You need to keep this article handy for the next time Esther McVey falsely claims Universal Credit has put 1,000 people a day into work since mid-2010.
On October 17, she said: “We know that [Universal Credit] is working and getting people into work because our employment figures that came out yesterday show over 3.3 million more people in work since 2010.”
Shame Universal Credit only started to be inflicted on claimants in 2013 – and still has not been fully implemented across the UK.
On October 12, she said: “What we’ve done is look at the whole benefit system, how do we get people into work, 1,000 people each and every day. Those people will be on less benefit by the sheer nature that they’re now in work.”
No, those who are unfortunate enough to be on Universal Credit are on less benefit because Universal Credit pays less benefit.
In addition to that – and to what follows below – it should be noted that it only appears to be assumed that 1,000 people a day are going into work. I’ve seen no figures from employers to prove it and it seems the Tory government is assuming that this is where people are going, with no evidence.
The simple fact is that the Conservatives have legislated to make claiming benefits more trouble than it is worth, forcing people to try to find other ways of surviving.
Many fail. They are dead.
I wonder if the Conservatives have checked death statistics to make sure that their missing claimants haven’t passed away. Considering their refusal to check on the progress of sickness benefit claimants who were refused Employment and Support Allowance, I’m willing to bet that they haven’t.
So we don’t even know for sure that 1,000 people have gone into work every day since mid-2010.
Now read on…
Ms McVey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has repeatedly linked welfare policies introduced under the Conservative and coalition governments since 2010 to there being 3 million more people in work. This is a misleading link to draw.
The total number of people aged sixteen or over and in employment increased by 3.3 million between February-April 2010 (just before the coalition government took office) and June-August 2018 in the UK. But the increase in the total population aged sixteen or over was similar: 3 million. In short, having record numbers of people in work doesn’t sound as impressive when you consider there are record numbers of people.
The “employment rate” is a better way of assessing the government’s record on increasing employment. It tells us what percentage of the population is in work, rather than the total number.
The employment rate among those aged 16-64 has increased under the coalition and Conservative governments, rising from 70% in February-April 2010 to 76% in June-August 2018. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has called the rising employment rate “remarkable”, in the context of wider economic performance in the decade since the financial crash.
But despite this rise, there is a second key problem with claiming that changing employment figures are down to welfare changes: we don’t have clear evidence for it.
If Ms McVey does mean Universal Credit when she says welfare reforms, then it certainly can’t have driven all the change in employment levels since 2010, as it was only introduced in 2013, and is still not in place across the whole of the UK.
The government also argues that this will get 200,000 more people will be in work by 2024/25 (compared to ten years earlier).
However, the National Audit Office says that, because of limitations in the methodology behind the government’s calculations, “the Department will never be able to measure whether Universal Credit actually leads to 200,000 more people in work”. They have also expressed “significant doubt” about the main benefits of Universal Credit.
The bottom line is that we can’t say with any precision what is driving changes in employment and unemployment rates.
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