.

And economic inactivity is shooting up. New TUC analysis published just this week found that long-term sickness has become the top reason for women being out of work.

The number of women who are now economically inactive due to long-term sickness has increased by over half a million (503,000, +48%) over the last five years to 1.54 million – the highest number since records began.

Economic inactivity due to long-term sickness has risen steeply for both men and women over the past five years. The rise has, however, been bigger for women than men across this period – with the number of men inactive due to long-term sickness rising by 37%.

And why have we seen such a sharp jump in long-term sickness? Well, our overstretched public services and cuts to preventative health services mean people can’t get access to treatment when they need it.

And women’s physical and mental health are also being impacted by low-paid, insecure work.

Half a million more women than men are paid below the real living wage. And TUC analysis published last month shows that BME women are twice as likely to be on zero-hours contracts than white men.

Women are more likely to work in sectors including retail, hospitality and social care where insecure work and low pay are particularly prevalent.

This is hardly a record Rishi Sunak should be proud of.

But, instead of improving access to treatment or boosting the quality of work, last month he said he was “determined to crack down on ill-health” and proposed sweeping reforms to benefits.

This is the wrong approach from the wrong government.

Instead of stigmatising and punishing people who are too ill to work to work ministers should deal with the underlying causes – and invest in improving public services and crack down on insecure work.

But it’s no surprise they’ve got this wrong.

Everywhere you look the Conservatives are failing working people.

We desperately need a proper economic plan for jobs and growth, so household incomes can recover, and everyone has security at work.

Good, secure jobs are essential to building a motivated, healthy workforce and are what every worker deserves.

It’s high time we had employment standards fit for the 21st century. It should go without saying that everyone should know they will be treated fairly at work with decent pay and conditions. 

And our NHS desperately needs investment to get waiting lists back down. When people can access treatment faster, they will return to work sooner.

No amount of spin or rewriting history can hide this Conservative government’s abysmal record in office. Britain desperately needs political change and renewal.

We need an economy that works for all.

We cannot afford another term of Conservative rule.

Image credit: Sky News/YouTube

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