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January 08, 2008



#1 is the most important reason. Many (I'd go as far as to say most) working people resent paying taxes to support those who could work but won't. I'll elaborate more later when I'm not, er, at work.

Matt Munro

As er a working civil servant I'd have to agree with reason 1. It annoys me intensley that as I rush to work in the morning, ready for a hard days web surfing and blog posting some idle chav breeder is sitting on his/her fat arse watching trisha.

"Why don't some of the the unemployed recognise that work is in their own interest?"
Because they've been institutionalised. They are comfortable with the standard of living the govt allows them, probably suppplmented by sporadic cash in hand work, and don't want to make the effort or take the risk of getting out of their comfort zone.
Mrs Munro works for DWP and opines that one of the disincentives to the unemployed taking an "official" job is that once signed off benefits, if the job doesn't work out (and many don't) it takes weeks to get money out of the system again. Many claimants don't deem it worth the hassle.

I have to ask - why shouldn't the unemployed be harassed by the state if they are asking it for money ?


I'm actually somewhat in agreement with Matt here. £1.8bn a year forever is quite a lot of money. And if jobs are found and those without them keep them, then by definition they didn't need the benefit. So it's a win-win situation.

When you say: "Why don't some of the the unemployed recognise that work is in their own interest?", well the answer might be "because it doesn't pay". I thought you were keen on this line of thought - hence the CBI?


I'd agree with Matt in that there are a variety of reasons why people might not act in their best interests. A paternalistic welfare state might be one of those things. Incomplete information about the benefit of work. Congative impairment. Anything really.

It doesn't seem to be a reason for accepting the impact of unemployment and/or workless households on the person themselves, their children, and rather importantly (in a democracy) on the rest of the population.

Given you've brought up immigration and the welfare state in the same post this time I don't suppose you'd like to reply on the points on immigration/emigration I made in relation to the basic citizen income on the previous post?

a very public sociologist

Another reason: it plays well to the gutter press. They're much less likely to write nasty things if the leaders of both main parties are seen dancing to their tune.


Of course.
And very often is very expensive to arrest small delinquents, drunks, etc.
And to send to school stupid and lazy children.
And son on.
But you don´t mention the moral factors (sorry, I'm that old fashined). And we have the moral duty to ask everibody to row the boat (nothing to do with macho, but with sore hands)
Otherwise, if you think that there are such people that just deserves to be thinked in terms of how many pennies they cost us, you will end calling them untermench and finding that there are very cheap ways to get rid of them.

Mike Woodhouse

The perception is that benefit claimants are spongers, leeches and much much more, despite that £1.8bn being equivalent to £1.20p a week, assuming 30m employed workers, which seems fair according to the ONS (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=12).

But perception is nine-tenths of the short-term political law, so getting tough must therefore be considered a Good Thing.


I've been looking at this too and there are some definite difficulties with the plans for the unemployed.

Don S

The unemployed may well be better off working, not just in terms of mental health but also financially. The problem is that the large part of people claiming as being sick and incapable of work are signing on usually because they are depressed, or have other mental health issues. The govt is not providing any support to resolve these health problems.

I don't doubt that in order to get people to do something you often need a bit of carrot and stick, but to people with mental health issues, extra income may not be enough of a carrot. The worry is that the easy demonisation of benefit claimants in the tabloid press will encourage ever increasing draconian policies and legislation to be produced in the belief that "scroungers" won't get it easy, and actually result in genuinly sick, genuinly ill people losing support from the state.


If someone is getting dole money, which is a contribution from taxpayers, and they could be working but choose not to (I am excluding those genuinely physically or mentally unable to do so) then they are taking the proverbial. And this sticks in the craw of those who are subsidising their behaviour. The economics of it are only part of the issue.

Peter Risdon

Ref #6 - Christopher Hitchens:

"It is a deformity in some 'radicals' to imagine that, once they have found the lowest or meanest motive for an action or for a person, they have correctly identified the authentic or 'real' one. Many a purge or show trial has got merrily under way in this manner"


Yep, it's the politics of meanness - people just assume you're a lazy sponge if you're unemployed. They also assume that you don't want to work, even when you've spent months, maybe even a year or more, looking hard for work and not finding it.

Why the assumption that it's so easy for "the unemployed" to find work in the first place?

Finding a job when you don't already have a good work record is hard. Being unemployed also makes it harder to get a job. Getting low-skill work is actually harder if your previous work record is for things that require skills or an education (you're "overqualified").

And some people are really, really bad at finding and keeping a job, even if they are really good at the actual substance of the job. Office politics squeezes people out of jobs all the time without them even knowing what was going on. That can only happen to someone so many times before they just feel like, you know, "What's the use?"

And even someone who is currently in work but knows their whole section is about to be out-sourced - someone with a good work record who gets along with everyone - has trouble finding a new job when they are over 40. I've watched people like that try to find jobs for a year or so and not even be able to get more than three or four interviews in that time.

Most of the unemployed people I've known wanted to work, but they wanted a job they knew they could actually keep. Many wouldn't mind working at low pay if they thought it was a job they could focus on and not be miserable doing it. The likelihood of continuity in a job means a lot to people.

No one wants a job where they are treated like dirt, though, and if you have employers who are demanding past the point of reason - as is increasingly popular these days - you need a bigger bribe to keep you from walking out.

And here's the thing: The more they're paying you, the less likely they are to treat you like dirt, too.

And it's not like there aren't things that need doing. A society can decide to spend money on things like that - maintaining infrastructure, doing things that make the neighborhood more pleasant to live in - or they can build more prisons instead. Right now we're in the building prisons phase. I hope people begin to realize that it's just too expensive a way to do things.


Don, htere are some thoughfor whom to hve them in the workforce would be counterproductive.


Love the typos in the last comment. What an illiterate.


From statistics.gov.uk: The unemployment rate was 5.3 per cent, down 0.1 over the previous quarter and down 0.2 over the year. The number of unemployed people decreased by 15,000 over the quarter and by 59,000 over the year, to reach 1.64 million.

I don't personally know what the ratio of leeches is, but let's pander to the Daily Mail readers here and set it at 60%. That still leaves 650,000 people who are trying reasonably hard to get a job and not succeeding.

Placing all this responsibility on individuals without acknowledging any structural issues with the employment market is just taking the mickey. There are not 650,000 jobs out there unfilled and if there were, the BoE would be screaming about wage inflation and putting the brakes on the economy anyway...


Oh, I thought the typos were making a point. I've worked with "journalists" who have about that level of literacy. I'd rather they were on unemployemnt, please.

Or maybe just admit that being in the wrong job is a disability.


Economics has a slightly schizoid view of unemployment - in micro studies 'leisure' is generally seen as a good, while on the macro scale unemployment is of course seen as the great evil. Personally I'd definitely choose to sponge off the state rather than do some crappy min-wage job so I can hardly whinge about others doing so. Maybe the unemployed need to be taught to enjoy their leisure time more (if they aren't already) and not get depressed about it (suggesting that the value of a person is more than the work they do might be a start).

And then include a valuation of leisure in GDP calculations, since it is after all a valuable good that we consume. (Or stop focusing on GDP and look instead at GDP per capita, per hour worked).

I would agree that reason 6 is likely to be the most powerful, although I'd add that polilticians like to be seen to be busying themselves with things like unemployment, to try and get a reputation for economic competence, now that interest rates etc. are out of their hands.

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