My friend Hayley posted a link to this article by Patrick Armshaw. He makes the excellent point that Workfare is bringing the substitution effect into play- paid workers are being substituted for JSA claimants. Why would companies pay employees when the unemployed can work for free while the tax payer funds their benefits?

By joxin

This effect is likely to be hidden however, as rather than stopping hiring, companies are likely just to offer fewer hours to their current staff. While critics of TESCO etc. might be labeled job snobs the main problem with this type of work isn’t the status it’s the insecurity. Zero-hours contracts, where the employer has the power to offer however many hours they wish each week, are not going to allow people to provide for their families, but do make it easy for them to cut back on paid staff when free labour is available. The evidence is that underemployment is increasing rapidly- people want more hours but employers are not offering them. Instead of supporting people in this situation the government has responded by cutting their tax credits.

According to the Guardian -DC Property Maintenance takes job seekers on unpaid for four weeks and sometimes they extend it if they “really want to employ them but it is not the right time.” WTF does that mean?? Could they not just keep their details on file and give them a ring when there’s a vacancy? Instead they just string the job seekers along with the hope of a job at “the right time”- when the moon aligns with Venus I assume. Not that they should be taking on jobseekers without any job prospects in the first place.

The point of this “work experience” is debatable. I hate the patronising suggestion that the large majority of JSA recipients really need to learn what it’s like to work 40 hours a week and how to get up on a morning. Employed people, if you lost your job tomorrow how long would it take you to forget what it’s like to work full time? 3 months? 6 months? I thought not.

I think the main reason this kind of policy gains popular support is that many tax payers don’t like the idea (painted by certain politicians and sectors of the press) that claimants are enjoying their hard earned money without having to work for it. So my suggestion is, that if people have to work for their benefits, they should get the minimum wage. At £ 6.08 per hour anyone over 25 would be able to work up to 11 hours on £67.50 per week JSA. A 21 year old getting £53.45 would only be able to work just under 9 hours but 18-20 year olds on the lower minimum wage of £4.98 would be back up to nearly 11 hours. (Age discrimination anyone?)

This would hopefully limit the substitution effect and reinforce the link between work and pay. Of course what we really need is more jobs…


The news about A4e will come as no surprise to careers professionals. Paying companies lots of money as an incentive to get people into work is not going to solve unemployment. Some business people will get rich. Short term wins will be prioritised over long term change and figures will be massaged as much as possible. And if they still miss their targets then perhaps we ought to realise that a better solution would be:

1. Jobs! (secure jobs with flexibility and decent pay)

2. Careers advisers who do good work because they are qualified professionals who actually care not because of targets and incentives.

3. Support for people to retrain and gain long term careers rather forcing them into temporary jobs and zero hours contracts.

This article in the Guardian somewhat concerned me.  Apparently some work programme asked a charity to provide a whole team of volunteers to help unemployed people with CVs.

My worry is that volunteers and volunteering are becoming commodified. Companies should’t be trying to make money out of volunteers and they shouldn’t be used to replace paid workers.

A lot of people volunteer in order to put something back into society. They help others and all they get is a nice warm glow! Then some volunteering is used partly to gain experience to help with getting into a particular career or progressing up the ladder.

Edinburgh Graduands

The growing trend however is that volunteering has become a necessary step to get any job. Unpaid internships are the thing for graduates. At best they are a way  for companies to get away without paying trainees with a paid job at the end and at worst there isn’t even a hope of a paid position.

Unemployed people face working for their benefits. Apparently 30 hours will “be enough to familiarise the unemployed with the world of work.” Now, to me, one of the key things about the “world of work” is getting paid! Bringing home an actual wage is part of what gives people pride in their work. If these people are working- pay them minimum wage.

With 2.57 million unemployed and only 462,000 vacancies there just isn’t a job for everyone. Those long term unemployed people will often find themselves bottom of the heap and being able to say they’ve been forced to work for free for a few weeks isn’t really going to improve their prospects.

Imagine you’re a teacher in some weird version of the 11 plus system. There are 5 places in the grammar school for your class of 25. Some of the kids in your class are a bit lazy so the headteacher says you have to make them all work harder- they should all be going to the grammar school! So you give them all the cane and  test results improve across the board. However there are still only 5 places in the grammar school!

There are not enough jobs and eventually people are going to get sick of volunteering without any hope of paid work.