How those low unemployment figures are calculated … and it’s not nice

The only reason Theresa May was able to say unemployment was at its lowest since the mid-1970s, as she did in Prime Minister’s Questions today (September 13) is this:

The Department for Work and Pensions has been forcing jobseekers to take work on zero-hours contracts, meaning they may be employed for only three hours a week but would still be off the benefit books.

This means the government is pushing vulnerable people into debt, with the attendant problems of stress and ill-health that come with them – storing up problems for the future, in fact.

It is small-minded and short-sighted. One can only assume that Mrs May thinks a Labour government will have to handle these problems when the public finally loses any and all patience with her party’s absolute and utter inability to run a country properly.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that it is using the controversial benefits sanctions regime to force unemployed and low-paid workers into insure and exploitative zero-hours jobs.

Zero hours contracts notoriously offer no guarantee of hours and lack many of the employment rights enjoyed by people in full-time and part-time employment.

The shocking revelation was exposed following a written parliamentary question at Westminster, to which the DWP Minister for Employment Damian Hinds MP admitted: “If there is no good reason that a Universal Credit claimant cannot take a zero-hours contract job they may be sanctioned for not doing so.”

Universal Credit is replacing a number of existing social security benefits and tax credits with one single monthly payment, and has faced strong criticism from opposition parties and charities alike.

The flagship new benefit is gradually being rolled out across the UK, despite growing concerns that deep-rooted flaws in the system may push low income families into debt and closer to eviction. …”

Yesterday, the charity Citizens Advice warned that plans to accelerate the roll-out of Universal Credit are “a disaster waiting to happen“, explaining that is likely to push low income households into a financial crisis.”