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UK - Labour pledges 'jobs guarantee' for long-term unemployed

04 January 2013

The opposition Labour Party says it will guarantee a job for the long-term unemployed, if it is re-elected according to the BBC. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the scheme would be paid for by restricting the tax relief on pensions for those earning over £150,000 a year.

The party has pledged £1bn to enable employers to meet the cost of hiring the 130,000 people who have been out of work for more than two-years.

Under Labour's plan, the long-term unemployed would be offered 25 hours of work a week at the national minimum wage for six months.

Those who did not accept the offer of a suitable job faced having their benefits cut.

The scheme expands Labour's existing jobs guarantee proposal which has up to now only covered 16-24 year old job-seekers.

Mr Balls said 129,400 people would currently be helped by the plan, which would be entirely paid for by limiting tax relief on pension contributions made by the 2% of UK earners with incomes of more than £150,000 a year.

While the headline rate of unemployment has fallen in each of the last seven months, Labour says the number of long-term jobless is more than it was a year ago and nearly 150% higher than at the same time in 2010.

Mr Balls' proposal would see subsidies for six-month placements in the private or voluntary sector, enabling firms and charities to take on staff on a temporary basis.

At the end of the six months, workers would have to find a permanent job or revert to claiming jobseeker's allowance.

Labour has said ministers' flagship Work Programme has proved "lamentable" and that the government would not achieve its goal of reducing welfare bills if thousands of people were out of work for prolonged periods.

Mr Balls said: "A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as a result - no ifs nor buts. Britain needs real welfare reform that is tough, fair and that works."

Government ministers say the Work Programme, in which firms and charities are paid to help find jobs for the long-term unemployed, is "on track" despite opposition criticism. Figures published in November showed only 3.53% of people on the scheme found a job for six months or more - against a coalition target of 5.5%.

But the government insists progress is being made and that nearly 10% of the initial participants have got into work and stayed there for six months, while 50% of those who have taken part have come off benefits.



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