Against my better judgement (actually against my better judgement most weeks) I tuned into BBC question time to be, no doubt, wound up by what the panel had to say. There was one area in particular that annoyed me and it was views on the government workfare scheme.
The question came “Do unpaid work placements for unemployed 16-24yr olds help them into the work-place or are they just a modern form of slavery?” Now, the question was badly posed. To suggest slavery invokes the wrong emotions and sentiment in regards to the matter.
However, whatever way the question was asked, the replies that came back totally missed the point and why the majority of the public are outraged by such a scheme.
Somehow, the whole panel managed to demonise the youth unemployed, (a massive 22% 16-24 year olds are out of work) as workshy, x-box playing layabouts. This scheme some how instils work ethics and gets them back into the work place. It had nothing to do with the fact that there are very view employment opportunities out there for that 22%.
Now, if Tesco had a job opportunity, it would be naturally filled by the normal recruitment process. However, by going through the scheme, this billion pound business are able to take, let say 10, individuals to work for them for free with no obligation to take them on.
Now how is that fare? Big businesses are taking advantage of a scheme to employ people and not pay them a penny. The only “wage” these people are getting are their regular job seekers allowance and any additional expenses on top. That falls fare below the minimum wage and wholly un-ethical.
The defenders of the scheme claim it to be a work experience, but, sorry, work experience is what secondary school children do. This is on the job training with a probationary period that should, and in any normal situation, would, pay a living wage.
They also claim that 50% of the people that have used the scheme have been recruited by the companies that they had been working for. However, what they fail to understand is that businesses are not creating vacancies as when they feel like. Vacancies come about when there is a business need, such as being understaffed in areas, or new/larger workloads. These roles would have been there and filled by the normal recruitment process, potentially, by someone who is being asked to go on the scheme.
You have to ask why large companies such as Boots, Tesco, etc are using Workfare. Is it because these companies can offer remedial work, such as shelf stacking, and is the type of work that has a large turnover of staff anyway. You don’t see management and professional careers being made available under WorkFare.
Finally, the idea of this being a voluntary scheme for the individuals being asked is another joke and shows how little politicians, columnists and historians have of the real world. This is as voluntary as blackmail. Job seekers are being told by their advisors that you have to take on the unpaid “work experience” or face your job seekers allowance being taken off you.
Ultimately the Government needs to take responsibility for the large unemployment figures and put their attention to job creation and generation. Gimmicky schemes that are wholly unethical and fundamentally flawed should be left in the brain storming sessions it originated from.