The TUC is concerned that the long-term unemployed have hardly benefitted from the recent improvement in the labour market. The total number of people out of work for at least 12 months is currently 898,000 – a figure more than twice as high as the pre-recession level (400,000) – and 16,000 higher than 12 months ago.
The TUC has particular concerns about the effects of long-term unemployment as it can permanently scar people’s careers, and lead to depression and poor health.
The call comes as a new TUC report looking at the impact of the global recession on jobs across OCED advanced economies shows that the UK has a middling track record in tackling unemployment.
The TUC Touchstone Extra report Lessons from Abroad shows that Germany and Korea are the only countries whose current unemployment rate is lower than before the recession. However, Austria, Belgium and Japan have also performed well, limiting unemployment rises to less than one percentage point.
The current UK unemployment rate is 2.7 percentage points higher than its pre-recession level, slightly above the average increase across the OECD of 2.3 percentage points. Greece, Spain and Ireland have seen the biggest unemployment rises now compared to before the recession.
Overall, OECD countries have performed better at keeping people in work than in previous recessions, says the report. A key reason for this has been the development of active labour market policies, such as short-term working, direct job creation and job subsidies.
With 2.5 million people still out of work in the UK – and more than one of three of all unemployed people out of work for at least a year – the government should be doing more to bring down long-term unemployment, says the TUC. The government’s landmark job scheme, the Work Programme, is currently helping just one in eight people into a proper job and the TUC believes that it needs a radical rethink.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It’s worrying that even as the labour market has improved slightly, long-term unemployment has continued to rise.’
‘While all job losses are painful, long-term joblessness is particularly damaging as it can permanently scar someone’s career prospects and it also has wider social and health costs.
‘Evidence from around the world shows that well-designed, properly-funded employment programmes can make a huge difference in getting people back into work.
‘Unfortunately our government’s flagship scheme the Work Programme isn’t working, with just one in eight people being helped into a proper job. A radical rethink of jobs support is needed.
‘Ministers need to spend less time demonising and impoverishing those can’t find a job and more money actually helping them to get into work.’