Labour suggests higher benefits for older jobseekers

Mon, 24/06/2013 - 14:06 -- nick

The Labour party has begun to flesh out some of its unemployment policies.

Last week Ed Miliband gave a speech in which he set out some of the bare bones, including a three-year benefit cap, support for the living wage, and higher benefits for those who have paid National Insurance for at least 5 years.

Today Labour's work and pensions spokesman, Liam Byrne, has identified older workers as particular victims of the economic downturn.

His research shows that those aged over-50 spend an average of 32 weeks unemployed when they lose their jobs, longer than any other group.

Their unemployment rate has risen and they live on the same benefits as others even though they have paid in to the system for an average of 33 years.

The group has paid an average of £107,000 in NI contributions over their lifetimes, and Byrne believes they deserve higher benefits to take account of this.

Writing in The Telegraph, he said "I think social security should offer more for those that chipped in most either caring or paying in National Insurance. Our most experienced workers and carers have earned an extra hand. We should make sure there something better for when they need it."

He continued with a history lesson for 50 year olds: “Those born in 1963 were born into a turbulent, exciting world. The Beatles released their first number 1 album. President Kennedy was assassinated. The Profumo scandal shook Britain,” he said, although the relevance of this to their benefit needs was not made clear.

The Telegraph commentary provided a possible clue on the interest Byrne is showing in older workers:

"Mr Byrne’s pledge today is part of Labour’s attempts to reach out to older voters and show that the Opposition understands their concerns.

"Older voters are more likely to cast their ballots in general elections, meaning all political parties are keen to woo them."

The article is light on concrete policies, but suggests that the UK could learn from other countries, including Japan, where older workers have specialist job centres, and Canada, where they are eligible for training grants if they want to learn new skills.

UnemployedNet advocates a needs-based benefit system, in which all unemployed people receive the funding they need to live on. We run a benefits campaign which asks the government to immediately evaluate these needs and to uprate payments annually by the real rate of inflation that unemployed people experience.

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