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Letters: Unemployment, job creation and the precariat

Amelia Gentleman should be congratulated on a powerful piece of journalism (After all the pep talks and CV workshops, where are the jobs?, 1 February) . It should be compulsory reading for the coalition government and Labour frontbench. Schemes to maximise people’s CVs, job searching and employability skills may help some unemployed people. However, as she points out, the emphasis of these sorts of schemes is to make unemployment purely an individual problem, ignoring economic factors.

The danger is that many unemployed people start to believe that their failure to find work is solely due to defects in individual characteristics, rather than primarily a result of economic factors. Interestingly, at least one of the workers who are attempting to put people into work, Mark Harrison, acknowledged the shortage of jobs as a problem (“… there not being the jobs out there”). Incongruously, this realism frequently coexisted with a jargon-ridden, gung-ho approach from his colleagues when they were talking to clients and assuring them they would find a job.
Michael Somerton

• It was refreshing to read Amelia Gentleman’s balanced report on what she saw of our work programme operations. In just six months G4S has already supported over 6,000 people into jobs through our management of the work programme. During turbulent economic times, providing quality support for long-term unemployed people becomes more important, not less so.

The total amount of jobs in an economy is not fixed. Labour market interventions like the work programme help create more jobs as well as match people to the jobs currently available. If we get it right, the work programme offers a unique opportunity to transform the present and future job prospects of a generation of unemployed people.
Sean Williams
Managing director, G4S Welfare to Work

• The headline on Amelia Gentleman’s article encapsulates the problem: whereas there is much that is good in these schemes, it is clear that all this effort, at an apparent cost of £5bn, does not create a single job, apart from those of the individuals running them.
Philip Heselton

• Now we’re having an intelligent debate on banking, can we also talk about the impact of the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs? What is the point of the work programme when the government is happy for both public and private sector work to move offshore to India or China? There will be no effective, long-term creation of jobs while this continues.
Tony Clewes

• Amelia Gentleman’s excellent article once again highlighted the total lack of vision in the government’s approach to getting people into work. Rather than encouraging the unemployed to work unpaid for large companies, workshops should be run to help people of all ages identify the many gaps and new business opportunities that exist using modern technology and e-business models. I ran a two-year programme for Business Link Kent called e-quality for women entrepreneurs aimed at women over 50 wanting to start an online business. The response was amazing. They felt empowered when they realised that they could use their skills running a self-employed business and take control of their working lives.

Far more could be done to create mutually beneficial partnerships which could lead to employment or self-employment. Teach the young man being trained in making bird tables how to sell his products online. Get the 18-year-olds familiar with Twitter and Facebook to work with small businesses who are struggling to find the time to understand how social networking can raise their profile and create new markets. Arrange for the 60-year-olds with business backgrounds to mentor the young to start up a business. Too much time is spent focusing on traditional routes to employment.
Dee Alsey
Rye, East Sussex

• John Harris (‘Being your own boss’ is no alternative to a proper job, 23 January) is describing members of the new precariat – a combination of “proletariat” and “precarious”. For women and ethnic minorities this is no new condition; altogether it’s the growing class of those who live and work precariously, often in a series of short-term, insecure, low-paid jobs, and whose condition produces instability – like Occupy, riots and so on.

There are creative and egalitarian alternatives – work sharing, everyone working shorter hours rather than half the population out of work and the other half over-worked, co-operatives like Mondragon in the Basque country, where the highest earners are paid on average no more than five times that of the lowest, finance sector included. When are our politicians going to have a go at some of these?
Sue Ledwith
Ruskin College, Oxford

• Three months ago I was an employed IT professional and company director. I am now unemployed. I have applied for many jobs. Having paid tax into the system for many years, I feel entitled to my £60 per week unemployment benefit. To retain that I am now told by the Kingswood jobcentre in Bristol that I must make visits to offices/garages etc asking if they have any driving jobs. I am also told I must change my CV (dumb it down) and take any job that’s offered to me. They say: “We know this is a bit demeaning but you are receiving taxpayers’ money so this is what you must do.”

Is it good for the UK economy for jobcentres to try to force highly qualified people to feel demeaned and undersell themselves simply because they have been unemployed for three months?
Mark Laridon

• Please pass on to Amelia Gentleman my appreciation for the honesty and sensitivity she showed in her article on unemployment here in Hull.

It could only happen in Hull, the crucible of the anti-slavery movement and parliamentary seat of William Wilberforce, that unemployed citizens are expected to work without pay. Work without payment is my definition of slavery in the 21st century.
Mel Pink

• In Hull, there are apparently 58 applicants for each job. If each year, just over four of them do 12 weeks’ unpaid “work experience”, that job will disappear, and none will be able to gain paid employment. In the catechism I learnt at school, one of the sins crying out to heaven for vengeance was “defrauding labourers of their wages”. It is a sin – and should be a crime – that has not gone away.
Frank Roper
Weymouth, Dorset

• The work programme does not save the government any money. When one benefit claimant finds work he simply fills a vacancy that would have gone to another claimant.
Janet Johnson
Rugby, Warwickshire

• It is all very well for the MoD to say that their purchasing policy does not preclude them from buying British (Fears for British jobs after BAE loses out on £7bn fighter contract, 2 February). The record of governments in the past of supporting development of ground-breaking work is abysmal – look at trains or windfarms or tidal power, where there has been virtually no support for British effort. What is the point of a scientific education if there are no British companies to provide employment? We will always be paying someone else to do the development work, so we will never have anything new to sell. The economy will never be rebalanced. Investing in R&D now is investing in our future. That must be government policy.
John Laird
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• “Laughing at vocational jobs is a very British kind of snobbery, ” writes Sarah Ditum (‘Your kids aren’t smart, posh, upper-class, whatever’: a very British snobbery, 31 January). No it’s not! It is stupid predjudice and active discrimination practised by people who should surely know better. Intellect and intelligence are not the same thing and most people now realise that the only way out of the economic impasse we find ourselves in will be by making things.

Creative industry needs to be the driving force of our economy rather than casino capitalism and low-taxed asset speculation. A change in attitudes is required that allows for the coming together of physical and mental intelligence working alongside academic intellect to create new goods and services that will enable a different economy to grow and prosper. Fortunately, the working class, with their myriad vocational skills and abilities, are usually quite good at this sort of thing. Well done, Sarah Ditum, for raising this issue.
Chris Trude
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