Unemployment: Not such a rosy picture

18 Apr

Unemployment looking grim

by Amy Jackson


It is of course a positive that headlines today tell us that unemployment figures have fallen by 35,000. After a terrible month, the government is busy trumpeting this small success, and Cameron even criticised Ed Miliband in today’s PMQs for failing to congratulate the Coalition on this achievement. Yet Miliband may have been wise to withhold his compliments. A closer analysis of the unemployment figures reveal a gloomy outlook, with problems facing women, the long-term unemployed and the over 50s. Furthermore, the rise in part-time working and temporary contracts masks the unemployment problems facing the UK.

Unemployment across the country has indeed fallen, but the number of people without a job still remains at 2.65 million. Women make up 1.136 million of this figure, the highest female unemployment since 1987, and the numbers are rising. According to the Institute of Public Policy Research, the number of women out of work has risen by 100,000 over the last year, with 29% of unemployed women being unemployed for more than a year. Not good news for gender equality, nor the level of household incomes across the country.

Long-term unemployment has also continued to rise, and now stands at 883,000.  The IPPR projects that in the coming months, 107,000 more people will have been out of work for more than a year, bringing the number of long-term unemployed close to 1 million. The IPPR described this as the ‘hidden crisis of the slowest ever economic recovery’ facing the UK, and despite this quarter’s more positive developments, predicts that unemployment will continue to rise over the next year. Tony Dolphin, Chief Economist of the IPPR said, ‘The longer someone is unemployed, the less likely they are to ever return to work. Being out of work for more than a year can have a scarring effect, making it harder to get a job as well as having a negative impact on one’s health and well-being.’

While youth unemployment has marginally improved, falling by 9,000 this quarter, the figure still remains at a jaw-droppingly high 1,033,440 16-24 year olds out of work. Over a quarter of those have now been out of work for over a year, joining the ranks of the long-term unemployed. There is no sign things are going to get much better. The Youth Contract has now been set in motion, but is yet to have an impact on youth unemployment. Dolphin does not seem to have much confidence: ‘On current progress, just two-thirds of people out of work for a year will not get work in the following two years. Government policy is not keeping pace with joblessness.’

Another hard-hit age group is the over 50s, with almost half a million older workers out of work. Nearly 200,000 over-50’s have been out of work for a year or more – a 4.3% rise over the quarter. Ros Altmann, director-general at Saga, told the Telegraph: “People coming up to retirement are increasingly finding their private pensions are not as good as they had hoped – with women particularly having very little private pension. This means they have to stay at work if they want a reasonable income.”

There has also been an unwanted rise in part-time work, which rose by 80,000 while the level of full-time employment fell by 27,000. 1.4 million part-time workers are now working part-time because they are unable to find full-time jobs.

With unemployment predicted to continue to rise, today’s ‘good news’ will be painfully short-lived.

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