Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Jeremy Hunt tells unemployed Brits there is ‘ample opportunity’ to find jobs with 900,000 vacancies unfilled – as government targets benefits claimants and ‘sicknote’ culture

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Ministers today urged the unemployed to step up efforts insisting there is ‘ample opportunity’ for them to find jobs.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride acknowledged that ‘times have undeniably been tough over the last few years’, with the impact of Covid and the Ukraine war.

But the pair pointed out there are still nearly 900,000 vacancies unfilled in the economy, saying that people can ‘get on and get ahead’.

The intervention, in an article for the Times, comes as the government bids to crack down on benefits claims and a ‘sicknote’ culture in the UK.

Official figures yesterday underlined that employment has still not recovered after the pandemic, with a rate of 74.5 per cent in the three months to March compared to 76.2 per cent at the start of 2020.

Unemployment has nudged up to 4.3 per cent, as opposed to 4.1 per cent pre-Covid.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (pictured running today) and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride acknowledged that ‘times have undeniably been tough over the last few years’, with the impact of Covid and the Ukraine war

The pair pointed out there are still nearly 900,000 vacancies unfilled in the economy, saying that people can 'get on and get ahead'

The pair pointed out there are still nearly 900,000 vacancies unfilled in the economy, saying that people can ‘get on and get ahead’

Mr Hunt and Mr Stride said they had ‘been clear that unemployment benefits should only be there as a safety net, not a lifestyle choice’. 

‘With around 900,000 vacancies in the economy there are ample opportunities for people to get on and get ahead in the world of work,’ they wrote. 

‘While acknowledging the difficulties we have faced and continue to tackle, the economic picture is far better than many would have you believe.’ 

The ministers highlighted that wages had increased ahead of inflation for the last 10 months, making jobs more rewarding.

While they admitted unemployment looked to have ticked up, they insisted the government’s ‘economic record is strong and labour market resilient’.

Delivering an optimistic message as the general election looms, the ministers played down concerns about record levels of inactivity in the population.

‘There are nearly 4million more people in work than in 2010. Our unemployment rate is below many international peers,’ they said. 

‘And despite concerns over the number of people classed as economically inactive, our inactivity rate is lower than in 2010 and better than some other economic heavyweights. 

‘But we know the job is not done, which is why we’re ushering in the most radical welfare reforms in a generation.

Official figures yesterday underlined that employment has still not recovered after the pandemic, with a rate of 74.5 per cent in the three months to March compared to 76.2 per cent at the start of 2020

Official figures yesterday underlined that employment has still not recovered after the pandemic, with a rate of 74.5 per cent in the three months to March compared to 76.2 per cent at the start of 2020

Mr Hunt and Mr Stride (pictured) said they had 'been clear that unemployment benefits should only be there as a safety net, not a lifestyle choice'

Mr Hunt and Mr Stride (pictured) said they had ‘been clear that unemployment benefits should only be there as a safety net, not a lifestyle choice’

Our £2.5billion Back to Work Plan, joined-up work and health support through WorkWell, and reforms to incapacity benefits and fit notes, will see thousands more people supported into work. Over the long term we will keep cutting National Insurance until it’s gone.’

Mr Stride has previously blamed long-term sickness for stifling potential and described economic inactivity as ‘one of the great labour market challenges’ of our time. 

Some 2.8million are economically inactive because of long-term sickness, but ministers have raised concerns that many people struggling with normal life problems are being ruled out of the workforce on mental health grounds.

Birmingham, Manchester and north London are among 15 areas where the long-term ill are set to receive tailored support to rejoin the workforce and prevent a ‘spiral of sickness’.

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