With 105 days to go until the General Election, politicians of all sides will be slugging it out between now and 7 May. The starting gun has been fired and the policy battles have begun.
Unfortunately, we are starting to hear a lot of misinformation from the Opposition. When the Labour Party continually talk down the UK’s employment opportunities, it has a negative impact on the confidence of jobseekers across the UK. On a day when we have seen a new set of milestones - the unemployment rate falling to a six year low of 5.8 per cent, jobs vacancies at a 14-year record high, 30.8 million people in work and a further fall in unemployment - it’s important to get the facts straight. So let me give them to you:
We have seen a rise of nearly 2 million jobs since 2010.
This is plainly not true. The reality is that 75 per cent of the rise in employment since 2010 has been in full-time jobs and 75 per cent has been managerial or professional. Job take up across blue and white-collar professions has risen sharply (for example in IT and engineering). The recovery is happening pretty much across the board.
Again – untrue. Zero-hours contracts account for 2-4 per cent of the job market. Full-time employment is up nearly 1.3 million since 2010 – that’s three quarters of the total rise in employment. The Government recognises there is a place for zero-hours contracts, which can provide flexible employment opportunities. But we are clamping down on abuse of these contracts by some less scrupulous employers by banning the use of exclusivity clauses. And let’s remember zero-hours contracts began in 2000, under the last Labour government.
The opposite is the case. Since 2010, 60 per cent of the rise in employment has been outside London and South East. In 2014, the increase in employment in Yorkshire and Humberside (up 48k) was higher than the whole of France (up 43k). The North West is the fastest growing area in the UK for apprenticeships and we have seen the highest annual growth in employment in the North East.
There are record numbers of women in work and a record rate. Compared to when Labour left office, there are nearly 800,000 more women in full and part-time work.
This is rich coming from a party who saw youth unemployment rocket by 45 per cent. In contrast, under this Government we have seen the largest fall in youth unemployment since records began. However, one young person out of a job is one too many and that’s why we have created 2 million apprenticeships, developed programmes such as Sector Based Work Academies (alongside businesses) and helped so many young people into work.
Work is the best route out of poverty and as our economy grows – thanks to the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan - employers are hiring, and many thousands more are in work every day.
The choice in May couldn’t be clearer: between a competent Conservative team who will continue to build a stronger economy, or the chaos and hollow political posturing of Labour and the rest.
As they say, a lot can happen in a day in politics, but with just over 100 days to go it’s worth taking the time to judge us on our record, and on the facts.
Esther McVey is the Minister of State for Employment