DWP offers intensive support for any dog failing to find a bone after 2 years

The title above refers to this press release today from the DWP:

Work Programme leavers targeted by specialist advisers as part of a tough approach to get them into a job.

A more honest title would end with “… a tough approach to get them off Jobseeker’s Allowance”, as getting someone a job seems to come a distant second to those at the DWP.

Anyway, the press release is about what action will be taken once the private sector Work Programme provider has failed to find work for someone (or bullied them into being chucked off JSA) after 2 years (!!!). Apparently, those poor souls are going to be “targeted by a hit squad of specialist advisors”, which doesn’t sound too pleasant, but also begs the question of what the hell the Work Programme provider has being doing for the previous two years.

It all comes down to the same idiotic idea that the unemployed don’t have work because of personal deficiencies rather than a systemic lack of jobs, and if only the right attitude can be instilled into the individual, then a job will instantly appear. The problem with this is that it’s a fairy story. At the moment, there’s about half a million vacancies, but 2.5 million unemployed, another 2.5 million classed as inactive but want a job, and 1.4 million who are underemployed. If we send out 100 dogs to find 10 bones, most are going to come back without one, and no matter how much ‘intensive support’ we give give those dogs, unless we increase the number of bones, the same amount will come back without one next time (although maybe not the same dogs).

So rather than wasting £30m on this intensive support package (or the £5bn on the Work Programme for that matter), why not just create some jobs? What, more public sector non-jobs I hear you say? When there is spare capacity, a non-job is always better than no job at all, but with a bit of imagination we could think of much more productive things for people to do. This should be a statement of the bleeding obvious, but apparently it’s still quite a minority view. Politicians seem to much prefer to compete to see who can sound the toughest, rather than who can actually solve problems which doesn’t inspire hopes of a quick recovery any time soon.

“There is no secret to solving unemployment”

One of my favorite blogs is “Billy Blog” produced by Professor Bill Mitchell. He somehow manages to knock out several thousand words a day of readable economic analysis – no mean feat. This is great for nerds like me, but it does mean you need to invest a lot of time reading it to absorb it all. So for those without the time to devote to reading long economics blogs, here’s a short extract from Monday’s Billy Blog on unemployment and the demonisation of the unemployed:

“…there is no secret to solving unemployment – produce jobs. There is no financial shortage to fund the necessary jobs – a sovereign government can do that whenever they choose. There is no shortage of productive things to do. There are millions of jobs that I could define which are not currently being done and which would improve the quality of our societies or communities.

The only thing missing is the political will or political leadership necessary for the government to announce that it was serious about eliminating unemployment.

The reason is that the dominant elites, which are increasingly being dominated, in turn, by large financial interests, which themselves are inherently unproductive, have developed a narrative to convince us that it is better to have millions of people doing nothing than advancing societies commonwealth.

If a person is not advancing private profit-seeking behaviour then the work is unproductive. We have bought that narrative from the elites. We have also bought the narrative that the unemployed are in some way letting themselves down – they are lazy, unskilled, lacking in something or other.

The idea that the lack of jobs is a systemic constraint imposed on individuals who are largely powerless to respond has been lost. Now we are somehow meant to believe that the individual – the micro scale – is all dominant and can overcome a macro scale shortage of jobs.

Why, you just create your own job, that’s entrepreneurship! But what would you “sell”? Anything that has a market? But if all the spending by buyers (irrespective of the particular products they buy) doesn’t add up to the total output being produced then isn’t there going to be some sellers who cannot sell anything? That’s competition. And so the denial goes on.

But the point is that the most disadvantaged citizens among them the unemployed are rendered as almost inanimate objects with all-defining characteristics – all lazy, all without entrepreneurial zeal – all just living on welfare.

We don’t publish stories about the huge welfare spending on corporates, which dwarfs the social security payouts to the poorest citizens. That would be too challenging for the narrative.”