I was particularly struck by this picture, not because it's a presentation from one of our American cousin's; and we all know how they generally feel about Welfare of any sort, but more because it appears to have gained some sort of currency with people here in the UK, who seem to believe that vast amounts of their personal income tax is simply being handed to a burgeoning underclass of benefit scroungers and idlers. I can't imagine why that would be the case, although the Daily Mail's earth shattering "exclusive" with White Dee from Channel 4's Benefit Street might have something to do with it, because we all know that she's totally representative of those who claim their rightful benefits in the UK today, don't we?
What a pity it is that sensible people don't do a little bit of personal homework, before they start buying into the complete and utter garbage that they read in most of our right wing press, instead of just accepting what some overpaid Daily Mail journalist says is the Gospel truth, that White Dee, or Ms Kelly, is somehow representative of a prevailing benefit underclass that is going to drag our country into everlasting financial damnation. It is complete and utter tosh, written by a second hand hack, whose only intention is to sensationalise the rather sad little life of a previously anonymous nobody, who has managed her part in fulfilling Andy Warhol's assertion that everyone is entitled to, or gets, their personal fifteen minutes of fame. Today's news headlines are tomorrow's chip paper, or so the expression goes; and were fast food outlets allowed to use newsprint any more, no doubt the Daily Mail's pages would be well suited for the purpose.
Although not from an unimpeachable source, it has been estimated that around 5000 people in the UK have been claiming unemployment benefits for more than five years, a body of claimants that equates to about 2% of the total registered unemployed, so hardly a large number by any stretch of the imagination; and certainly not the sorts of numbers that anyone should be getting too stressed, or irate about.
According to the latest figures supplied by the ONS, the Office of National Statistics, the total number of unemployed people in the UK, between October and December 2013, was 2.34 million, comprising 1.3 million men and 1.04 million women. Measured in terms of their periods of unemployment, some 1.1 million claimants had been out of work for 6 months or less, 398,000 had been out of work for between 6 and 12 months, 845,000 had been out of work for more than 12 months; and a further 451,000 had been unemployed for more than 2 years, including presumably, the 4000 people previously mentioned.
At the time the figures were collated, in December 2013, it was calculated that some 306,000 Jobseeker Allowance claimants were aged 18 to 24, 684,000 were aged 25 to 49, a further 222,500 were aged 50 and over, giving a total of 1.2 million JSA claimants in the UK at that particular moment in time. Within that same timescale, the number of advertised job vacancies in the UK was reported to be 580,000 (presumably full and part-time, employed and self employed) giving a ratio of 1 job vacancy for every 4 unemployed workers (based on total numbers of registered unemployed, irrespective of benefit type), meaning that each person had at least a 25% chance of applying for, or possibly even finding a job.
As a means of helping the unemployed find their way back into paid work, the Coalition introduced their own work programs, including the sorts of Workfare programs used in the US, Australia and elsewhere with mixed results. A total of some 1.3 million jobseekers were reportedly referred to such schemes, with the result that around 1/5th or 20% of those enlisted on the various schemes ultimately found paid work, while 4/5ths, or 80% did not; and were subsequently re-enlisted onto other work programs. It is also worth pointing out that over the same period, October to December 2013, the ONS also noted that the average number of hours worked by UK employees fell from 32.2 hours per week, to 32.1 hours per week, reflecting the increase in part-time posts, as opposed to full-time ones. Average weekly pay for British workers was reported to have been estimated at £478 per week (including bonuses) and £450 per week (excluding bonuses), giving an annual salary scale of between £24,856 and £23,400, depending on whether or not the post included bonuses, but both still below the stated average national salary of £26,500. According to the ONS, where wages had risen by an average of 1%, the Consumer Price Index, the government's preferred measure of inflation had risen by 2%, suggesting that workers were generally 1% worse off, in terms of the cost of living than they had been previously.
Even though there were 2.34 million people registered as unemployed, over the same time period there were in fact some 4.41 million claiming key out-of-work benefits, a figure that represented 11.1% of the population aged 16 to 64. These additional 2.07 million claimants were reported to include those who were sick, disabled, single parents and others, who were deemed eligible for some form of work, now or in the future.
According to the group "Poverty", sickness and disability are the most overwhelming reasons why working age people claim key out of work benefits over a long period of time. According to their calculations 75% of working age people, an estimated 2 million citizens, who receive out of work benefits for more than two years, are generally classified as being either sick and/or disabled, while only 3% are officially unemployed. Almost half of all long term benefit claimants suffer from some sort of mental or behavioural disorders, which is almost twice the number from the next group, those suffering from musculo-skeletal disorders. Long term disability or sickness, as measured by those claiming out of work benefits for two years or more, is not necessarily confined to those approaching retirement. Only around 33% of those claiming such benefits are aged 55 and over, with a further 33% aged between 45 and 54; and the final 33% aged under 45.
As a final point, it is worth noting that although forbidden by law, ageism continues to be a significant factor within a UK job market, with employers often choosing to select younger and cheaper workers, over those who are more experienced and relatively more expensive. Of the recorded 845,000 people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more, a full fifth, or 21% of them are reported to be aged 50 years and over, with most experts agreeing that it is this particular group of unemployed jobseekers who will struggle most to find work.
In closing this blog post, it is worth making the point that even taking into account the minimal amounts paid weekly in Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefits, Council Tax Benefits and any other associated welfare payments that the unemployed might receive from the State, it is worth considering such things in the round. Very, very few benefit claimants actually make a living from the State as such; and when considering those few thousands skivers and shirkers that do, it is perhaps worth considering the billions of pounds that our national governments waste every single year, yet no-one tries to turn ministers into social pariahs, as is often the case with benefit claimants. I wonder if those who complain so bitterly about benefit claimants are just as fretful about the £100 million spent by this government on employing the French IT company Atos to conduct disability assessments for the DWP, as a result of which a full third of their decisions are overturned on appeal; and dozens of seriously ill people have actually died, largely as a result of the stress they've been caused by the threats to their benefits. Still think your tax money is still being well spent?
As you can see from the ONS's own figures, the very idea that the country is being held back, let alone destroyed by an unseen army of unemployed scroungers is simply not true. It is simply the product of right wing media propaganda that just happens to sell more copies of their various newspapers that's all.