Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Chris Grayling and his mysterious employment figures

The Government is always keen for school children to improve their basic numeracy skills but don't seem so great at working out sums themselves.

Here's an interesting conundrum.

Speaking at the Tory party conference, Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Grayling said he hoped that about half of those claiming incapacity benefit can be helped back into work. That means from a total of 2.5 million currently claiming incapacity benefit, he is hoping about 1.25million people will be moved back into work.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is expecting 2 million jobs to be created in the next five years. This figure is already considered to be highly optimistic. In comparison, after the recession of 1980/81 it took seven years to create 2 million jobs. Following the 1991/1992 recession it took nine and a half years to create 2 million jobs. And  the average annual GDP growth rate after these previous recessions was 3.6% and 3.2% respectively, which is significantly higher than the current 2.5% GDP growth rate the OBR has predicted.

But for argument's sake, let's say that the OBR is right in its predictions - it still means that Mr Grayling expects those who have been claiming incapacity benefit to acquire 62.5% of these newly created jobs.

I've tried to find some figures on an employer's attitude to taking on disabled people or the long-term ill, but do let me know if you're aware of any more recent studies. In a 2004 study that looked at 1000 small business owners, 45% said they thought it would be 'quite difficult/very difficult' to employ a disabled person. I appreciate it's hard to extrapolate this research out into the wider employment market, but if this attitude was found to be genuinely indicative of the overall employer attitude across the nation, that would mean that of the potential 2 million new jobs the Government hopes will be created, the disabled or those on incapacity benefit would be considered for about 55 % of these positions - or 1.1million of the new jobs. In short, that means someone on incapacity benefit would have to be appointed for every single job available from employers who have a positive attitude towards employing the long-term ill - and there would still be 150,000 jobs too few.

To me it seems very unlikely that someone who has been off sick for a significant period of time, or is disabled with special work-place requirements or has a history of mental health issues will find themselves at the top of the pile when it comes to finding work.

So, Mr Grayling, where did you get your figure from? If I've done my sums wrong then please do correct me.

Or did you actually mean, you expect 1.25million people to be moved from Incapacity benefit onto Job Seeker's Allowance and left alone to figure out how best to get work, without any of the specialist support that the new Employment Support Allowance promises the ill or disabled?

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