This post follows on from my previous article, which critically addresses David Gauke’s irrational defence of the punitive use of social security sanctions.
Some logical gaps in government rhetoric
The government claim that more people are in employment. However, the government have ensured via systematic deregulation that the ‘supply-side’ labour market is designed to suit the wants of employers and not the needs of employees. Supply-side policies include the promotion of greater competition in labour markets, through the removal of ‘restrictive’ practices, such as the protection of employment.
For example, as part of supply-side reforms in the 1980s, trade union powers were greatly reduced by a series of measures including limiting worker’s ability to call a strike, and by enforcing secret ballots of union members prior to strike action.
More recently, the Conservatives have attacked trade unions again, encroaching on work place democracy and civil rights. People claiming social security are being coerced by the state to take any job available, regardless of conditions and pay, or face sanctions.
This also seriously undermines any kind of bargaining for better pay and working conditions. It leaves workers without protection against profit-driven monopsonist employers (large employers that tend to dominate the employment market, such as Capita, G4S, Atos, Amazon, Uber, for example) leading to lower and lower wages. The government’s claims about the merits of increased labour market ‘flexibility’ have nonetheless introduced a considerable degree of precarity, which makes workers feel insecure, and more fearful of losing their jobs. It has also led to lower wage growth and rapidly increasing inequality.
As a consequence of government decision-making, much employment is insecure and wages have been driven down to the point where they are exploitative and no longer cover even the basic livings costs of workers. Wages have stagnated, and are most likely to remain stagnated for the foreseeable future.
So we now have a politically constructed economic situation where even nurses and teachers are forced to visit food banks because they can’t afford to eat.
At a time when the government boasts more people than ever are in employment, the numbers of cases of malnutrition and poverty-related illnesses are actually rising.
The official UK unemployment rate has been well below the EU average for some years, and the as the government keeps pointing out, the employment rate is almost at a historic high, yet the welfare state is seen as a major concern, with the government claiming it presents people with ‘perverse incentives’, which prevent them from working. That very clearly isn’t true. However, the employment figures disguise the serious problem of under-employment, employment precarity and low wages.
Furthermore, a recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that more than a fifth of the UK population is now living in poverty amid the worst decline for children and pensioners in decades. Nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are now living in poverty than five years ago, during which time there have been continued increases in poverty across both age groups – prompting experts to warn that hard-fought progress towards tackling destitution is ‘in peril’.
The analysis highlights that 3 factors which had, over previous decades, led to a fall in poverty, are now cause for concern; social security support for many of those on low incomes ensured that people didn’t experience severe hardship and poverty, but it has been falling in real terms, changes to welfare policy have seen the numbers in poverty rising again, affordable social housing is no longer accessible and rents are increasing (particularly in the private sector), and lastly, rising employment is no longer reducing poverty.
Work very clearly does not pay.
The UK is regressing. We have a government that is undoing the social gains made following our progressive post-war settlement.
The economic problems, inequality and poverty that we are witnessing have not arisen because welfare creates ‘disincentives’ to work, nor is there a shortage of ‘hard workers’ or a sudden growth in the number of ‘shirkers’, or people with faulty characters, as every Conservative government since Margeret Thatcher has claimed.
There is a shortage of good, secure and adequately salaried jobs. The small rise in the national minimum wage will unfortunately be offset with increasing living costs and the welfare cuts to both in and out of work social security. It’s not, by the way, a ‘national living wage’, as the Tories keep trying to claim. It’s a very modest rise in the minimum wage, which is rather long overdue.
‘Making work pay’ is a simply a Conservative euphemism for the dismantling of the welfare state – a civilised and civilising institution that came into existence to ensure that no-one faces starvation, destitution and the ravages of absolute poverty.
Most of our welfare spending goes on pensions, first, then the bulk of the rest goes on supporting people in work who are paid exploitatively low wages.
Making work pay for employers: the ‘business friendly’ government
The underpinning welfare principles of universalism and collectivism
In the 1940s, a widely shared international consensus specifically linked social welfare to democratic citizenship, upholding universal rights, greater equality and social justice. We share with Europe a common history of social rights, democratic participation and welfare capitalism. In light of the recent global transformations of the economic order, significant changes in the distribution of wealth and power have reshaped the meaning of citizenship and redefined the relationship between the state and citizens in a post-welfare-state era. The lasting and damaging effects of austerity and inequality will inevitably negatively influence democratic inclusion and participation, as well as having a profound impact on people’s material wellbeing.
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14 thoughts on “Social security is a provision paid for by the public to support the public ‘from from the cradle to the grave’ when they fall on hard times”
The evil Tories are trying to take the country back to the 18th century. They would even resent having to spend money on Workhouses – they are evil.
Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..
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Reblogged this on sdbast.
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The real picture is that in the employment world, things have reached a tipping point, 3-4 generations of women who have chosen not to have families since the 1950’s has shrunk the people going into the jobs market since the 1980’s. That is their choice and that is up to them what they choose, but the expectation that these women may have reproduced is now coming to reality, in that there is the gap where families are now dying out without continuation.
Good news for some because workers with skills are at a premium and although Robotics is hovering up jobs, for a time, there will be a golden era when those with skills will be wanted by employers who will have to pay.
Hopefully the days of least cost option will be gone to necessity of employable humans at the market rate which will be better.
Everyone who gets benefits no matter what, Pays National Insurance only it is taken before any one sees any money, so that means every adult here legally pays NI. Tthat is why even those who can afford not to claim have to sign on, for their Stamp as it was called to be able to qualify for a proper state pension.
Please let me know if have it all wrong?
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Two years ago a dear friend of mine lost her nephew who was found drowned in a river, presumed suicide. He had a serious health condition and had found the new normal of caging and handcuffing him when he became unwell distressing to the point where he feared the police or indeed anyone with authority over him.
regarding my son, I did question the police about the policy of imprisoning people with mental health difficulties and was informed that it was standard procedure nowadays.
The reason they have not as yet attacked pensioners is strategic, the pensioner vote. The ground is being prepared with stories about the pensioner generation being better off and so on. The basic pension is not generous, though it still exceeds JSA. That, even without sanctions, is pretty unfair. We have to be careful that we don’t let the divide and conquer strategy work again. As a pensioner, I have family in situations affected by the punitive and destructive intentions of this government, as do many, probably the majority, of other pensioners. We have to resist compartmentalising society and reducing social problems to individual problems. The welfare system envisaged after WW2 was intended to respect social cohesion. The bald fact is that no credible model of modern society which might replace the one I grew up in has been roughed out. We’re somehow supposed to expect that Britain will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the welfare state. Personally I don’t rate magic.
Reblogged this on BertieS.
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The government could have written the book on how to lie with statistics. In counting people on zero hours contracts as employed the difference between employment and unemployment is completely blurred. A more relevant figure would be how many people are in full time, pensioned, secure, permanent jobs, paying a living wage.
Reblogged this on disabledsingleparent.