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Tony Makara: The problem of unemployment

For the last 35 years our nation has been plagued with mass unemployment. A problem which has been allowed to fester by each government of the day. A mind-set has developed in which unemployment has been accepted as inevitable. Such a defeatist attitude is, in my opinion, not acceptable.

Unemployment is a drain on the exchequer and has knock-on effects in terms of social breakdown. Those alienated from the mainstream economy can often be sucked into a sub-culture of criminality or can diminish psychologically as their self-esteem wanes after years of unemployment. Work isn't just about making money, it is also a lifestyle. Work brings structured responsibilty to an individual and a sense of being a part of society.

The question we need to ask is how can we put our nation back to work? Labour has clearly failed with its wasteful New Deal. The New Deal, as the name implies, was launched as an FDR-style employment regeneration programme. A programme that was supposed to bring vocational training to the unemployed. However before long the promised training disappeared and the unemployed were shunted into a 13-26 week work experience programme paying an extra 15 pounds a week on top of benefit. In other words a patronizing 50 pence an hour, lower than rates of pay for child labour in the developing world. The work experience more often than not involved working in a charity shop. In effect no training and no real work experience. The New Deal quickly became a New Labour gravy train by which the only people to find jobs as part of the new deal were the New Deal providers.

Labour's New Deal has particularly failed the young of our nation with a 20% rise in the number of 16 to 24 year olds out of work since Labour came to office. This is especially worrying when we consider the social consequences of economic alienation. The young are the group most likely to develop an anti-social attitude if excluded from the structured responsibility of work. The New Deal has been an expensive failure. 3.4 billion pounds of taxpayers money has produced nothing by way of jobs or training for the unemployed. The New Deal should be scrapped immediately by the future Conservative government.

In place of the New Deal I would like to see the reintroduction of the 1980s 'Community Programme' The Community Programme guaranteed 12 months work for the long-term unemployed on social projects. A new Commuity Programme would be a great boon to the environment as it would provide the manpower to renovate derelict areas of broken Britain. The unemployed could be hired to clean up eyesores and other tasks as part of a programme of social regeneration. When we consider that the state already pays benefit, plus rent and council tax for those out of work, would it cost that much more to employ the jobless and have the manpower at our disposal to clean up our country? Of course such work would only be transient for each individual involved, nontheless it would serve as a much needed opportunity to work and give the structured resonsibility that many of the unemployed crave.

The major deciding factor in mass unemployment over the last 35 years has been the decline of the manufacturing industry. For a nation the size of Britain the service-sector alone cannot employ people in sufficient numbers. Only manufacturing can do this. We need to look at ways to regenerate Britain's manufacturing industry if we are to create the millions of jobs needed to end the nightmare of mass unemployment. I'm not talking about bringing back the failed union infested hard industries of the 1970s but rather creating a new generation of privately owned manufacturers who can generate high-volumes of exports to global markets. It is indeed bizarre that for a nation of our size, at a time when the worlds markets are ripe for exploitation, we do not have the manufacturing industry in place to corner and dominate those markets.

One thing is certain. If we continue to do nothing about mass unemployment the problems it creates and the benefit dependent sub-culture it produces will continue to fester and grow.


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