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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2010

Future Jobs scam: attacks on young unemployed

The Future Jobs Scheme is the government's new initiative aimed at getting young people back into work. But it appears to be more about driving the young unemployed off benefits.

Vincent Leonard

Increasingly we are seeing claimants being forced to 'work for their benefits', which for those under 25, thanks to another scheme, will mean working 25 hours for your 50 a week, working out at 2 an hour.

Claims that young people will be given training, experience and skills and even the promise of a job at the end of it are normally warped pictures. The reality is effectively slave labour in such 'fun' places as call centres, care and hospitality and basic office admin.

To add insult to injury, refusal to take any of these jobs can be used as an excuse to sanction claimants, with threats to cut their benefits, their only source of income.

A qualified sound engineer, fresh out of university, has been struggling to find employment. After six months, the Jobcentre offered him six months' work experience in a call centre, claiming he would get "vital call centre experience". When he declined on the basis that he wasn't looking for a career in a call centre and had to focus on music, he was told he had no choice and would have to take it, or face sanctions.

Rather than be forced into such a future-less job, he signed off benefits. This helps explain the fall in the number of Jobseeker's Allowance claimants and the record high number classed as "economically inactive".

Few new jobs

The real twist in the tale is that the government pays employers, not just the wages of the person they take on, but also additional administration fees!

"But aren't they making sure that young people get jobs? What's wrong with that?" people may ask. Well, for one, few new jobs have been created. And what benefit is there in keeping on the same young person after six months when they can just simply take on another youth for free under the same scheme?

Some of the biggest supporters of the scheme are local councils which are guaranteeing up to 100 positions at a time. Meanwhile they are laying off workers. 100 positions at 25 hours each could mean 50 full-time 16,000+ a year jobs going. This is part of the race to the bottom, playing workers off against young people on these appalling rates to undermine working conditions.

The Flexible New Deal has seen further privatisation of the services required by job seekers. In some areas 90% of claimants have been refused Employment and Support Allowance, New Labour's incapacity benefit.

Whichever of the main parties wins the next election we will no doubt see a continuation of these attacks on claimants and the unemployed.

Trade unions should intervene, not only to ensure that anyone brought in under the scheme is unionised, but to ensure they have a guaranteed job at the end. Youth Fight for Jobs aims to link up with both trade unions and the unemployed and claimants to reject these schemes in our workplaces and fight for real genuine investment into decent, well-paid jobs in our economy.

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