Welfare-to-work is no use to long-term jobless

June 6, 1997

Glasgow University has published research by a non-academic which it hopes will inspire new academic work on long-term unemployment.

The department of urban studies has published a report by David Webster, chief housing officer with Glasgow City Council, which undermines the widely held view that long-term unemployment makes people less employable, and questions the Government's proposed "welfare-to-work" policies.

Ivan Turok, professor of urban economic development, said: "It is quite chastening that a practitioner should discover something which academics really should have come up with themselves."

Professor Turok said that Mr Webster, who has close links with the urban studies department, and supervises a PhD student there, had taken a "common sense" approach rather than becoming obsessed with econometrics and research techniques.

"People will now try to test and refine his proposals by applying more sophisticated statistical techniques," said Professor Turok, who starting an 18-month study based on Mr Webster's findings.

Mr Webster has produced a comprehensive statistical study of the relationship between long-term and total unemployment in Britain since the war. It shows that the link has not changed over time, and does not vary materially across the wide range of areas studied, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hampshire, and Tyne and Wear.

Long-term unemployment has not been "ratcheted up" since the 1970s, but has risen and fallen in line with total unemployment. Government policies to reduce long-term unemployment have had no discernible effect.

Mr Webster argues that the best way to cut long-term unemployment and related welfare payments is to reduce total unemployment in the worst hit areas. This means promoting blue-collar jobs in areas such as Glasgow.

"Welfare-to-work" policies which rely on payments to employers, special work experience schemes, and training or sanctions against the unemployed to overcome their supposed "unemployability" are generally unnecessary, says Mr Webster.

The L-U Curve: on the non-existence of a long-term unemployment trap and its implications for policies on employment and area regeneration, by David Webster, Pounds 3.50 inc p&p from the department of urban studies, Glasgow University, tel 0141 339 8855, fax 0141 330 4983.

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