- The recent UK record on unemployment is substantially better than the one of most continental European countries. But the bulk of jobs lost in the early 1980s were full-time employees and the bulk of the jobs created after 1984 have been either self-employed or part-time.
- Wage inequality has increased much more than in any other developed nation except perhaps New Zealand. Joblessness by family has not followed the pattern of unemployment. The number of jobless families is not declining as the economy recovers. Job creation is simply not reaching the neediest families.
- There has been a profound shift from men to women in the labour market. Whether in terms of employment, wages or job tenure, men and women are rapidly converging. Compared to continental Europe the position of women and the young in the labour market appears more equitable, long term unemployment is less pronounced.
- The British experiment has had a number of modest successes albeit accompanied by huge social costs. Government expenditure on social welfare has grown so fast that the government has been unable to reduce taxes despite reductions in expenditure on infrastructure, housing and the like.
- Today the UK is among the least regulated of the developed economies, particularly regarding the protection it offers vulnerable groups of workers. Reforms over the last 15 years have steadily weakened all aspects of regulation and social protection. The UK thus provides an example of a prolonged experiment with deregulation.
- There is a need for genuine minimum standards, including minimum wages. The benefit system needs to take into account that those who take entry-level jobs may require additional help from the welfare state to support their families. Employment taxes, on both employers and employees, should be progressive to support the creation of new jobs rather than extending working hours of the already employed.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
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fes-library | Mai 1999