Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop has today expressed his ‘concern’ over the revelation that the Government and the Office of National Statistics (ONS) include people undertaking unpaid work experience as “employed” in its unemployment statistics.
Tom asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office in a written Parliamentary question, answered yesterday, whether the ONS define people in “unpaid workfare-style programmes” as being “employed” in its Labour Market Statistics. A Government Minister, Nick Hurd, confirmed that the Government and ONS consider those in “government-supported employment and training programmes”, alongside “employees, the self-employed and unpaid family workers”.
“Although unemployment on Teesside has increased, the Tories and Lib Dems have recently been celebrating ONS figures that show a drop in unemployment nationally. However, this revelation by the Cabinet Office shows that some of this decrease may well be down to unemployed people being forced into unpaid work, when there are in fact barely any paid jobs available. Their definition really risks artificially inflating the statistics of people who are employed, and risks the Government further losing sight of the jobs crisis that regions like the North East face.
“Whilst the Government argues their definition complies with International Labour Organisation guidelines, as far as I’m concerned, someone who is not being paid is quite simply not in employment.
“I will be asking the Cabinet Office whether the ONS further breaks down employment statistics into those who are in paid employment and those who are in the Government’s unpaid work programmes. If they do not, there is a real need for them to do so, otherwise businesses, trades unions, and the Government itself will end up forming policies on what I, and most other decent people, would consider to be highly questionable statistics.”