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Nef (the new economics foundation) “Strivers versus skivers” Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy, nef Julia Slay, Senior Researcher, Social Policy, nef.

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Presentation on theme: "Nef (the new economics foundation) “Strivers versus skivers” Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy, nef Julia Slay, Senior Researcher, Social Policy, nef."— Presentation transcript:

1 nef (the new economics foundation) “Strivers versus skivers” Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy, nef Julia Slay, Senior Researcher, Social Policy, nef

2 nef (the new economics foundation) The myth “There are two distinct groups of people, one good and one bad. Individuals choose to be in one group or the other. ‘Strivers’ work hard and put money into the economy. ‘Skivers’ are just layabouts who take money out. Claiming benefits traps people in dependency, which is a social evil, passed from one generation to the next. People not in paid work contribute nothing of value to society.”

3 nef (the new economics foundation) In the wild... ‘Where’s the fairness for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits… We speak for all those who want to work hard and get on....They strive for a better life. We strive to help them.’ George Osborne, October 2012

4 nef (the new economics foundation) In the wild... ‘ Welfare is there to help people who work hard, it shouldn’t be there as a sort of lifestyle choice.’ David Cameron, April 2013

5 nef (the new economics foundation) In the wild... ‘It’s not Britain’s shirkers who are having to pay the cost of failure, it’s Britain’s strivers. The Tories are screwing Britain’s strivers.’ Liam Byrne, November 2012

6 nef (the new economics foundation) The reality There are not two distinct groups of people People hardly ever ‘choose’ to be in or out of work People in paid work are major recipients of state benefits Claiming benefits does not trap people in long-term dependency Dependency is not passed on from one generation to the next Many who are not in paid work contribute substantial value to society

7 nef (the new economics foundation) There are not two distinct groups of people People slip between employment and unemployment, often within the space of a few months, as the economy relies increasingly on short- term, low pay, insecure job contracts This happens even more in areas where the economy is particularly weak Research in Teesside, one of the UK’s struggling economic regions, shows that ‘shuttling between benefits and jobs’ is the main feature of most people’s working lives

8 nef (the new economics foundation) People hardly ever ‘choose’ to be in or out of work The majority of those not in paid employment are unable to work because they are disabled or have caring responsibilities, or because there are no jobs available. Or a combination of two of those At least four people on Job Seeker’s Allowance are chasing every unfilled Job Centre vacancy in the country. In some areas there are more than 20 job seekers per vacancy Even in the best of times, it is harder for disabled people and carers to find suitable employment

9 nef (the new economics foundation) People in paid work are major recipients of state benefits A far greater proportion of social expenditure is spent on people in paid work, through working tax credits, than is spent on the fit and able-bodied unemployed Last year expenditure on Income Support and Working Tax Credits amounted to £13.8bn, more than double the £4.9bn paid out to JSA claimants

10 nef (the new economics foundation) People in paid work are major recipients of state benefits Source:

11 nef (the new economics foundation) People in paid work are major recipients of state benefits For the first time ever, in-work poverty has overtaken workless poverty, with 6.1 million people in working households living in poverty Instead of tackling the problem of low income, the government subsidises employers offering low paid jobs with working tax credits Taxpayers are picking up the bill by topping up wages so that paid workers can feed and house themselves and their families

12 nef (the new economics foundation) Claiming benefits does not trap people in long term dependency Source: DWP/Ministry of Justice

13 nef (the new economics foundation) Claiming benefits does not trap people in long term dependency The vast majority of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance do not claim over the long-term. Less than half claim for more than 13 weeks. Only 10% of all claimants claim for more than a year Data from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that more than 80% of those claiming benefits for five years or more are claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Only 1% are claiming unemployment benefit

14 nef (the new economics foundation) Dependency is not passed from one generation to the next Analysis from the Office of National Statistics found that of families with two generations living in the same household, the proportion where both generations had never worked made up less than 1% The rare cases of ‘intergenerational worklessness’ were more likely to be explained by a lack of jobs than by any preference for claiming benefits instead of working

15 nef (the new economics foundation) Many who are not in paid work contribute substantial value to society Lots of people who are not in paid employment nonetheless do valuable - unpaid - work, caring for others, bringing up children and looking after their families, homes and neighbourhoods Even if time spent on child care and housework were paid no more than the minimum wage, it would still be worth the equivalent of 20% of GDP Many people are not in paid work because they have prior responsibilities that involve unpaid labour

16 nef (the new economics foundation) In summary The division between strivers and skivers is false Increasingly, people are forced to shuttle between spells of unemployment and short-term, low-paid insecure jobs All but a tiny minority of jobless people are out of work because they are disabled, have caring responsibilities or simply cannot find a job Much more of the social security budget is used to subsidise low wages than to support jobseekers. Receipt of benefits is not a major cause of long-term or intergenerational dependency Some people’s work is unpaid, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable

17 nef (the new economics foundation) And finally… there is nothing disreputable about being dependent! We are all dependent on others at some point in our lives – when we are young, sick and old, as well as when we find ourselves without enough to live on This is a positive, defining characteristic of a flourishing society: that we all depend on and care for one another in different ways, as our needs and resources change over time We need a benefits system that respects and supports this – not one that fosters division, competition and looking after ‘number one’


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