David Cameron's job search reforms 'are unrealistic’

by Telegraph Jobs editor, Louisa Peacock

The Government’s welfare reform crackdown fails to take into account the cold reality that there “aren’t enough jobs” in the UK labour market to get people off benefits and back to work, according to a leading economic think tank.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said David Cameron’s proposals to make job seekers search longer and wider for vacancies before getting state help were “unrealistic” and at odds with the “limited” number of jobs available.

Heather Rolfe, research fellow at NIESR, said the Government’s proposals risked tarnishing all job seekers with the same “work-shy” brush, adding that the majority of unemployed people were doing all they could to get a job but there simply weren’t enough roles out there in the current climate.

“Actually, the jobs aren’t there. There is a limited number of jobs to apply for,” she said.

The warning came after the Prime Minister yesterday reiterated his plans to stamp out the “something for nothing” culture and make the jobless do more to deserve state benefits during his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

Among the proposals are plans to make job seekers spend “several hours” a day looking for a job. Recent academic research suggested the unemployed spent just eight minutes a day looking for work – five times less than the United States and three times less than in France.The 1.58m people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance benefits will also have to search for work within a 90-minute commuting distance from their home. Currently this requirement only kicks in after 13 weeks without a job.

Under the plans, Jobcentre staff will also be able to monitor employees’ job search efforts through a new website, set to be in place by next April. Jobseekers’ applications and the time spent searching for vacancies through the new website will be recorded centrally to keep track of progress.

But Ms Rolfe warned out-of-work people had a range of methods for carrying out their job search which included door-to-door searches, networking and visiting recruiters and employers – which could not be tracked through the internet.

She said: “A lot of unemployed people spend way more than eight minutes a day looking for a job. [The internet] is the way middle class professionals look for jobs, but not the long-term unemployed. They use a range of approaches.”

She added: “What David Cameron is not taking into account is the cost for some people [of commuting]. When you are on the national minimum wage, you can be spending part of your salary getting there and back. It’s unrealistic.”

A recent pilot programme which forced claimants to attend training or face benefit sanctions, overseen by NIESR, showed some unemployed people felt they were not getting the support they needed – being sent on repeated courses in job search and CV writing. Others felt their own job strategies were not taken into account.

Ms Rolfe said Jobcentre staff were under huge pressure to get through several interviews with jobseekers every day. She said the Government should help Jobcentres to target support from day one.

Matt Oakley, head of enterprise at the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange, agreed more tailored support was needed, but said the Government’s benefits crackdown was a “step in the right direction”.

Mr Oakley pointed to official figures showing there are almost 500,000 vacancies in theUK. “There are jobs out there, it’s just matching jobs to [unemployed] people. Every employer I meet says 'we want to recruit people but we can’t find people to take our jobs’. There may not be a huge amount of jobs available in some areas, but that doesn’t mean [jobseekers] can’t put the effort in.”

Separately, Mr Cameron pleaded with businesses yesterday to create more apprenticeships, warning not enough were offering the on-the-job training scheme. Young people not in employment, education or training costs the UK economy £11bn a year and are more likely to become long-term unemployed if they do not find work early on, according to lobby group Business in the Community

This article was originally featured on telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs

Monday, 10 October 2011

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David Cameron's job search reforms 'are unrealistic’