Osborne sets full employment as new ambition for economy

Published on Monday, 31 March 2014 12:58
Written by Daniel Mason

George Osborne has pledged to build an economy of "full employment" and turn Britain into the "best place in the world to hold a job".

He defined the ambition as ensuring the UK achieved a higher employment rate than other G7 countries.

In a speech in Essex marking changes to the tax and welfare system, the chancellor said stability and confidence were returning to the economy and the UK was "starting to walk tall in the world again".

And he warned that opponents of his economic plan who promised to borrow and spend more or put up taxes would take the country "back to economic chaos" and "back to no new jobs".

He insisted that mass unemployment was "never a price worth paying" but that "artificial jobs paid for on borrowed money" would not work either.

Labour, in a statement released ahead of Osborne's speech, claimed working people were still facing a "cost of living crisis" and were £1,600 a year worse off under the coalition government.

Osborne said: "Today I'm making a new commitment. A commitment to fight for full employment in Britain. Making jobs a central goal of our economic plan."

He said spending billions on creating jobs in the public sector would not work. "Government spending gets out of control, businesses fail as their taxes get too high, work pays less as personal taxes rise, and jobs in the private sector are lost.

"You end up with more people unemployed instead of less. Then the politicians who make these guarantees get into a panic. So unemployed people are pushed onto sickness benefits to hide the real numbers. That's what happened before we came into office."

He said the government would take a "different approach" and aim to have the highest employment rate of any leading economy. "To have more people working that any of the other countries in the G7 group. That's my ambition."

Currently the highest employment rate in the G7 is Germany's 73.3%, compared with the UK at 70.8%, according to the Treasury "Britain could be the "best place in the world to create a job, to keep a job, to be helped to look for another job if you lose one," Osborne said.

"A modern approach to full employment means backing business. It means cutting the tax on jobs and reforming welfare. It means improving our schools. It means spending less on benefits so we can invest more in creating new jobs: by having more apprenticeships, new roads and railways and making Britain a leader in science."

Osborne added that these things were "in the power of the government".

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said: "Full employment is the right aspiration but George Osborne has announced no new policies today to help people into work.

"While he has been chancellor the number of young people stuck on the dole for more than 12 months has almost doubled and the number of people who want to work full-time but have had to take part-time jobs is at record levels.

"We need Labour's compulsory jobs guarantee to get young people and the long-term unemployed off benefits and into paid work."

The general secretary of the TUC, Frances O'Grady, said: "The 2.3 million people currently without work across the UK will be heartened to learn that the chancellor is committed to the goal of full employment and making work pay.

"But if George Osborne wants to achieve these important objectives he needs to address the living standards crisis and secure fair wages, especially for low paid workers, not cut their tax credits. Benefit cuts are not the route to full employment."

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