Elsewhere in these columns, I have mused on the fact that Britain’s main problem lies in its TRUE unemployment statistics.
And the fact that there are primarily three reasons FOR them. In chronological order: the Baby Boom, Automation and Outsourcing.
And since there is no way to put THOSE three genies back in their bottles, Britain is screwed – right?
Well – not necessarily.
You see, there is a FOURTH reason for the chronic unemployment that blights Blighty – and causes the frequent riots. It is the SYSTEM that Britain’s industry has evolved, over the last several decades. It is DEEPLY flawed – but it COULD be FIXED. Here’s how…
The average Brit puts on his company car every morning and goes to work. And after an hour or more CRAWLING through the rush-hour traffic, he arrives at his place of employment – ALREADY KNACKERED.
He HATES his job, but will take ALL the overtime he can get, in order to pay his bills. And one of those bills is his TAX bill – a large part of which goes to support those who HAVE no job.
And if he doesn’t get promoted every few years, his long hours doing the same old same old, day in and day out, will eventually cause him to SNAP, smash everything around him and go lie in a corner in the foetal position, crying.
At which point, his company medical cover will take over and after a few weeks on downers, he will return and continue – as a broken man.
But it DOESN’T have to BE this way.
Let us take two companies: Delta Holdings and Omega Industrial – both of which make… glandle-hooks.
Now, Delta has a thousand employees, all working forty-hour weeks – while Omega has five hundred employees who, with overtime, work EIGHTY-hour weeks.
But here’s the thing: Omega’s glandle-hooks will cost LESS to make. So eventually, Delta will go BUST.
Why? Because Omega may pay more in total for its labour costs (assuming overtime pays one-and-a-half rates) but Delta is paying for a THOUSAND company cars, employee insurance packages and employee health, dental and what-have-you packages – as opposed to Omega’s FIVE HUNDRED.
And those packages are charged PER EMPLOYEE, NOT per employee-hour-worked – which is the NUB of the problem.
While company cars cost an employer almost as much as the EMPLOYEE does. And once you factor in the cost of those employee insurance and health packages…
Which is why companies that declare massive profits immediately make half their workforces REDUNDANT – they want to make even MORE profit.
So what can be DONE about this insanity? Actually, more than you might think…
State Pensions. Drop the retirement age to 60 immediately, for everyone (where it ORIGINALLY was for women) and by another year, every year – to age 50 (for now).
This would immediately free up MILLIONS of jobs for the disenchanted, disconnected, disenfranchised youth.
Company Cars. Many of these are only used to ferry employees to and from work. Like the employee health packages, they are nothing more than a ploy to force them to STAY with the employer. Quit your job and you lose your CAR – and you and your family have to revert to the tender mercies of the NHS.
It’s like the “tied cottages” of yore – “When you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”
But if HMG brought in laws requiring company cars to be SIGN-WRITTEN and only permitted them to be used for REAL company business – then employees could buy their OWN car for private motoring and use the TRAIN to get to work.
This would have MAJOR benefits. The obvious GREEN ones – with freer roads – and employees would arrive at work FRESH.
However, ANOTHER measure would have to be taken by HMG first. While no-one wants to see a return to the Fifties – where many cars belched smoke, had bald tyres, mediocre brakes and rust holes in the floors – the modern MOT test has gotten RIDICULOUS.
What started as a sensible idea to make Britain’s roads safer – has today turned cars into a financial LIABILITY. The test has become SO draconian that many cars rolling off ASSEMBLY-LINES could fail it. It’s like PC – it’s gone TOO FAR.
But HMG could rethink it, so that only REAL safety features would be covered – and second-hand cars could make a COME-BACK. Here in Thailand, I drive a Mitsubishi Galant Ultima that cost twenty thousand pounds when new. I bought it at nine years old, for four thousand. It is now twenty-three years old and STILL worth at least two thousand.
In Britain, I couldn’t GIVE it away. It would most likely have been JUNKED, YEARS ago. But with careful maintenance, my chariot still goes like a bird – and is SAFE.
Employee Insurance Packages. HMG could force insurance companies to charge companies PER EMPLOYEE-HOUR-WORKED. This would mean a company’s employee numbers would no longer be relevant, insurance-wise. Simple.
Employee Health (and dental, etc.) Packages. Levy a huge TAX on them – to be paid by the EMPLOYERS – and pay the money raised to the NHS! HAH!!
And finally: give companies tax breaks, based on the number of employees they have, versus their turnover – the more employees, the higher the breaks – and limit overtime to TEN hours per week, per employee.
If HMG did all of the above, unemployment, poverty and the British Malaise would disappear OVERNIGHT!
But naturally, they won’t. It would ruffle FAR too many INFLUENTIAL feathers. The car manufacturers, “private” healthcare companies and insurance companies – to name but three.
And ALL employers (whom HMG represents) WANT unemployment. Full employment would turn the jobs market around to favour EMPLOYEES – leaving the employers having to RAISE wages and working conditions to attract them.
No, HMG will do what it’s ALWAYS done: LIE about life-expectancy figures and try to RAISE the age of retirement – blather on about “job creation” – and order more water cannons to help quell the NEXT round of RIOTS.
The term “sweeping changes” is oft-used by politicians. But the last time such changes were ACTUALLY invoked was to create The Welfare State – a state that has been DECIMATED by HMG during the last thirty years.
Mind you, the above changes ALONE would create a bunch of NEW problems, which would ALSO need addressing. Like, if hard-pressed employees could not earn overtime money – how would they manage to continue to support their families on a single wage?
After all, if they had KIDS, their wives could not work – even though there would now be jobs FOR them.
Plus the tax increases (HMG HATES imposing those) required for the higher pension bill would CRIPPLE employees.
Well, full-time nurseries could look after the kids – and provide work for some of those wives.
And HOME work would also solve those problems. Currently, such is available – but the wages paid for it are THIRD WORLD level. This is because it is menial.
But develop SKILLED jobs that could be done in the home and labour could be SPLIT between couples. Then hubby would return from work with his will to live retained – while the combined income of him and his wife would enable them to have a LIFE.
However, no-one is even TALKING about ANY of the above suggestions. They are long-term and HMG only thinks short-term. Plugging holes in the dam, never considering building a NEW one.
Fact is, since the Sixties, Britain has driven down a social and economic CUL DE SAC. And going back is not an option. The only solution is to BULLDOZE the house at the end. I’m just glad it’s not MY house.
Mine is in THAILAND – where EVERYONE has a job.
Of course, this is only achieved by MASSIVE over-manning and a LOW cost of living. But it WORKS – which is why Thailand is known as The Land Of Smiles.
Britain could learn a LOT from this place…