Socialist Worker

Why New Labour wants cheap labour in the name of eradicating poverty

by Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2143

New Labour is continuing to trample the hopes of thousands facing unemployment by pushing ahead with its draconian welfare reform bill.

The bill, which was thought up by former investment banker David Freud, was receiving its third reading in parliament on Tuesday as Socialist Worker went to press.

The “reforms” will introduce a US-style workfare scheme into Britain – with demands that those unemployed for more than a year should be forced to do some kind of voluntary work in return for benefits.

The bill will introduce new punitive sanctions against jobseekers deemed not to be doing enough to find work, including increased powers to stop benefits altogether.

Lone parents with children as young as one will be expected to prepare for work and to be actively seeking employment by the time their child is just seven.

The government also wants to privatise the social fund that provides short-term emergency relief for those in need – as well as expanding the role of the private and voluntary sectors in schemes to get unemployed people into work.

Many of these companies are now in crisis as the numbers chasing each job vacancy rises.

The government has already had to announce a pause in allocating current contracts while companies rewrite their bids to demand more money.

Work and pensions secretary James Purnell has the cheek to argue that the reforms will lift people out of poverty.

But low wage jobs will do little or nothing for those who are currently on the dole.

A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that the majority of children in poverty in 2005‑6 had at least one parent in work.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has spoken out against the reforms, saying, “This is the wrong bill for the economic crisis we’re in.

“With thousands of people losing their jobs every week, now is not the time to introduce even tougher conditions for claimants.”

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Tue 17 Mar 2009, 18:45 GMT
Issue No. 2143
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