The economy is staling, dipping below the flat line for an unprecedented third time and we’re suffering significantly more than our direct European competitors. Weather or not our current wows are due to Global forces or economic mismanagement in Westminster, It’s an open floor.
But a major part of the problem, contributing to the economic decay, is too often sidelined. The concerning state of the British work force. Our economy is technologically advanced and increasing mechanized but it’s only ever as good as the workers collecting the wages.
Two things characterize the state of that workforce. The amount and type of skill possessed by workers. The state is now trying to rectify the fact that they encouraged students to do the wrong qualifications for over a decade. They’re now bribing people to do subjects like physics and engineering, because factories are actually closing because a whole generation with 2nd class honors in media studies and PE can’t run them.
Secondly, there’s the condition of our employment laws that define that workforce’s attractiveness to industry and investment. So much political firepower has been spent arguing weather or not we should have more competitive wages or a living wages or how easily bosses should be able to hire and fire. These are indeed delicate questions with no easy answer.
However I believe there are three areas where legislation can make an obvious improvement to the workforce. Three areas Britain has been resistant to strive for equality and efficiency in because of an employment culture that traditionally protects the privileges of the middle class; three problems that I am far from the first to highlight. But with the economy struggling as it is, and people of all background struggling to find work we have more reason than before to move against Britain’s ingrained past and use tough legislation to promote efficiency and equality. Here they are.
In the UK we have an ingrained culture and acceptance that sometimes parents, friends or relative will help another get a job. Graduates flippantly refer to this as having “connections”. One might get a job in a law firm because their Dad works there or an internship off David Cameron because you live in his village and he thinks you’re a good right-wing Oxfordshire lad, (yeah, that really happened. Dave said it “wasn’t a big deal”). The problem with this is privileged people quite often give a leg up to other privileged people and it serves as a serious barrier to social mobility. If you deny this, you’re deluded and probably very privileged, (like Dave).
So we end up with a lucky person, not the best person for the job. Most of the people who help another into a job see it as completely harmlessly helping out a family friend or loved-one and are completely ignorant of the damaging discrimination they are engaging in. Such a taboo is made over equal employment opportunities; even protected under our human rights. We have correctly made gendered titles optional on CVs and employers are quite rightly not supposed to ask about sexuality or if people have or are planning to have children. But when someone directly gives a job to a friend or assist them in getting it because they’re “connected”, the discrimination taking place is huge. You are not just discriminating against one person because of a single factor, you are discriminating unfairly against all the other candidates in favor of someone you know and personally approve of – often because they are a member of your own social or economic class. Some companies and political parties (including the Lib Dems) now insist all jobs be fairly advertised, but it’s time this was universally enforced upon all major employers by legislation.
I’m not suggesting that family trades and business should not be aloud to be passed down to the next generation; just that business and employers make sure all positions are fairly filled. Getting an internship at daddies Law firm, or any job because of your “connections”, should become as much of a taboo as not getting a job because your sexuality, say. Until we start recognizing this as an issue, elitism in the UK will remain and we will continue to have some of the worst social mobility rates in the developed world. But, more crucially for the economy and this discussion, the best people will not be in the best jobs and that means we all suffer because of their privilege and subsequent, comparative lack of competence.
There has been much written about this, but it needs to be said as many times as possible. The internship system is messed up. Like, properly immoral.
As anyone currently at university will well know, a degree is no longer even close to enough to guarantee a graduate job. Thanks to a global trend, combined with New Labor’s relentless watering down of degrees (and education in general) and their reckless abandonment of purist and science-based subject, degrees are simply not worth what they used to be.
The UK is fast following the lead of the US when it comes to internships. Low or unpaid internships are becoming the norm. Graduates, already buckling at the knees under the weight of debt from the most expensive higher education system in Europe are then expected to go on to work, sometime for years, as slave labor. And the simple fact is, those of us who can’t return to Mummy and Daddies mansion after Uni, those of us who actually need to start paying our way and feeding our selves, simply can’t do this. And the result of this, once again, is worse social mobility and the privileged, not the best, people in the best jobs. The economy and the rest of us suffer for their privilege.
3. Civil service
My God did the civil service make a racket when they learnt their pay and pension benefits would be brought into line with every other worker in the country last year. The reason is, the civil service has a long history of job benefits that they’re keen to protect. The most unexplained of these privileges is the fact that it’s practically impossible to be fired from the civil service. People just get moved around, from department to department, forever. A neighbor of mine got in via their fast track system from university. He worked his way up to management. When the RAF base closed where he was managing logistics, he got moved in to catering management. The man couldn’t even cook.
This is because most of the 532,000 civil service positions that exist in the UK today are not open to the rest of the job market. Most positions that become available can only be applied for by people already in the service, as they work their way securely up the complex grading system. I know there are serious issues about maintaining employees neutrality as they must remain non-political ‘servants’, but this is no justification for all positions having such an unfair, un-inclusive employment policy.
The main argument from the right wing against the Civil Service is that it, and any state industry, will always be innately inefficient because they lack the financial incentive and competitive structure of the private sector. There’s some truth in this. But why the hell has the government set up a system that perpetuates these innate problems. Why don’t civil servants have to compete for their jobs like every other poor bastard struggling to find employment right now? As far as I can see, there is no justification for this.
If you can tell me why employment policy is such in the civil service, please do. In the meantime (when I find time) I’m going to have a look at what they do in other countries and I’ll update the blog when I have a better understanding.