One of those other stories Id been meaning to comment on but a back log at work prevented me, was that of Cait Reilly (a geology graduate) who, along with James Wilson (an unemployed HGV driver), successfully challenged the UK governments welfare to work scheme, or as I prefer to call it the welfare chain gangs.
In short she successfully argued that her giving up her existing time, which meant she had to stop volunteering at a local museum to stack shelves for Poundland was not only a complete waste of her time (time which she could have devoted to trying to get a proper job) but also amounted to forced labour, or as its more popularly known slavery.
Of course Ian Duncan Smith, the Home Secretary (now titled we assume Government chief slave driver) tried to extricate from this mess by accusing Miss Reilly of being too proud to stack shelves, obviously a well thought out piece of spin that his allies in the tory tabloids could get millage out of.
However all that IDS response demonstrates is that he simply doesnt get it. The whole reason for having a minimum wage is that it represents the subsistence level needed to work at a job and support oneself. It also puts a defined value on a persons hourly wage. If we allowed employers to set wages arbitrarily, then pretty quickly wed end up with many people paid a pittance, so little that they couldnt afford anything but the basics, and Im talking bread, water and a shack in a shanty town sort of basics! While others at the other extreme would get paid ridiculously outlandish salaries for doing very little. This is exactly what happens in third world countries that lack a minimum wage.
By forcing people to work on these schemes for no wage, or if we calculate on the basis of their job seekers allowance a measly £1.80 per hour, we are effectively bypassing this principle. Naturally Poundland and other employers are likely to reduce their recruitment (not hire more staff) as its always going to be more profitable to hire someone at £1.70 an hour than £6.19. Indeed its interesting to note how shortly after Tescos pulled out of these schemes last year they then immediately announced tens of thousand new jobs (obviously this represents the jobs that would not have been created had they participated in this scheme).
If indeed the Daily Mail types in the Tories insist on people working for their benefits it would make more sense to pay them the national minimum wage and have them put in say 9 hours or so a week and leave it at that.
The bottom line is that this case merely highlights how out of touch the Tories are on the issue of unemployment. They dont seem to understand that people who are unemployed are often fairly busy people (busy trying to find another job for one thing!) or will take up other activities like volunteering, etc, to pass the time.
Then there are also people in some professions who are forever in and out of paid work, but are always working (if you know what I mean). It was once pointed out to me that those working in the theatre or film industry (so called below the line workers) frequently work for free on projects to begin with in the hope it turning into a paid job later. Obviously forcing people like these to partake in government vanity schemes is either going to drive them out of work or force up the costs of such industries up to the point where they relocate overseas.
I suspect Miss Reillys decision to volunteer in a museum may have been motivated in part by civic duty but also out of the possibility that such volunteering eventually turned into some sort of a job.
Yes there are some professional unemployed people who laze about all day drinking buckie and committing crime. However, these welfare to work schemes are unlikely to work with these types as no employer wants these sorts of people on the premises (in case they come back later and rob the place! or just do a really bad job and wreck everything) and in any event they just wont show up. But these individuals represent only a small minority and what IDS proposes is essentially a form of collective punishment on a mass of people whose only crime was to find themselves out of work due to the incompetence of the present government and their failed economic policies.