Listen up, y’all Feckless FIRE Folk. Kwasi here, and the problem Britain is having is that you bunch of layabouts CBA to show up for work. This Will Not Do.
While unemployment is at is at its lowest rate for nearly 50 years, the high number of vacancies that still exist and inactivity in the labour market is limiting economic growth
So wotcha gonna do about it, Kwa? Well, apparently
Anyone who works fewer than 15 hours per week on the National Living Wage will have to attend coaching sessions at job centres and prove they are trying to increase their earnings.
That’s highly interesting, Kwa. I am one of these feckless gits, so exactly whaddya gonna do about it if a mustelid remains sleeping in a curl and decides to pass on your coaching sessions?
“will require benefit claimants working up to 15 hours a week to take new steps to increase their earnings or face having their benefits reduced. “
What benefits, Kwa? When I left work I didn’t take up the 6 months Jobseeker’s Allowance I would in theory have been entitled to, because I did not want to subject myself to your despicable goons at the Jobcentre mouthing off that finding a job is a job and all sorts of mealy-mouthed metrics making a misery of life. So I walked away from £72*26= £1872, basically for the sake of retaining my mental health. I’ve still always held that against the System, particularly when I had a check of my NI record to establish how many years I needed for a State Pension. At least I saved a lot of money on NI by picking about seven years up at the absolute steal of £150-ish a year of Class II. So excuse me, Kwasi, me old mucker, if I twitch my mustelid snout, exhale a weary “whatevs, Kwa” and keep the muzzle in contact with the black tip of my tail and return to sleep.
More fundamentally, Kwasi, this is cost cutting, it’s not going for growth, which I hear is the new great hope. Oddly enough despite not being a rabid devotee of Ludwig Von Mises, I’m not totally without sympathy for the viewpoint. We have tried the austerity route for the last 12 years, and it doesn’t really look like it’s ending well. I’m not even that uptight about bankers’ salaries, bonuses, whatever. Making money out of money is one of the few things that Britain does well. Perhaps it is time to try and grow the pie, in which case, Kwa, you’re looking the wrong bloody way. Git ya snout out of the Benefits Street trap. You’re right that perhaps Britain isn’t gainfully employing many of its old gits, but stick with the bankers’ bonuses principle and don’t start firefighting the bottom end.
As an example, I am a chartered engineer. Last year I was able to earn a damn sight more that the National Living Wage at £9.50 ph, which is apparently what the National Minimum Wage is called these days if you are over 23. My working pattern was extremely part time and doesn’t even fit your stupid weekly assignment. When the customer want a job done and I was on the critical path, it was fast and furious for up to fifteen hours a day. Followed by long periods of bugger all. What the UK really doesn’t need is any more minimum wage hours. It needs people earning a better screw. It’s hardly going to create that much trickle down wealth having more over 50s cleaning toilets three-and-a-bit hours a day on NMW, is it? We told furreners to piss off and stop doing these bottom-end jobs in 2016, and it looks like we don’t fancy doing them that much either 😉 We get to put up with shitty toilets or the rate for the job goes up. That’s capitalism, innit?
More recently, Covid has probably made people think about what they value in life, and perhaps work ain’t all that? Regardless, Kwa could do with thinking more laterally here. I am now past the official normal retirement age for The Firm, though it’s still a while before I get to draw my State Pension. The Baby Boomers are retiring, which means a large lump of bodies and experience is leaving some industries like farming and construction – there is increasing desperation in the number of job ads I am getting snowed with through Linkedin and the IET, to the extent I am toying with leaving LinkedIn, though it’s a nice way to keeps tabs on ex-colleagues without the rampant evil that is Facebook.
Presumably some of these higher value jobs actually need doing, and both Kwa and employers could do well to widen the way they look, because I would say that what Britain needs is more high-value work getting done, and perhaps if these feckless over 50s are clearing off then maybe they need conventions or other gatherings where specific projects can be matched with specific people, because what these old gits probably want is more flexibility and they often don’t need a permanent job or a career track.
I can understand the problem for employers1, this sort of diffuse and messy talent pool is probably hard to qualify and manage – can they do the job? Will they do the job? It’s the problem of managing part-timers versus ft employees, but writ large. But if things are this hard for employers, maybe they need to suck it up, or leave the job undone.. And if you really believe in going for growth and trickle-down economics, Kwasi, then I’d say this is a more rewarding fire to fight in terms of adding value to the economy than harassing minimum wage workers. Because, in the shibboleth of trickle-own economics, these people earning high rates will pay more tax. I paid tax on 100% of my earnings last year due to other income being over the personal allowance. So I was contributing a damn sight more to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs than Kwa’s putative army of greybeards working 16 hours a week on NMW, which is £8k p.a, rather less than the £12k personal allowance so they will be paying diddly squat in tax.
A random walk to a Jobcentre
I was in the City of Wells recently. Lovely cathedral, many coffee shops. Nearly all of which are hiring 😉 As I wandered past the Jobcentre I thought to myself this joint ain’t been painted since New Labour times. Usual dispiriting notice from G4S on the door that beating the staff up Will Not Be Tolerated. Seriously, why do they bother? It’s not like some I, Daniel Blake desperado is going to rock up to the Jobcentre ready to beat the living shit out of someone as the frustration of having some pimply youth tell him for the 19th time that looking for a job is a full-time job etc gets his goat. He reads G4S’s notice and think “Oh, I’ll not do that, I’ll turn round and kick the cat instead”. But what it does do is make ordinary people think this is a horrible place where hope comes to die. It’s tough enough if you have lost your job without being told that this is a place that is so dispiriting punters end up wanting to lamp someone. Even if it’s the case, just don’t set the scenery that way, eh? Anyway, what have we got here? Under Way to Work and a faded rainbow, we have from top left
Teachers, boarding house cleaners and more at the local third-rate public school. You can tell a public school is for Rich But Dim rugrats when it’s all about the sports facilities and the Equestrian Centre, puhleese you poncey pretenders. However, if you’re looking for a job it’s probably OK. The problem is that bus fares are dear (or perhaps the Ermine is tight, I have taken Margaret Thatcher’s dictum about buses to heart and haven’t been on one for ages, but the last time I did use one I thought it was dear) in this region, the return trip will nuke a fair part of one of your NMW hours, and it’s a fair way to cycle from Wells to Street where the job is.
Getting people to pay for aspirational education seems something Somerset is exceptionally good at. Seriously, if you can’t afford to pay for a first-rung independent school for the precious fruit of your loins than save the 100k pounds2 in an ISA and buy a good chunk of their first house for them, it’s a better allocation of capital.
Next up is a Sales Advisor at Seasalt in Wells. I think we used to know that as ‘shop assistant’, at least it’s round the corner.
There’s a curious recursiveness about the one at Fusion Recruitment. I couldn’t work out if the recruit will be recruiting others, or it is simply a job agency which will take 50% of your money for finding you work. If there’s one thing that would improve the lot of the low-paid, it would be a stipulation that employers recruit their staff and employ them themselves, rather than have layer upon layer of agencies top-slicing what it costs to pay people. I am old enough to remember when companies directly employed their cleaners and janitors. Even if we can’t return to those halcyon days, I think intermediaries should be regulated down to one layer of salary-salami-slicing scamming scum only between the worker and the company that benefits from the end result.
Now we have a technician job working for Wells Cathedral School, another independent school. WTF is it with Somerset and public schools. At least this crew charge the going rate, rather than the pound shop specials.
Another recruitment agency, then some construction work, more shop work before we come to ‘highly skilled work’
Presumably that’s Jobcentre speak for ‘better than National Minimum Wage’ – a Wookey Hole tour guide. Below is an ad for electronics engineers at Tizo. Orthography is slapdash at the Jobcentre, I spotted errors on the company name in several of the tickets, clearly the Jobcentre can’t find the data entry staff. This is in fact for Trizo Ltd. Maybe the typos are a general intelligence test to see if you deserve the better than minimum wage pay grade – if you can parse the errors and recover an actionable signal then you get the cigar. The second high skill work was British Solar Renewables, job unspecified. I could probably pitch for either of those. Indeed, Somerset seems to have a surprising number of electronics and aerospace companies recruiting, more or less all the time. That could have been useful information for me, ten or fifteen years ago 😉
This is where Kwa is going to run into trouble dumping on the hapless low-skilled greybeards. No fricking jobs anywhere to be seen.
Concentrate your fire on the high-value jobs that the ageing baby-boomers are walking out of. I can think of engineering and nursing as two examples – engineering because I know the field and the flood of recruitment is increasing, not falling back, and nursing because demographics and changes made years ago making this a graduate-only role – I don’t know if that made sense or not but slapping a £30k up-front barrier isn’t going to help in an industry with a quarter of the workforce over 55.The age profile of engineering isn’t anywhere near as bad, so I don’t know what the problem is with that. Whatever it is, Kwa, don’t piss about at the NMW end.
Either upskill the flipping heck out of your more talented school-leavers – if you can identify those university course that go in this direction then grants and not loans like it was back when these old folk were young. Previous generations managed to afford that because they did not shy from telling kids they failed exams, and they considered university for the 10%, not the 50%. A modern economy can probably carry a higher percentage, but if it’s on a grant basis then perhaps target courses where more than 50% of the graduates end up paying higher rate tax for 10 years, I am sure the ONS could do something here, and don’t stick with university – if a trade pays HRT for 10 years then subsidise that training too. The country needs higher rate taxpayers, there’s not many of ’em but they pay 2/3 of the income tax take
The advantage of training young people is firstly, well, they are young. They have more working life ahead of them – the 50 somethings by definition have only 17 years tops of working life left in ’em. Plus the young are short of money, because they will want to buy houses and spew out kids, so they are unlikely to go part-time. Whereas your old geezers are probably more precious about their time, because they have less of it left, which is presumably why they are scarpering in droves, or reading FIRE blogs dreaming of it. I was that guy, once 😉 They are more likely to work part-time, or save like madmen into pensions, all of which impairs the tax take. But I’m all for matching remaining higher-value jobs with them, because getting higher-value jobs done is probably more useful than another couple of hours out of people on NMW.
- My sympathy for employers doesn’t run terribly deep, however, because they have themselves to blame in many cases. 30 years ago, employers used to train their staff in the intricacies of technical jobs, whereas now they tend to holler that universities should do that. They don’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, but as I got older I saw more and more contractors make some quite tyro mistakes as some fields, like analogue and RF design seemed to fade from the collective armoury. Both of these fields are art as much as science – experience and inquisitiveness matter. Similarly, a great software engineer is 100 times better than a good one, not 10 times better. Sadly while I was able to reach goodness I never reached greatness there, but I could recognise it when I saw it. ↩
- derived from the first school’s £9510 pa day fees, and assuming 11 to 18 so eight years inclusive = 76k plus 33 for the prep school which is presumably public-school-speak for what civilians know as primary school. If you want them to drive a horse, which is a big thing at that school, then that’s £7000 a year extra, Sir. Character-building no doubt. I can tell this is not a top tier school because apparently independent school fees are normally £15k pa, so 5 to 18 will set you back £200k. The other independent school on this job board is reassuringly expensive at 15k pa, and specialises is something other than sports and horseyculture, so presumably is a cut above :) ↩