Stroud MP welcomes jobs figures but Labour Party says living standards are falling
A FALL in UK unemployment has been welcomed by Stroud MP Neil Carmichael as proof that the economy is beginning to heal but the town's Labour Party say the latest jobs figures 'hide disturbing trends'.
The unemployment rate in the UK remains at 7.8 per cent but the number of people out of work fell by 4,000 in the three months to June, leaving 2.51 million people without a job, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week.
Conservative MP Neil Carmichael hailed the drop in unemployment as 'fabulous news' and sought to draw particular attention to the fact that the number of young people out of work in the Stroud district had fallen.
But former Stroud MP and Labour's parliamentary candidate for the 2015 general election David Drew, said the 'slight improvements' masked a grim reality for millions of workers, whom he said faced falling living standards and financial hardship as prices continue to rise.
He also said the growth of zero-hours contracts, a decline in the availability of full-time work and a reduction in workers' rights was making it increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet.
"The number of people working part-time because they could not find a full-time job reached its highest level between March and May 2013, according to parliamentary research," said Mr Drew.
"Add to that the estimated million workers on zero hour contracts plus attacks on workers' rights by the Coalition Government, and you get a picture of a workforce under immense financial and mental stress."
He added: "Clearly some employees are happy to have the flexibility that zero hours contracts give them but hundreds of thousands of people are being exploited - employed or not at an employer's whim, not paid a proper wage and denied some basic rights."
However, Mr Carmichael hit back at the criticisms.
"If I was a member of the Labour Party I would be very careful about talking about zero-hours contracts given that a lot of Labour councils are actually using them," he said.
"I think in some areas zero-hours contracts are the right thing for employers but we have to make sure that people are not going to be exploited and for that reason the Coalition Government will be bringing forward some suggestions when Parliament next meets.
"It is quite right for the business secretary Vince Cable to look at the issue because we don't want to see exploitation, we want to see people able to take opportunities to earn a living."
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ECONOMIST and Green Party district councillor Molly Scott-Cato has sought to pour cold water on the latest unemployment statistics by pointing out that the increase in the numbers in work is simply down to older people working longer.
Cllr Scott Cato, a professor and economics lecturer at Roehampton University, is highly critical of the Government's austerity strategy and believes a change of course is required to get more young people into work.
She said: "The ONS data shows that the increase in the numbers of people working is entirely accounted for by people continuing to work after the age of 65 because they don't have adequate pensions.
"I think that young people should be given a chance to join the labour force."
Cllr Scott Cato, who has been selected by the Green Party as its leading candidate for the south-west region in the 2014 European elections, also criticised Labour for supporting EU enlargement in 2004.
She said the expansion of the EU to include a number of Eastern European states had created a huge surplus of low-skilled workers, leading to downward pressure on wages and an erosion of workers' rights, which had resulted in zero-hours contracts becoming more common.
"I opposed the enlargement because I saw that it would increase the size of the low-skilled labour-market and that it was therefore part of a corporate agenda to undermine the power of working people," she said.
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