Graduates to earn less than apprentices, says employment minister Chris Grayling by GlynnePowell


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Graduates to earn less than apprentices, says
employment minister Chris Grayling


Job-seeking graduates living in London are to be forced to work for
three months unpaid in order to keep their benefits, the government
has announced. That means they will be toiling for less than £1.87 per hour – even less
than the pitiful wages that apprentices earn. And it gets worse. If the scheme is
successful, it will be rolled out nationally.

Fresh from his department’s success crushing objections from Poundland intern Cait
Reilly in court earlier this month, employment Minister Chris Grayling announced
that 18- to 24-year-olds (including graduates) who have spent less than six
months in employment since leaving education will now have to work for 30
hours a week for their £56-a-week jobseeker’s allowance. (That’s £1.87 an hour –
we did the maths). He denied that it was “slave labour” and insisted it would help
young Londoners improve their career prospects.
They will do „work experience placements‟ in charities or social organisations – such as
care homes – for 30 hours a week over 13 weeks. It is unclear how much real work
these „placements‟ will involve, but given that the idea is to banish the “something for
nothing culture” that he feels is so prevalent among workless under-24s, we assume
these will look very similar to proper jobs (only they will be unpaid, of course). The
scheme will be tested this year in 16 London boroughs including the riot-hit areas of
Croydon and Haringey. The Government then hopes to roll out the scheme across
London and the rest of the UK.
In a comment piece for the Evening Standard entitled Working for benefit is not the
same as slave labour, Grayling defended his scheme, saying:
“Of course we can’t just leave young people, particularly those in difficult circumstances, with
no access to financial support. But it’s not at all unreasonable to expect them to do something in
return for that support. And that’s what a new trial we are launching in London will do.

“Later this year we will begin a scheme that will ask young Londoners signing on for the first
time to do three months of full-time community work in return for their benefits. As part of the
scheme, they will also receive support in looking for jobs and getting themselves ready for the
world of work.

“Every young person who has done less than six months’ previous work will be asked to take
part — and if they refuse, they will not be able to claim benefits…

“The usual suspects will cry “slave labour”. They always do. But they are the people who
believe that young claimants have the right to sit at home playing computer games. I simply

“In an ideal world, no one should get something for nothing. And if you haven’t yet had the
chance to make a financial contribution, then it’s not at all unreasonable to ask you to give
something to the community before it gives something to you.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, added:

“I would much rather people had the fun and the experience of work placements and the
confidence that comes with it than being on benefits and doing nothing [and] seeing their self-
esteem fall away.”

Graduate Fog does not think that anybody has the right to sit at home playing
computer games whilst being funded by the taxpayer. But we do think that young
people have a right to the same protection as any other citizen – which is to be
paid at least the minimum wage for their labour.
We have serious questions about the practicalities of this scheme. What safeguards
have been put in place to stop these work placements replacing proper, paid jobs at
these places of work (like care homes)? What happens to these jobseekers after their
three month placement – is there any guarantee of paid work at the end of it? Will any
of these „social organisations‟ and care homes be private businesses – and if so why
should taxpayers fund unpaid labour there? If these people aren‟t being paid, what kind
of attitude can we expect them to have at „work‟? Won‟t they be difficult to manage?
Will they be properly supervised? And is it appropriate to trial this scheme in
workplaces concerned with the important business of caring for some of our most frail
and vulnerable citizens, like the elderly or the disabled?

DOWN AND THOUGHT THIS THING THROUGH? Because we are rapidly losing
faith – as well as patience – in our government’s ability to provide what Britain’s
young people really need. Which is proper, paid jobs.
Or do you think your work is worth more? Do you agree that young people have a
„something for nothing attitude‟? Would you be happy to take a „work placement‟ in a
care home, if it meant keeping your benefits?

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