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Employment Trends

Volume 652: debated on Monday 7 January 2019

Let me first wish you a very happy new year, Mr Speaker.

The UK’s employment rate is at a joint record high of 75.7%, and more people are in employment than ever before. Thanks to the policies of this Conservative Government, 3.4 million more people are in work than in 2010, and wages are growing faster than inflation.

Many of my constituents have been able to find work, but much of it involves low-paid service-sector roles and few career prospects. What is my hon. Friend doing to help those who are already in work to move towards higher-paid, more rewarding occupations?

About 75% of the jobs that have been created since 2010 are full-time, permanent, high-skill occupations attracting high wages, but my hon. Friend is right to say that we need to help people with low earnings to progress. That is why, under universal credit, work coaches offer one-to-one support, and we are undertaking trials to determine what further support we can provide to help people to move into better-paid work.

Since 2010, unemployment in my constituency has fallen by two thirds. Can the Minister tell us how many employment records the Government have broken?

My hon. Friend has highlighted an important point, which, of course, the Opposition never want to talk about. Under this Conservative Government, 18 new employment records have been set since 2015, underlining the confidence that employers have in our policies. That confidence would evaporate if that lot got anywhere near government.

Getting people into work is a good thing, but there is no point in trapping them in in-work poverty. About two thirds of children in poverty are growing up in working households. What is the Minister doing to address that?

The hon. Lady has raised an important point, but I should point out that there has been no particular increase in in-work poverty. Indeed, 1 million fewer people, and 300,000 fewer children, are living in absolute poverty. Ultimately, however, this is about helping people into work, and, as we have said, we are doing an enormous amount through universal credit to ensure that that happens.

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith), will the Minister not acknowledge that there is a big challenge for many of my constituents who work in more than one job on low wages, who do not have the time or the money to progress to further training, and whose employers are not willing to invest? How will he help those people to move to better, long-term, secure jobs?

As I said in answer to an earlier question, 75% of the jobs created since 2010 are indeed in high-level occupations which attract higher wages, but of course we need to do more and that is why the Government are investing in apprenticeships for both young and more mature workers. We are also investing in a national retraining scheme and technical skills. That is what is going to create support for individuals looking for jobs in the market right now.

How do our low unemployment levels compare with those of France and other countries unfortunate enough to be trapped in the eurozone?

That is a typically forthright question from my right hon. Friend. To compare rates, in France the unemployment rate is over 9% I believe, but of course the other incredibly important progress we have made is in youth unemployment. That has been almost halved since 2010, thanks to the work we have been doing in government.

Order. We are now moving on to question 5, but I say to the hon. Lady that it is the first day back and we should celebrate her enthusiasm.