Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Baby boom and bust

One insidious little piece of proposed legislation presently snaking its way through what Government likes to call ‘the process’ is a Welfare Reform Bill. A cunning plan to ‘achieve an employment rate equivalent to 80% of the working-age population’ is set out in the odiously named green paper A new deal for welfare : Empowering people to work. The consultation ‘process’ for this ended last month.

With seemingly not a single Maths GCSE between its walls, the Office of National Statistics has somehow concluded that there are actually enough people available for work in the country to achieve this lofty aim. Working age is defined as 15-65. If you take away all the students Government is paying to stay in secondary school until they are 18 to create the illusion of a well-educated population, and all the people forced out of work at 50 for mingerness not conducive to Cool Britannia, and the stay at home mums and dads that are supported by their partners’ salaries, who’s left? Lone parents and people with disabilities, that’s who.

Sure enough, they want to ‘reduce by 1 million the number of people on incapacity benefits and help 300,000 lone parents into work.’ Some clever clogs has worked out that in a timeframe not so very distant, there will not be enough people paying tax to support the people who have worked and paid tax so they can retire with a roof over their heads. This is very bad. Since they would not dream of asking their rich friends who pretend to live on their boats in Monaco to stump up any money, the only alternative is to create more taxpayers.

There is the small matter that people on incapacity benefits have been assessed as, err, medically unfit to go out to work. What cruel system would attack a person’s self-esteem in such a way? These harsh assessment criteria must be changed so that ‘people can reach their full potential.’

The ONS must have really been working up a sweat for they have discovered, ‘Although since the mid-1990s the number of people coming into incapacity benefits has fallen by a third, the total number of claimants remains broadly the same because people stay on benefits longer.’ Well, I suppose if they are selfish enough to insist on living longer, this is going to happen. Never let it be said that I am not fair minded. There do seem to be some serious shirkers about. Startlingly, it has been discovered that ‘After two years on incapacity benefits, a person is more likely to die or retire than to find a new job.’ Some people will do anything to get out of putting in an honest day’s work. For shame.

There is also to be a relaxing of the Aging and Related Fashion Offences Act, (1997) as Government also wants to ‘increase the number of older workers by 1 million.’ Older, by the way, is defined as over 50. Since everyone is now buying their clothes at Primark, fashion uniformity has been more or less achieved. The resilient popularity of retro has made it all the more difficult for HR people to weed out those whose image doesn’t fit.

The midnight oil at ONS must have almost combusted when someone came up with ‘By 2024, an estimated 50 per cent of the population will be over the age of 50, due to a combination of increased life expectancy and low birth rates.’ I would point out that everyone alive has actually been born at some stage so has absolutely done their bit for the birth rate. I think possibly even more alarming is the failure to accept that, unless you are very unlucky, turning 50 is the inevitable consequence of being 49 and 364/365ths. It is about a hundred years since the average life expectancy in Britain was below 50 anyway.

It is not known how this million over 50s are going to be discovered or what use they’ll be as ‘unemployment for people over 50 is low but inactivity is high, and many people leave work early due to ill health.’ So, if you can actually get over 50s to go to work, they’ll do nothing and then bugger off home early, pretending to have a cold.

Government may live to regret its campaign to get us all to be healthier if all we are going to do is live to be very old and create a drain on the economy. Those free-range organic chickens may soon come home to roost.

No comments: