THE BIG lie of this minority Tory government is that British capitalism is thriving, its economy is in vigorous good health and that workers and young people have never had it so good.
The NHS, public education and the entire welfare system may be collapsing but the one thing the Tories shout about the loudest is that employment levels in the UK are at the highest level since records began.
A report by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published this week reveals that these bald employment figures mask a situation that is rapidly growing out of control and developing into an explosive and revolutionary crisis.
According to the ONS report there were ‘32.21 million people in work in the three months to November 2017’, which is 415,000 more than for the same period a year earlier and 102,000 more than the previous quarter.’ This increased the employment rate to 75.3%, the highest it has been since records began in 1971. But the ONS also report that wages are still being cut in real terms.
On average, total wages went up by just 2.3% well below the rate of inflation – a real-terms cut in the income of workers on an average wage in comparatively steady employment. In fact, the austerity cuts to pay imposed by the Tories since 2010 have, according to analysis by the Resolution Foundation, meant that workers are experiencing the worst pay growth since the Napoleonic Wars 210 years ago!
This is not supposed to happen according to classical bourgeois economic theory, which holds that low unemployment must lead to increases in wages as companies compete for scarce labour resources. Now, as one economist Ben Brettell told the press: ‘It looks like low wages now explain low unemployment, rather than low unemployment acting as a catalyst for better pay.’
In fact it’s not a mystery at all – these record high employment figures mask the real collapse of British capitalism. All these ‘new’ jobs are low-skilled, low-paid jobs predominantly in the service sector and the statistics simply ignore the sky-high number of the ‘hidden jobless’. In respect of the hidden jobless, a report from Hallam University challenged the whole idea of full employment.
They reported that in 2017 the real level of unemployment across the UK was 2.3 million not the 800,000 officially claiming jobseeker’s allowance used in official government figures.
On top of the hidden jobless are the millions forced into low-paid, zero-hours contracts or ‘self-employed’ work. Research carried out by the New Economic Foundation showed that ‘two in every five people employed in the UK are in “bad jobs” – work that doesn’t provide a secure living wage.’
With the destruction of full-time, well-paid secure jobs, as British industry has been smashed up, has come the gig economy with millions of workers and young people forced under the impact of benefit cuts into the crippling insecurity of such ‘jobs’.
As this report says: ‘Low-paid employees often live with crippling uncertainty about how much money they will earn each week.’ Plummeting wages, a constant increase in the price of food, clothing and housing are driving families to rely on debt just to survive.
A survey by the RSA of more than 2,000 workers published yesterday found that at least 70% of the UK’s working population is ‘chronically broke’. With millions of workers forced to rely on the charity of food banks, having to make decisions about whether to feed the kids or pay the rent and with illegal money lenders now reported to be targeting mums at school gates, it is clear that capitalism can no longer hold any future for the working class except poverty and debt.
The only answer to this is to demand that the TUC leaders, who have collaborated with the employers in imposing pay cuts on their members, be replaced by a leadership that will organise a general strike to kick out the Tories and advance to a workers government that will expropriate the bankers and bosses and bring in a planned socialist economy that will provide decent wages and secure jobs for all.