A Job, Any Job : The UK Benefits System and Employment Services in an Age of Austerity
Observatoire de la société britannique
This paper looks at the recent past of the benefits system and employment services in the UK and how they have operated through more than five years of austerity. The UK presents an interesting case, as the unemployment rate following the financial crisis has recovered faster than expected. The major reforms to welfare-to-work programmes and cuts to the public sector, together with continued labour market flexibility, have been identified as the source of this triumph. Yet behind this apparent
... uccess story is another picture. Many public employment service programmes in the UK were contracted out to private employment agencies following the Coalition Government's 2011 reforms. A much more restrictive and punitive benefits system and an emphasis on pushing people into work, whatever its quality or stability, has driven the rise of precarious and part-time employment. It is an important time to take stock of the effects of continued austerity and public sector job cuts, as well as the extreme shift to a deterrent model of benefit provision. Using the UK context, we might question what makes for a 'successful' story on job creation and what kind of social toll there is to advocating "a job, any job" through the benefits and employment services systems. In particular, I suggest that by paying attention to the experience of those who use the benefits and employment services systems, we might learn about the effects of austerity and welfare reform on public services in a more meaningful way.