UK has more jobless households than any major European country

11.5% of UK adults now live in a jobless household. Reducing this number would make a huge difference - but how to do it?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Some scary figures released today by the Centre for Policy Studies, a right-leaning think tank: it reports that more than one in 10 British adults now lives in a workless household, a higher proportion than in any other major European economy. The think-tank reckons that cutting this total by a tenth could add as much as 1% to GDP, so it's urging the Government to reform welfare to make sure that work pays. All very well - but where are these jobs going to come from?

According to the CPS, the majority of jobs created between 1992 and 2007 didn’t actually do much to benefit jobless households - because most of them went to families where there was already one working adult. So although the proportion of jobless households has fallen slightly since 1998, it's still higher than Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Holland. And this overall average hides some even more alarming stats: for example, 40% of single-parent homes are currently workless.

If the Government could do something about this, it would make a huge difference, according to the CPS. Its boffins reckon that if one in ten of these workless households could get back into employment, it would boost UK GDP by around 1%. That's an awful lot, given that the economy is currently growing at a snail's pace.

But how, exactly? Well, the CPS has a number of recommendations, including imposing sanctions on claimants if they don’t turn up to training programmes (although that sort of rule can have its drawbacks), reducing low-skilled immigration, reforming the system to make sure work pays, and devolving more responsibility to local authorities who know their market better.

All of which will be music to the ears of Iain Duncan Smith and co, we imagine. But the trouble is that there may not be enough jobs to go round. Just last month, employment figures showed that growth in the jobs market had fallen to a 10-month low – and that’s before the thousands of redundancies that are likely to happen after the spending review on October 20. So at least in the short term, this problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

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