Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Worst yet to come...

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Great Depression: man dressed in worn coat lyi...You’ve probably noticed that I often bang on about unemployment on this blog amongst other things. Well I suppose being unemployed has something to do with it, being part of that ever growing pool, an un-economic reserve army of modern day labour, scratching it about at the local Job Centre. Thinking about it, I feel a bit like a pigeon in Trafalgar Square, before Ken Livingstone declared war on Trafalgar Square’s world famous pigeons, by banning the traditional sale of corn on the Square in an attempt to starve the flock, how cruel was that!

Well let’s hope that this science is not applied to the unemployed, that is to say starving us to death by cutting benefits, having said that the government have been cutting benefits or making it harder for people in real need, to claim them, but more about that latter in the week.

First let’s for a moment just consider last week’s statistics regarding unemployment. It was reported that Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen slightly, according to labour market data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

During the fourth quarter of 2009 the unemployment rate was 7.8%, with 2.46m people out of work–some 3,000 less than in the previous quarter.

However, the employment rate also declined, by 0.1 percentage points to 72.4%. The number of people in employment fell by 12,000 to reach 28.91m, while the number in full-time employment declined by 37,000 to reach 21.22m. This was the smallest quarterly fall since the three months to July 2008.

There were 1.04m employees and self-employed people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job, the ONS says.

This is the highest figure since records for this series began in 1992, and is up 37,000 on the quarter.

The Department for Work and Pensions says the figures are broadly in line with Treasury projections.

Yvette Cooper, the secretary of state for work and pensions, says: “Unemployment is much lower than expected last year, reflecting the tough decisions families and businesses have taken to protect jobs, as well as the substantial extra investment in getting people back to work.

Who is Yvette Cooper kidding, tough decisions are being forced upon families, forced upon workers, who don’t have any real say when they are faced with the choices presented to them, such as a cut in the hours worked or even full time to part time, all with reductions in take home pay. Did the 1600 steel workers at Redcar choose to go on the dole last week, or did someone else make that decision for them.

A lot of workers are under pressure, apart from reduced working time, to take wage freezes or wage cuts of one sort or another.

Unlike the 1930s and at the moment there are no hunger marches or tent cities of the homeless and jobless in Europe’s biggest economic slump since the Great Depression. Welfare states built after World War Two, and labour market regulation in many West European countries thus far have cushioned workers and their families from the full force of the collapse of banks, the credit squeeze and a deep recession.

But for how much longer?

Short-time has become a system that enables firms to retain experienced staff while reducing their wage bills, demonstrating that working people are paying for the crisis of capitalism.

The impact of economic stimulus programmes and the return of at least some timid growth have not clicked in as expected, saving they say many households from poverty and averting a potential double-dip recession due to depressed demand. In fact the talk in the UK has been of a double-dip recession, and I fear the worst is yet to come!
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