At first glance, the idea behind Workfare sounds fantastic, it is supposed to be a way to give the unemployed means to get experience in struggling private companies paid for by the government in the form of benefits. If this work is in areas such as accounting, mechanics, engineering, sports, design, technology or any other skilled activity, then great. If the scheme is used to impose compulsory unpaid unskilled labour, namely box-packing and shelf-stacking where no “experience” is necessary, this is clearly an abuse of process. If this is the case, (and this is the case) then it is difficult to see how this plan won’t actively depress the job market.
Even if shelf stacking and box packing were a useful skill, robots already do it exponentially more efficiently and every corporation driven by the profit motive (that’s every corporation, doofus) will swap humans for robots as soon as robots become cheaper. That’s not a bad thing. That’s the future, we can either get a grip, fund education, technology and science or pay people peanuts to learn to stack shelves, just like the soulless robots that will gladly make them obsolete. All in the dismal hope that we will retain our grim label as a nation of shop keepers.
The cruel irony is that this generation is the first generation with all the tools to educate themselves, in their own homes, with their own computers. Instead, Workfare jobs allow employers to replace minimum wage workers with workers forced to work for less than half the minimum wage, all paid for by the government. It’s potentially a licence for private companies to sack people and print money, at the taxpayer’s expense.
The companies involved are not struggling startups but corporate machines with combined profits of £10.8 billion. That’s no where near enough money to pay for labour when there are multi-million pound bonuses to be had!
Boots, Tesco and Poundland, Sainsbury’s, Oxfam, Marie Curie and Matalan have all this week pulled out of the deal amid a media shitstorm of bad publicity.
- A person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation: by the time I was ten, I had become her slave, doing all the housework
- A person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something: the poorest people of the world are slaves to the banks.
Oxford English Dictionary
I’m glad it’s not just me that finds it slightly sick that the privileged are paid to gamble with the poor’s money. That when they lose, they are bailed out using the poor’s money and pay themselves bonuses for the privilege, using the poor’s money. All the time earning secondary salaries though interest on their burgeoning bank accounts, using the money the poor spend perpetually paying off the interest on their debt repayments. Now the privileged classes are to be encouraged to compel the poor to work for nothing through state sanctioned threats, because clearly, the plebs being too damned stupid to operate a till is the problem here. If the Government seriously think, that what this recession needs is checkout assistants paid for by the government while education is slashed then we’re all screwed.Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, RSS, or join the mailing list.
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