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Employment: Job Creation

Volume 769: debated on Thursday 17 March 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many net additional jobs have been created in the United Kingdom since 2010, and what assessment they have made, if any, of how that figure compares to those of the 19 nations of the Eurozone.

Since 2010, employment in the UK has risen by more than 2.3 million people. Comparable international figures for this period are not available, but over the last year the UK has seen the second largest rise in employment in the whole of the EU, after Spain.

I thank my noble friend. Youth worklessness is still too high in this country. Will my noble friend tell us what the Government are doing to tackle it?

We have had youth obligation programmes and we seem to have turned the corner here. The figure that I have consistently given to this House over the past nearly six years has concentrated on the workless number—those unemployed or inactive in the 16 to 24 age group. In recent months that figure has been at an all-time low. It is 14.3% of the population and has come down to just a shade over 1 million. It is very interesting that even through the boom years the figure was going up. There was a structural issue. We seem now to be getting at the roots of that structural problem and are beginning to see the figure come down, as I said, to an all-time low in recent months.

Does the Minister recall, as I do, the dire consequences that were predicted by so many businesspeople, economists and politicians were we not to join the eurozone? In view of those predictions having been so spectacularly wrong, has the Minister heard any apologies from those people?

It is not often that I warmly endorse the previous Prime Minister or Chancellor in the shape of Gordon Brown, but he seems to have done one signal service to the country in keeping us out of what has clearly been a major mistake by the European Union.

My Lords, I welcome the rise in employment but I want to ask about the disability employment gap. I was pretty shocked on reading the Red Book to discover that the single biggest revenue raiser was the new decision by the Government to save £4.4 billion over five years by taking personal independence payments away from hundreds of thousands of people who need aids to get dressed or manage incontinence. That is on top of previous PIP cuts, lost Motability cars and ESA cuts. How will that help disabled people into work?

There is a huge misapprehension about the cost of PIP, which has been going up rather than down. These are not cuts: on the present trajectory the figure is moving up to £12 billion, and when we discussed it during the passage of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill there was an expectation that in the key 2019-20 year it would be £9 billion. We are reducing a rapid growth and adjusting how to get PIP because clearly we are getting much higher figures than originally expected through the use of those aids and appliance measurements.

Does my noble friend accept that, contrary to what the noble Lord opposite said, it was not Prime Minister Gordon Brown who kept us out of the single currency but Prime Minister John Major? Gordon Brown simply stuck wisely to that Conservative decision.

As the Minister said, we do not have precise international comparisons on job creation, but we are doing okay on the number of jobs. However, is not productivity also very important? On average, we have lagged behind the French by 20% over the last 20 years. Does the Minister agree that the answer is to invest more in people and lifelong learning? If he agrees, can he tell me what the Government will do about it?

An economist would reply that the way to get more productivity out of people is to put more capital in and raise the quality of people’s input. It is clearly a long-standing issue that we have lower productivity than other major countries; the comparisons are often with the US and Germany. However, there is something about the structure of our service-based economy that means the comparisons are not necessarily what they seem to be. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that one of the major challenges of this economy is to get our productivity up.

My Lords, of the 2.3 million jobs that the Minister states were created, how many were given to United Kingdom citizens?

The bulk of people in the country are British citizens—as are 90% of those in the workplace. The majority of those extra jobs have gone to British citizens but a substantial proportion have gone to outsiders.

My Lords, will the Minister reflect on the paradox that if more people are being assessed more rigorously as being eligible and fit for work, even with disabilities—he and I agree on that—there is a certain irony in using the increase in the volume cost of the personal independence payment as a reason for taking away that PIP from those who have been judged to be so disabled that they are entitled to additional support, some of which will eventually enable them to take work? Is it not therefore a completely cost-ineffective means of dealing with the challenge of increased PIP to reduce the number of people who are eligible for it?

We carried out a survey of a representative sample of about 400 people, with, I think, 95% accuracy. We found that the vast bulk of people in the categories that we are talking about did not have extra costs apart from the aids and appliances they were using. Some of those aids and appliances were, for instance, a bed. We found that extra costs were not applied to these particular measures.