Tue 4 Jun, 2013

Today the Scottish Parliament debates the findings of the report into “underemployment”we carried out on the economy committee. It’s an incredibly serious issue, and I look forward to contributing to the debate.

The latest edition of Greenprint magazine features my thoughts on the subject. You can read them below.

Alison

Jobs

A new UN report says there will be 73 million young people out of work this year.

Scotland isn’t suffering to the same extent as our European neighbours, but there is no room for complacency as unemployment among 16-25 year olds is twice as high as among older adults.

Some commentators have expressed surprise that the unemployment numbers aren’t even higher. One reason for this is the growth in the number of people who areunderemployed.

Holyrood’s Economy Committee – of which I am a member – recently carried out an inquiry into the issue.

Giving evidence the STUC expressed concern that a narrow focus on headline levels might disguise worrying labour market trends that may have potentially significant consequences for workers and communities across the country.  They rightly highlighted the fact that unemployment and employment figures show only one side of the story, and in communities across the country many people are struggling to make ends meet on a low income, as opposed to having no income altogether.

It also means many skilled young people and graduates aren’t able to fully utilise their knowledge and abilities.

Underemployment is increasing and is affecting women particularly badly, especially those working in the social care, retail and tourism sectors.

Many people who previously held full time posts have accepted reduced hours rather than lose their jobs entirely.

The need to supplement earnings with Working Tax Credits is increasingly common.  However, welfare reforms mean eligibility criteria are harder to meet.  Evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland reported increased demand for their expertise and a growing number of individuals and families in crisis.

Too often the jobs on offer are low-skilled, low waged and with limited job security.  There is a worrying increase in zero hour contracts, where employees don’t have ‘traditional’ rights and may have no idea how many, if any, hours an employer will be able to offer on a week-to-week basis.

In Parliament Scottish Greens have called on the Scottish Government to use the Public Procurement Reform Bill to ensure that companies receiving public money don’t use zero hour contracts.  We have questioned the massive subsidies received by multinationals like Amazon, while dodging tax.

Let’s focus instead on supporting the small and medium enterprises that provide sustainable employment.  Micro-businesses, those with fewer than 10 employees, make up nearly 94% of Scottish business.  Over 48% of unemployed people who find work in the private sector go to work in a micro-business.

Scottish Greens have called upon the Government to reverse cuts to college funding, asked for research into Scotland’s childcare costs, amongst the very highest in Europe, and into the implications of internships as we took evidence from graduates who were unable to gain work experience due to a “back-log” of graduates from previous years.

Employers are less likely to recruit staff at entry level when a steady supply of willing interns, desperate for work experience, is available to carry out many duties.

There is cross party support for job creation programmes, education and training, and increased awareness of the opportunities of properly supported entrepreneurship and the importance of labour rights in such a tight market.

Scottish Greens will continue to focus on opportunities like the Third Sector Internship scheme and the Community Jobs Scotland scheme.  These are well regarded and provide high quality, work based training.

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