There’s not much new to say about George Osborne’s announcement, for the party faithful, that people on benefits will be required to ‘work for their benefit’. That, after all, is the name of the scheme in Labour’s Welfare Reform Act, currently attached to a range of schemes including the Work Programme, Mandatory Work Activity, the New Enterprise Allowance,sector-based Work Academies and Skills Conditionality.
The announcement relates to people who are on JSA for more than two years. This number is creeping up, of course, and currently it stands at just over 210,000. From the NOMIS figures it’s possible to identify how many people have been on benefits long term. The clamaint count stood in August (slightly short) at 1,386,775 people. Of those, 970,520 had been unemployed for less that a year. 210,685 have been on JSA for two years or more. 69,050 have been on JSA for three years or more. After four years, it is 24,900. After 5 years, it is 9,400 – nearly double what it was three years ago, but still far less than most people imagine.
The difference between year 2 and year 3 is worth noting. Two thirds of people who have been unemployed for two years will not be claiming benefits a year later. That raises an obvious question – are the people who are subject to work schemes really more likely to work as a result? – and the answer, as Jonathan Portes has consistently argued, seems to be: no.