The unemployment figures were announced yesterday and the headline figures were pretty disastrous for the Con Dem government:
- 2.5 million out of work (8% of the working age population)
- Highest numbers out of work for 17 years
- The number of unemployed women at the highest level since 1988
- Youth unemployment at unprecedented levels
The response of the government has been very predictable: the figures are “disappointing” and the fault of the previous Labour government. Politicians are known for being economical with the truth and this is a perfect example of that practice. If we were to believe the various pronouncements from ministers the economy is doing well and growing, especially in manufacturing. To those of us working on the ground this certainly doesn’t tie in with the situation we can see. There are few jobs on offer and those that are available tend to be part-time, temporary positions, agency work or a combination of these.
It is all very well for the Government of Millionaires to call these statistics “disappointing,” but each and every one of those out of work is an individual, someone trying to survive on Jobseekers’ Allowance, someone struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis, someone desperate to find a job when there are no vacancies for which they are qualified. Someone who is a real person with real problems, who the government regard as a mere statistic, a ‘disappointment’ and not a real live individual.
The Birmingham claimant (JSA) figures for February 2011 are also available. The top six wards for unemployment are:
- Washwood Heath 28.2%
- Aston 27.7%
- Lozells & East Handsworth 25.3%
- Nechells 25.1%
- Ladywood 23.2%
- Sparkbrook 22.9%
Unemployment in Birmingham is the second highest of all major cities in the UK, with a claimant rate of 11.6% with only Liverpool higher at 11.9%.
The lack of any real action to boost the economy stands out very clearly. Under the previous government we had Future Jobs Fund which was an effective way of providing young people with paid experience of real work. It was of course immediately cancelled by the Con Dems, who have yet to produce an alternative to tackling unemployment amongst young people.
Sadly these figures will only increase in the short term, with the government following an ideologically driven programme to cut public sector jobs by substantial amounts; on top of these there are likely to be significant numbers of those employed in the voluntary sector (most of whom are funded by local authorities or central government). The outlook for many ordinary people over the next 12 months is extremely bleak as they are forced to pay for the problems of the banking industry which created the economic crisis we are in.