Sunday 24 February 2013

"Commute three hours a day or lose benefits"

They have gone completely mad, but rather sadly, a lot of people in this country go along with this divide and conquer nonsense:

Jobseekers must commute for up to three hours a day to work or risk losing their benefits. Tough new rules this spring will also force them to accept any job that pays the minimum wage. They will be expected to take jobs up to one-and-a-half hours away from home, and job offers will have to be taken up immediately, not deferred.

Do they really imagine that nobody will spot the fatal and quite sadistic logical flaw in all this?

If an employer has to choose between similarly qualified applications, by and large, he prefers the person who lives nearest the place of work. If somebody is ten minutes' walk, drive or bus journey away, then they are far more likely to turn up on time than somebody dozens of miles away who will constantly get stuck in traffic or will by held up by train delays etc. People who live nearby are also probably more willing to work late or to come in at the weekend when necessary; it's worth while commuting for half an hour there and back in order to get paid for two hours overtime; it's not worthwhile commuting for three hours to be paid for two hours overtime.

So to the extent that an employer can't find somebody on the open market (which usually means the the wages they are offering are not high enough), by all means, pass the vacancy on to the Job Centre. If the Job Centre people are acting rationally, the first people they will send for an interview are people who live nearby, if none of those want the job, then cast the net a bit wider and so on.

I suppose that what the government wants Job Centres to do is, if there's a low-paid job vacancy in Manchester, first to offer it to everybody claiming unemployment benefit who lives ninety minutes away (in Bradford or Blackpool, let's say) safe in the knowledge that they will all turn it down, giving the government a foul excuse to stop all benefits being paid to people in Bradford and Blackpool. Then the government offers the job to claimants in Burnley, Blackburn, Preston or Warrington (about sixty minutes away) and they all turn it down and get their benefits stopped as well etc.

Then if a there is a low-paid job vacancy in Bradford, the Job Centre first offers it to people in Manchester or Sheffield (90 minutes away), all of whom turn it down; then to people in Rochdale (75 minutes away) and so on until a couple of million people have had their benefits stopped. It's not like this is going to cause massive social unrest or anything.

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