David Cameron wants Britain to have the highest percentage of people in work of any developed nation. Britain’s current rate is 72% and he is classing ‘full employment’ as over-taking the leading members of the G7 in this area, Canada, Japan and Germany who’s rate stands at 74%.
Crucially, the PM didn’t give any timescales for this stating that it was ‘aspirational’ and he cannot be faulted overall for having this aspiration for our country. He also used his jobs speech to outline additional pledges for more start-up loans for entrepreneurs, investment in infrastructure and millions more apprenticeships.
Politically it is also a memorable pledge and a smart move to couple the ‘long-term economic plan’ mantra whilst trumpeting significantly increased employment figure since the coalition took over in 2010.
The Labour Party were quick to judge that this wouldn’t mean much to people who have seen their wages fall. This is a fair point to those in work but struggling in real terms. But what struck a cord in Rachel Reeves, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, rebuttal was that it would not mean much to working people after ‘five years of talents wasted and opportunities denied.’ The argument for many here is one of quality not quantity. What types of jobs? Are they outside London?
In particular, the PM stated that full employment meant ‘anyone who wanted a job is able to get a job.’ But for many people between 21-30 the notion of a job is not the same as a worthwhile career, which was in fact their full employment aspiration.
How many of us know talented graduates; relatives, children, children of friends, who are working in relatively unskilled jobs such as supermarkets having tried relentlessly to get a foot on whatever ladder they chose to study over the last five years? How many students thinking about university will decide it’s not worth the effort to study hard, get into debt and end up in a call-centre?
'Full’ employment may sound good but not if you’ve got the wrong people in the wrong jobs. Ultimately, this approach doesn’t benefit the country. There may be an increase in social or health problems and they will spend less and bring in less tax, as they are not achieving their earning potential.