Howard Flyte: Sunak must aim to get millions of unemployed people back to work

Lord Flight is chairman of the Flight and Partners Recovery Fund and a former shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

Many of our major cities – Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool to name but a few – now have 20 per cent of their workforce age population on out-of-work benefits. The figure is 25 per cent in Blackpool and 23 per cent in Middlesbrough

A total of 5.3 million people across the UK, a staggeringly alarming figure that goes virtually unreported.

Conservatives brag, ignorantly, about unemployment being near a fifty-year low—true to take the narrow definition, but in reality a nonsense; People may not see that unemployment is over five million (on out-of-work benefits) because Universal Credit makes it harder to understand.

A significant proportion of the five million out of work are actually unable to work – either long-term ill or members of the growing NHS waiting list. But Rishi Sunak should at least be positive about a million returning to work.

He has no other option here. We’re probably already in a mild recession, only made worse by the tax hike in the Autumn Statement. Getting people off benefits and into work is one of the few tools still available to the government.

Behind this is the stark fact that the benefit backlog needs to be reduced. A country cannot progress by ignoring 13 percent of its population. This is an area that the Brexit vote was supposed to address, forcing politicians and businesses to confront the position.

We have people willing to work, but they need training and encouragement from business and government.

At the same time, it is still necessary to import a proportion of workers from abroad. We come to Britain and line up to harvest crops, otherwise rotting in the fields; To work in warehouse, otherwise ineffective. Half of the new nurses registered last year were foreign.

It shouldn’t be so difficult for us to train enough domestic nurses for our NHS workforce. Many employers have become addicted to importing rather than training, or saving money on machines by using cheaper people.

British employers need to recruit and train the long-term unemployed and not just use (expensive) foreign firms.

This is not a new problem. In the 20 years before Brexit, almost two thirds of employment growth was accounted for by foreign-born workers. Alarmingly, there are 320,000 fewer registered workers today than before the pandemic. Yet Brexit has so far not slowed the flow of migrants: visas are being issued at a rate of 8,500 a week.

A significant negative is the proportion of the working-age population in our major cities with out-of-work benefits: between 15 and 20 percent Transitioning these individuals from welfare to work is essential. Higher wages should act as an incentive, but skills training requires government support. Benefits outside of work are more generous than financial means.

In the near term, the government cannot avoid allowing more foreign workers into the UK to reduce the chronic so-called labor shortage. Currently our immigration policies are holding back economic growth.

However, Lord Wolfson suggested a tax payable on hiring overseas workers to encourage employers to hire from the UK first.

In short, we need appropriate tax incentives to encourage our 6 million citizens not to work for employment; We also need to learn what skills we need from foreign workers and facilitate work permits for them.

For immigrants, Britain is the most attractive destination, not because of free healthcare. But we must ensure that being in work is more financially attractive than living on Universal Credit. For now we may need imported labor, but we need them to provide jobs.