It is now almost a weekly thing to see someone somewhere reel off the statistic that “more than half of people experiencing poverty are in work”, with the (implicit or explicit) point being to reject the notion that work is a fundamental route out of poverty. Such nonsense is plain dangerous.
Let us firstly simply reverse their point, noting that the comfortable majority of working age people are in work and defining “poverty” as “relative poverty”: the vast majority of people in work are not in poverty, and the vast majority who are not in work are in poverty.
Put in that way, and we can see immediately that work is absolutely fundamental to escaping poverty, however defined. This is not just because it provides an income, but it also provides self-esteem, social networks, and the potential for further aspiration – few to none of which are available to those trapped on out-of-work benefits. The primary gain of work is not financial, but social – anyone who doubts that, should read this article about an entire community of compensated jobless.
It is deeply troubling that those who claim to be on the “Left” refuse to see this obvious point. Rather than giving people a helping hand out of poverty, they merely want to compensate them for being in poverty and thus leave them trapped. It is pathetic.
Yet this dangerous nonsense is almost becoming mainstream. Even courses on advising people who are on benefits or in debt suggest that advisers should recommend “tapping up family members” before they suggest finding a job (or even a second job). The focus is entirely on where money can be attained rather than where it can be earned; this is bad for the taxpayer (or family member), but we need to be clear it is even worse for the individual concerned. To promote a dependency culture in this way is nothing short of callous.
(Oh, and as for “there are no jobs” – unemployment is only 6% and, here in Northern Ireland, one of our foremost companies, Almac, has just announced it cannot fill all the positions it is creating.)
Work is the route out of poverty. It is time the “Left” remembered it is supposed to stand up for workers!