Friday 1 March 2013

Workfare: Juking the unemployment stats

Here's something that not a lot of people know:

Even though people on work-for-your-benefits ("workfare") schemes are still receiving their unemployment benefits at the taxpayers' expense, they are not counted in the official unemployment statistics. 

This fact has been confirmed by the Director General of the Office For National Statistics (the organisation that compile the official labour statistics), who stated in a written answer to a question by Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop that:

"Those participants whose activity comprises any form of work, work experience or work-related training are classified as in employment. This is regardless of whether the individual is paid or not."

This means that every time you hear some member of the Tory led coalition government bragging about the latest miniscule fall in the general rate of unemployment, you can be absolutely sure that these figures have been distorted downwards by the fact that ever more unemployed people are being herded onto these work-for-your-benefits schemes.

It is pretty much impossible to give a precise estimate of how much the unemployment figures are being "duked" because the DWP are notoriously secretive about their various workfare schemes.

Here's what we know about the four schemes that generally fall under the general term "workfare".
Mandatory Work Activity: The DWP admit that they have been coercing 70,000 people a years onto MWA placements.
Sector Based Work Experience: The DWP aim to put at least 250,000 people through this scheme between 2013 and 2015.
Community Action Programme: This is probably the most absurd of the schemes, on which people can be placed for up to six months, if they quit for whatever reason (they're being exploited or bullied, they're too ill to continue...) they can be thrust into absolute destitution by having their unemployment benefits revoked. It is not clear how many people have been put through this scheme so far, however there have certainly been thousands, if not tens of thousands.
Work Programme: The government won't release the data on how many of the 850,000 people on the Work Programme have been excluded from the official unemployment statistics by virtue of having been coerced onto mandatory work-for-your-benefits schemes.
 Even if we accept an absurdly conservative estimate of 150,000 people a year being put through these work-for-your-benefits schemes, this would have a noticable influence on the headline rate of unemployment, and an especially significant influence on data like the youth unemployment and long-term unemployment statistics.

Whatever the case, this statistical trick allows the government to pretend that the unemployment figures are not as bad as they actually are by excluding tens of thousands of benefits claimants simply because they have been forced, coerced or tricked onto these workfare schemes.

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More articles from
Gaming the Work Programme
The Workfare ship is sinking
 Lord Freud: Risks, corpses and slums
The Back to Work Jobs Guarantee
   A letter to fans of Workfare
A coalition of LTBs
The Atos "disability denial factory"

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