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Tories Aspire to Full Employment - But Will Do Nothing to Get There

20/01/2015 15:15 GMT | Updated 21/03/2015 09:59 GMT

Full employment is the holy grail of work promises.

Any politician worth his salt should be making it, and Tory prime minister David Cameron is the latest to give it a spin.

Emboldened by an unemployment rate of 6% and falling, Cameron and his government have been flirting with a commitment of this type for some time, but, perhaps seeing how little substance there is in his recovery, he has instead called it an "aspiration".

In other words, like free moondust for everyone, it is something he'd quite like to see but has no intention of actually doing anything to achieve.

Full employment does not mean zero people out of work; it recognises that some people will be moving between jobs, some are technically available for work but don't claim benefits and can afford to be choosy, and some can only do specific hours and struggle to find work that fits.

At a level of around 3% it is highly difficult to achieve; according to the economist Lord Skidelsky, the last time it happened in the UK was more than forty years ago.

One of the reasons is that successive governments since that era have become increasingly reluctant to get involved in job creation schemes, preferring to let the free market control the supply.

This inevitably results in where we are now, with a huge proportion of new jobs being low paid, zero hours, fake self-employment or part time, and work becoming ever more concentrated in the south at the expense of the north.

The PM showed again how little he understands about life for the victims of his 'hands off' approach, saying that:

"In terms of how you help people on low pay, the best thing you can do is cut their taxes."

This ignores the fact that around a fifth of people - the poorest workers of all - earn less than the current tax threshold, and his proposed move to a £12,500 personal allowance would not benefit the most needy at all.

It acts as another tax subsidy for wealthier people then, all of whom receive the allowance, increasing the income inequality that has ballooned under the coalition.

By coincidence, today also saw the launch of a report by the Centre for Cities which shows the abandonment of the needy in areas the PM and his friends do not live in.

Between 2004-13, twelve jobs have been created in the south of England for every one that has been created in the north, leading to population growth and investment being centred in the most prosperous areas and an already-overcrowded region seeing ever-increasing housing costs which act as a further barrier to labour mobility and job entry.

This government of market forces idealists refuse to get involved in changing this difficult situation, apparently happy to write off swathes of the country as not fit for purpose in 21st century Britain.

In fact, they have cut Regional Development Agencies and other funding which could have helped to reverse this decline, while focusing transport investment on London and its surrounding areas.

For full employment to become a reality, any government needs to ensure all of Britain benefits from prosperity.

The coalition would rather make empty rhetorical gestures than actually work towards real opportunities for all.