Unemployment: myth vs fact

12:30 pm - November 15th 2007

by Chris Dillow    

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For years, one of the great rhetorical tricks of the right has been to blame the victim. This is especially true of their attitude to the unemployed, as I’ve just seen.
I pointed out yesterday that immigration is high partly because of a mismatch between the skills the unemployed have and the skills employers want. I got this response from A Very British Dude:

The skill in question is the willingness to turn up for work, work for a full day, then turn up again the next day, sober…It is this “skill” that the British long-term unemployed and NEETs (or less euphemistically “Fucking bone idle chavs”) lack.

And Matthew Sinclair added that the problem is “social breakdown”: the unemployed “lack basic social and mental skills.”
Now, this is probably true in some cases – but then anything is true of some people. But it is only a very partial truth.
What it glosses over is that the bone idle and deeply unskilled are only a minority of the unemployed.
Shall we look at some numbers?
1. Of the 1.67 million officially unemployed, over 1 million have been out of work for less than six months and a further 269,000 for less than a year (table 9 of this pdf). These are not idle or unemployable; they can’t be, because they were (for the large part) in work recently.
2. Of the 178,000 unemployed for over two years, only 33,000 were under 25 – the age likely to be chavs or the product of social breakdown. Almost twice as many of the long-term unemployed are over 50.
3. Unemployment is not a “pool” but rather the difference between two quite fast-flowing rivers. In any one month, almost a quarter of the claimant count measure of unemployed leave or join the count (table 10). If they’re so idle, how come so many of the unemployed leave the register so quickly?
4. Of the 8 million economically inactive, over half are students or home-makers (table 13). Only 199,000 – one in 40 – are men under 25 (table 14). For every one young man who’s economically inactive, there are three people who took early retirement.
The facts, then, tell a different story from the right-wing talk. They show that the majority of the unemployed are not unemployable idle young people. Instead, they are victims of low demand (not necessarily low aggregate demand), genuine losers from the creative destruction that is inevitable in a market economy, and those who have been discarded by bosses after years of work.
Isn’t it about time the Left challenged the lies of the right, and faced the facts about unemployment?
And isn’t it disgusting that the Boss Party (I refuse to dignify Brownites with the name “Labour”) has for years collaborated with the right by perpetuating their mythology?

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About the author
Chris Dillow is a regular contributor and former City economist, now an economics writer. He is also the author of The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism. Also at: Stumbling and Mumbling
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Reader comments

Good post Chris, but to challenge the existing narrative, you need a new one. And the power of the narrative isn’t just in it’s description of *what is*, but also the template it provides for *what it means/what we do about it.*

You’re obviously a lot better versed in this issue than most, you’ve explained well *what is.* I’d love to hear what you think it means and what we should do about it.

My point is not to blame the victim (though to some extent I do), but the incentives which put him there – socialism AKA the welfare state. The relevant paragraph from my post is

The answer to inequality is not “increase benefits”, but instead lies in removing the option of not working by removing them. If you give the option to people to sit on their arses watching Jeremy Kyle, whilst drinking special brew and chain smoking lambert and butler, then that is exactly what some of them will do, for the rest of their wretched lives. The Long-term unemployed and the NEET are both inevitable creatures of the welfare state.

There are jobs to go round, there is no need to be unemployed long term, thus in part, I think it is fair to “blame the victim”. Short-term unemployment is inevitable (i’ve been fired more than once, often for rhetoric like that above….), but it is overgenerous benefits which throw people on the scrap-heap, by removing the incentive to work or progress.

Indeed the whole ethos of Tax credits (another bug-bear of mine) is to assume that the low paid can never advance. They won’t with 90% marginal tax rates.

Great post.

My belief is it’s not so much right wing political parties as the right wing press.

It’s a reflection of their power that they have everyone using their terminology, cliches and ignorance.

See also the lack of debate reagarding migrants/asylum seekers.

It’s no longer just the Sun/Mail either. When it comes to migration the BBC now laps up all that “taking our jobs” stuff.

The supposedly central area on this, as taken by the Beeb, would be considered BNP territory only five years ago.

As ever, as you your well argued post points out, too many people need too little encouragement to indulge in negativity, finger pointing and, way too often, plain old racism.

Chris, I think Jackart’s comment post here emphasises my point.

For him/her, your presentation that only a small proportion of the unemployed are feckless layabouts doesn’t penetrate. That’s the people he/she is interested in and so wants to reorient the whole of “welfare policy” around.

You’ve suggested that the majority of unemployed are of a different stripe, but even if that’s true, what consequence does it have? How should policy differ to that proposed by Jackart, in your view?

But Jackart as Chris points out the unemployed are 1.67 million and the long term unemployed are less than .2 million, whatever you say about that group that means that you are only discussing an eighth of the people who are unemployed. Furthermore that leads me to a second point, if early retirement as the statistics suggest is the basis of lots of this longterm unemployed then it isn’t working class yobbos who can’t be bothered to work, but people who have been in jobs their entire lives are quite often middle class adn want to stop- I know from personal experience that that can be connected to a lot of things. For example I know of one person in their fifties forced out of their job as a nurse in the NHS through bullying and the fact that physically she isn’t up to it anymore, and therefore unemployed, given the odious way she was forced out she isn’t up mentally to working. I know of another case where another woman in her fifties has become a grandmother and is helping her kid out with the care of her grandchild. Both are longterm unemployed. Neither Jackart fit your stereotype so it seems that we aren’t even talking in your case about the long term unemployed but about a fraction of them- lets say two thirds of them, so just about 100000 which makes the set of peopel you are talking about 1 sixteenth of the total number of unemployed.

So your analysis of the unemployed focuses on 1 sixteenth or at its most extensive 1 eighth of the group. I’m not sure if that is analysis I’d trust.

“Unemployment is not a “pool” but rather the difference between two quite fast-flowing rivers. In any one month, almost a quarter of the claimant count measure of unemployed leave or join the count (table 10). If they’re so idle, how come so many of the unemployed leave the register so quickly?”

A good point, well made. Fits also with my anecdotal evidence too, which gives a picture of young people working a lot more than they ever did when I was under 25.

One of the problems with the ‘left’ approach to this is that while they would, by and large, decline to blame the unemployed in the Victorian way we see so much of in the rightwing blogosphere – they still accept the ‘pool of unemployed labour’ analysis, not realising that the unemployed of tomorrow won’t be the same ones that are out of work today.

Excellent, Chris – let’s actually look at the numbers before we start slagging people off. If we want to throw random insults around, there are plenty of politicians out there who clearly deserve a good heckling.

However, you are not up to your usual standard with a small bit of your analysis:

Of the 8 million economically inactive, over half are students or home-makers (table 13). Only 199,000 – one in 40 – are men under 25.

Actually, 649,000 – one in 12 – are adult men under 25, with a further 453,000 – one in 18 – being males between 16 and 18. Clearly, many of these are in full-time education but that is different from economically inactive (just as many of the economically active, just over 15%, are also in FTE.)

I appreciate that your point about the lack of the feral work-shy is still fundamentally true but the numbers aren’t quite as stark as you make them out to be. Perhaps a better phrasing would be “Only 199,000 – one in 40 – are men between 18 and 25 who are not in full-time education.”

A hideously unsympathetic alternative would be “over 30% of men between 18 and 25 who are economically inactive are not in education”. This clearly includes both the short and long-term sick but shows that the stats can be spun a wholly different way.

Good article Chris.

Jackart says: but the incentives which put him there – socialism AKA the welfare state.

Where is the evidence for this? Where is the evidence that high social benefits are responsible for long term unemployment? There are always going to be some unemployed people for the reasons outlined by Chris – we live in a global economy where its relatively easy to fire people as economic conditions change.

@Jackart (in post #2): “but it is overgenerous benefits which throw people on the scrap-heap”.

Care to share any examples of these excessive benefits?
And where I might make a claim?

One further comment, having seen your post on your home blog, Chris.

Does anyone have a good survey of the jobs/skills going unfilled at this time?

There’s a lot of reverse theorising about the “skills gap/shortage” but I haven’t seen much empirical study of what’s missing. Surely this is an important issue not just in terms of welfare policy, but economic competitiveness as a whole, so someone has done some counting up of what (if we could wave a magic wand, instantly teaching people a la the Matrix) skills we would be training?

11. Andreas Paterson

First, Jackart, I’ve never heard a 90% figure bandied about before, the worst figure I heard was 70% and I believe that this only applies to a limited subset of benefit examples. Can you point to a 90% example?

Second, marginal tax rates are a favourite anti welfare/tax credit argument, but there are a few points that need to be made about the idea.

Firstly, there is a need to consider the location of the margin, take the two salaries below (the monthly figure takes into account standard rate of tax and NI)
£16K = £1060 per month
£18K = £1172 per month

A rise from the first to the second is a 10.5% increase in income, consider though that our income earner will also have some additional costs to pay out. If we assume costs of £600 then this rise translate as a 24.3% increase in disposable incomes. The point is that on low incomes, even small rises in income are highly noticable and this means that the marginal taxation tax credits is not as signifigant as one might think.

The second point to consider is the route to higher income, the gap in pay between low paid jobs and jobs that require training is signifigant, far to signifigant to make matters of marginal taxation that much of a disincentive.

Finally, I belive it is incorrect to assume that everyone is capable of rising above their station. Some people for all their good intentions, for all their desire to improve themselves may not have the ability to live up to their goals. I think it would be deeply wrong to just abandon these people.

Sunny # 8

If I was being flippant I’d say the evidence is my local social housing estate, which I drive by on my way to work every morning. There’s no sign of movement, apart from the satellite dishes, as no one there works. Unless you expect me to believe that every resident is physically or psychologically incapable of work, then they aren’t working by choice as there are loads of jobs available locally. A cursory look at the web site of any employment local agency will reveal this, plus don’t the government keep telling us that we need lots of migrants to do all these unskilled jobs that the indigenous population “don’t want” to do ?
Where is your evidence that welfarism doesn’t increase dependence ? Why wouldn’t it ? It’s basically institutionalization in the community. Why give up doing nothing if doing something is a load more hassle for hardly any more money ? The real problem is that unskilled people are unwilling or unable to accept the consequences of their life choices/their situation, believing themselves to be somehow worth more than the market will pay them, they use this insult to their over inflated self esteem as justification for doing nothing at taxpayers expense. A decade of brainwashing about “not stigmatizing poverty” allows them to sit in front of the TV all day with a clear conscience.

As for the stats, as anyone who has worked for DWP will tell you, the same people come on and off benefits all the time, as they are periodically forced to take jobs, or they change to a different benefit, or their circumstances change, making the stats look as though a large number are new claimants when in fact they aren’t.
There are also a significant numbers on incapacity benefit, who may or may not be genuinely unable to work, and which has a number of advantages over job seekers allowance (not expected to look for work, no monitoring, more money and more perks). Once someone is on incapacity benefit, they are more likely to “retire” or die than ever work again.
Alternatively, for evidence you could try America where time limits on welfare claims and welfare to work programmes have reduced long term unemployment significantly in some states – and no I don’t have all day to look for the links…….

13. Luis Enrique


evidence – in the form of cross country comparisons and natural experiments – certainly exists. You can search google scholar as well as I can, so I won’t provide links to papers.

I don’t think that being on the left ought to mean denying that the generosity of unemployment benefits has a causal link to unemployment – in addition to empirical evidence, it’s pretty uncontroversial to say that any labour supply decision is going to be influenced by what the ‘option’ of being on welfare involves. This is one of those trade-offs that I think Mr Dillow would like to see the left acknowledge, and start confronting, rather than having arguments with the right about its existence (which the left would lose).

It’s better to try an accurately measure that effect, and get some sense of its scale against other determinants of (long term) unemployment and also what would be needed to erase the effect – what’s on the other side of the trade-off?

For example, perhaps cutting unemployment benefits to a sufficient extent to make a dent in long term unemployment (by motivating those slackers) might also entail unacceptable levels of hardship for the non-slacker unemployed who cannot find work through no fault of their own. (efforts to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving unemployed being what they are)

Armed with this sort of information, the liberal left can then argue that knee-jerk right wing benefits-make-people-lazy responses are informed by no idea of the scale of the effect and no sense of what costs (in terms of misery) would be involved in cutting unemployment by cutting benefits.

Personally, I like the sound of the (I think) Danish system, which is generous for the first six months or so after losing your job, but then gets increasingly miserly . But I can’t say I’ve thought about it long enough to have any idea of its drawbacks.

Yes, Luis unemployment benefit of £60 per week is very generous in comparison to the £200 per week I earned as an admin assistant in local government. It irritates me immensely to hear those who have not been anywhere near a jobcentre in their lives, harping on about generous benefits.

Matt love the empirical evidence. I to drive past council estates.

15. Luis Enrique

ZinZin if that was meant to be sarcastic (well, clearly it was, but I’m less sure it was aimed at me) then you have misread me.

When I wrote “generosity of benefits”, I meant to refer to a degree of generosity that may vary between very ungenerous (zero) and very generous. I did not mean that existing benefits are “generous”.

My point is only that whatever the level of benefits is, we are somewhere on a sliding scale trade-off – it may be that £60 a week is towards one extreme of that scale where the disincentive effect is low, so that scope for reducing unemployment by cutting benefits is low and the misery caused by doing so would be high. But you needn’t deny the existence of the trade off – if benefits were cut to £30 per week some people currently declining work would get a job, and if benefits were raised to £90 per week, some people would decide they’d rather stay on the dole.


So your ‘evidence’ is that you drive past a council estate in the morning, which take, what?, 3-5 minutes, and you don’t see anyone about, therefore nobody there works?

What time in the morning do you drive past?

Must be fairly early if you don’t anyone, not even parents/kids on their way to school?

What are the demographics on the estate?

What proportion of residents are retired?

How do you know that people living there haven’t already gone to work before you drive past?

Do you know the difference between evidence and anecdote – no, don’t bother you’ve already answered that one.

Luis, work is about more than money. It is about engaging with the world, meeting people, a social necessity. Some may just enjoy their work regardless of the pay. Human beings are not the atavistic beings that you think they are, their are other motivations for seeking work.

Luis, what I enjoyed most about my last job was the social aspects, meeting new people, conversing with them, sharing a joke that I miss more than my wage. Unemployment is (for me) boring, lonely, a mind numbing frustrating experience in comparison.

18. Luis Enrique

ZinZin – I’m not sure why you are telling me that; nothing in what I wrote denies these social aspects.

The definition of unemployed means essentially those available to work. This definition presumably allows for someone to swap between training and unemployment ad infinitum without ever impacting the long-term unemployment figures.

Do we know that this is not in fact the case? I find the 0.2m figure for long-term unemployed unconvincing (based only on instinct, I admit).

Matt Munro, I was going to pick you up on your point about driving by council estates but I see Unity and ZinZin have rightly done that.

Also, you say: plus don’t the government keep telling us that we need lots of migrants to do all these unskilled jobs that the indigenous population “don’t want” to do ?

It’s mostly businesses who say that in reports to the govt.

The biggest provider of independent care and nursing homes in the country, the Southern Cross Healthcare Group, even took the highly unusual step of producing its own news report about the crisis in care that might lead to 1,000 of its workers being forced to leave the country. Chief executive Philip Scott said: “The reality is indigenous staff don’t want to work in senior care positions so the assumption that these positions will automatically be filled by locals is not true.” Local people do not want to do such work because the pay is so poor.

You also say: Where is your evidence that welfarism doesn’t increase dependence ?

Um, you’re asking to prove something that is a double-negative, without justifying it first. You show me the evidence that the welfare state increases dependence, without the council-estate drivebys, and I’ll take that more seriously.

Do you think it is worth including the following angles in this discussion:

1. Housing benefit and/or subsidised housing – the distortion and intertia thereof.
2. Low and eroding personal tax allowances. Why on earth the personal allowance is not at something like £12k? (i.e., I find it rather perverse that someone on minimum wage pays income tax and often has to go cap-in-hand to the State to ask for some of their own money back)
3. The issue of multi-generational worklessness.
4. And springing from 3, the poverty of ambition.

I do think Welfarism is significantly responsible for nurturing poverty of ambition. I do not think it “throws people onto the scrap heap”, at all, but that it makes it tolerable for some and so short-circuits ambition borne of necessity.

re; Sunny @21,

No, Sunny, with all respect, you need to show that providing resources to a group does not prevent them from finding their own. This is not a double negative – the need is in the assertion that paying people does NOT stop them from wanting to get their own money, for if someone is not given anything they HAVE to get their own.


From the 2007 Budget report Table 4.2 (you decide how well you wish to trust the figures but …), as a little bit of googling would have shown you.

Marginal deduction rate Before Budget 1998 2007-08

Over 100 percent 5,000 0
Over 90 percent 130,000 50,000
Over 80 percent 300,000 170,000
Over 70 percent 740,000 210,000
Over 60 percent 760,000 1,680,000

I assume from this that by “Over x percent” they actually mean “over x percent but below the next higher figure”. As there is no preview button, I also apologise if the table format is crap.

The table format is, unfortunately crap …

Marginal deduction rate Before Budget 19982007-08
Over 100 percent5,0000
Over 90 percent130,00050,000
Over 80 percent300,000170,000
Over 70 percent740,000210,000
Over 60 percent760,0001,680,000

Is that better? Nope, oh well.

You say a tiny percentage on the official statistics are “long term unemployed”. I agree, but then you cannot claim jobseekers allowance for ever. It’s the rules.

What about the disability register? There are some disabled on there, but most are just lazy. The differentials in percentages of the population in receipt of this benefit in different parts of the country bear this out. The more economically deprived, the higher the disability register.

It is a convenient fiction to move the long term unemployed off the claimant count to hide the shocking truth. Some people just don’t want to work, and the benefits system facilitates this.

re my @22: erratum.

For Sunny @21, read @20.

For ‘prevent’ read ‘dissuade’
For ‘NOT stop’ read ‘NOT discourage’.

Sorry, been reading the absolutist language of others and caught a mild meme virus from it, I suppose!


Yes, you raise you useful points for discussion, particularly in terms of how they relate to the issue of marginal tax rates, etc.

With Chris around, I’m sure it won;t be too long before we get in debating basic income in full.


What about the disability register? There are some disabled on there, but most are just lazy.

I’m sure the guy I know who is most certainly registered as having a disability – he’s quadriplegic – but still still holds done a full time job as a toolsetter (he manipulates various aids with his mouth to enable him to programme the machine he operates) would be delighted to know that you think he’s lazy.

I should add to that last comment that because someone is registered as disabled it doesn’t mean that they can’t or don’t work – many do if there is work that is suitable given the constraints they face because of their disability.

The ‘disability register’ and claims for disability-related benefits are not synonymous.

Disability and ill-health are limiting factors not a complete barrier to work and the reasons why someone who is faced with such limiting factors may be unable to find work are rather more complex than simple ‘lazyness’ – there have to be both opportunities to work that are within an individual’s capabilities and employers willing to take on workers who have such limitations.

Free(ish) markets are driven by profit not by social considerations and are, therefore, under no obligation to provide employment merely because there are people who are unemployed, which means that there will inevitably be some who cannot gain employment because their no demand for their skills and/or labour or because, in the case if disability and ill-health, the constraints that places on them in terms of the kinds of employment they can take up leaves them ill-equipped to compete in the labour market.

Seriously, Jackart, if you can find a successful way to ensure that the labour market provides enough jobs of exactly the right kind to ensure that there is a job suitable for everyone, without resorting to Keynsian-style public works programmes – which can be driven by social considerations – then do say so – there’ll likely be a Nobel Prize in Economics in it for you.

Sunny #20

We have had a liberal consensus on welfare for at least 40 years. Even Thatcher didn’t attempt any serious reform. How then is anyone supposed to prove, in the unique cultural and economic enviroment that is the the UK, that welfarism increases/doesn’t increase dependence, without changing current policy ?
I think the argument misses the point, is circular (welfarism “works” so lets keep it ?) and has resulted in policy paralysis .
Welfarism hasn’t worked, it was intended as a temporary safety net, to allow people a degree of social security if they fall on hard times. It has become an institution, locking swathes of the population into what I would consider an unhealthy economic and social dependence on the state. The suspicion is that welafarism suits the left, not because it solves poverty, but because it creates a docile underclass who, as recipients of state money, are then obliged to also be receipients of state “interventions”. Why else are the left so hositle to the nuclear family if not because it is a self sufficient unit, ungratefull to, and unreliant on state agency. The left are so intolerant of independence they had to draw many “middle class” nuclear families into dependence through the tax credits system. To redistribute wealth shall we adjust tax codes (simple and cheap but no control) or introduce tax credits (expensive, cumbersome and inefficient but allows more intrusion and more control). Welfare is about the only issue on which “progressives”, despite all the social and economic chages of the last 40 years, want to see the status quo maintained – why is that ?

“Welfare is about the only issue on which “progressives”, despite all the social and economic chages of the last 40 years, want to see the status quo maintained – why is that ?”

What changes would you like to inflict on the people you drive past? Matt your just a ranter with nothing new to say or add to the debate. All you have done is smeared council tenants and ranted incoherently about the harm that progressives have done to British society. Do you take any responsibility for the changes to British society?

“How then is anyone supposed to prove, in the unique cultural and economic enviroment that is the the UK, that welfarism increases/doesn’t increase dependence, without changing current policy ?”

Research? Read the conclusion to this: http://www.esr.ie/Vol32_2callan.pdf

Says exactly what any study would say, effects too weak and too many confounding varaibles to isolate a single reliable correlate. Whch is why the only way to test any alternative system would be implement it as a national policy.

Why would I take any responsibility for social changes ? I’m not a politician, an idealogue, a member of the cognoscenti, the chattering classes, or the liberal elite. I’m just a citizen who sees some change as good some as bad, and the majority as unrelated to the self styled opinion formers whose white noise serves only to expose their immersion in privelidge and their disconnection from any semblence of the reality most people experience.

I think it perfectly logical to ask why self-styled progressives, who generally want to change everything, are strangely silent on this issue, content merely to toss the odd statistic around and dis anyone who suggests change on the basis that the status quo “works”, given that this is exactly the argument that would have been made against welfarism at its inception.

And it’s you’re as in “you’re just a ranter”.

“I’m just a citizen who sees some change as good some as bad, and the majority as unrelated to the self styled opinion formers whose white noise serves only to expose their immersion in privelidge and their disconnection from any semblence of the reality most people experience.”

What a kop out and a whiny one to boot. Still your not ranting.

What changes would you like to see made? You did not answer that. In fact you want other people to change it for you.

“disconnection from any semblence of the reality most people experience.”

Is this a joke? Matt, you smeared a socio-economic group that you have no contact with, apart from when you drive past them.

As I have posted before, the untruths, misconceptions and downright bigotry of the anti welfare state proponents on here are breathtaking: sadly such uniformed opinion and gov’t mendacity means that sadly it is looking likely that we are hurtling back to an age before the Welfare State: that ‘golden age’ when people couldn’t afford a doctor, when child mortality was high , when the poor often spent many years in awful conditions in the workhouse were buried in paupers graves and , (apparently Frank is even calling for a return of the workhouse!) It’s certainly possible that there won’t be a welfare system as we know it in the u.k within five to ten years. for example, the Tories are backing the Winconsin model of welfare, which basically means there is no welfare, plenty of ‘help’ job clubs, etc, but no money. Watching a package on it on Newsnight recently. It seemed to be a nightmarish and barbourous system using orwellian language such that leaving people to rely on charity is described as ‘giving help’.

This is certainly the next phase of the neo-liberal offensive, the marketisation of welfare and the extension of the notion of the ‘deserving poor. n the UK, the political parties are being aided by giant US multinationals who see rich pickings(see below) and UK training companies such as A4E who also want a piece pf the pie. If ‘imported’ here as looks likely, (all main parties are rushing to attack the poor) it would cause misery for millions of claimants: particularly disabled claimants whose entry to the workplace is often difficult. It is clearly based on victorian values and blaming the victim, it was revealing that someone has to feed those who won’t get benefits and while there some progressive groups feeding the poor, of course it’s the christian right with their disgusting notion of the deserving poor who were on hand to give a sermon about self help along with the some groceries.

Clearly the sanctimonious, the neo-victorians and the misanthropes will love it, cuts in welfare plus and you can feel good about it by giving some food to the needy. I wonder if Jackart, Matt, Luis?, (why are they so obsessed with welfare?) realize how difficult how difficult it is to get benefits these days and the levels paid, for example, Job Seekers Allowance(JSA) is only around 54.00 a week. The UK has a very punitive attitude to towards benefits compared to the rest of Europe spurred on as others point out by a rapacious tabloid press (btw, only .5% of IB claims are considered fraudulent) and an already brutal claiming process is to get more severe when the Welfare Refrom Act is implemented.

It’s also interesting that while the neo-liberal economy is being challenged in so many areas, in welfare it seems to be in the ascendancy. We shouldn’t forget welfare systems worldwide were fought for by generations of trade unionists and activists such as the in the U.K, the National Unemployed Workers movement in the 1930’s etc,. Now, they are being dismantled in front of our very eyes and progressives, and todays’ unions etc seem to be doing nothing. Indeed, Brendan Barber, president of the T.U.C has broadly supported the UK welfare reforms. Don’t the neo-victorians on here realize that life without benefits will lead to a dystopian future, some people of course will ‘triumph’ and make some sort of a life, but there is no doubt crime would rise and maybe over time social unrest. Though many will blame themselves and fall into despair, becoming invisible.

Btw, again I come on here to discuss, work through and read issues with progressive left/libereral people not right wing libertarians who would throw people to the dogs, already Guardian CIF has largely become unreadable, why do these people come to progressive sites?

Find out more about’welfare reform’ here:

Matt Munro: How then is anyone supposed to prove, in the unique cultural and economic enviroment that is the the UK, that welfarism increases/doesn’t increase dependence, without changing current policy ?

By demonstrating evidence for it? Honestly, your argument is a bit like saying: “Well we haven’t tried whipping people to work them harderand anecdotal evidence from those old Hollywood films about Egypt indicates it works so let’s try it. And the only reason we’re not is because of this “liberal consensus”.”

This is why I have little time for people on the right… all they do is moan without actually presenting much evidence to support their case.

35. Luis Enrique

I am depressed to find myself on your list of right wing reprobates, John R. It is evident that you haven’t read a word I’ve written – or that you only read enough to find a word that lit your touchpaper and away you go. I’ll spell it out for you: I am not arguing that unemployment is caused by the welfare state and that therefore we should cut benefits. I am arguing that there is a link, which the left needs to acknowledge because both theory and evidence speak for it, but that when this link is properly understood it is quite compatible with the view that we ought to raise welfare payments and tackle unemployment by other means.

And Sunny, I admire you focus on the evidence, but as I wrote earlier it’s not hard to find. If you want me to point to a few papers, here’s one:

Fortin and Lacroix (1997). Welfare Benefits, Minimum Wage Rate and the Duration of Welfare Spells: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Canada

Abstract (edited):
In this paper we analyze the impact of benefits on the length of welfare spells. It introduces a “natural experiment” approach of comparing the length of welfare spells before and after a major reform of the welfare program that took place in the Province of Quebec …. with the reform monthly benefits rose from $173 (1986) to $425, an increase of over 145%. …. our estimates suggest that the reform increased the expected duration on welfare from 2 to 4.5 months.

There are many other papers – the relationship is often found to be heterogeneous across categories of country. Not ever researcher finds the relationship but the weight of evidence looks clear to me. This is not my field, so I am ready to be corrected.

Note in the paper above the effect of a large increase could be seen as relatively modest – combined with Chris’ data on unemployment flows, it is easy to argue that cutting benefits from their current level would do little to cut unemployment while imposing great hardship on many who are unemployed through no fault of their own.

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