The Next Ten Years in British Social and Economic Policy

By G. D. H. Cole | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE UNEMPLOYED1

Work or maintenance—Why Governments prefer to maintain the unemployed in idleness—False economy of this policy—The need for a totally new approach to the problem of unemployment—Work for all—The proposed National Labour Corps—To be based on voluntary enrolment—A disciplined body—Working at a fixed standard of pay and hours—With additional allowances for dependents—The need for industrial training— Conditions of service in the Corps—Answers to criticism of the scheme— The work of the Corps—Cleaning up England—Slum clearance and housing—Attitude of building employers and workers considered—A retrospect of housing policy—The Labour Corps as an emergency organisation—Will it become permanent?—The problem of women's unemployment—Possible use of the Labour Corps by a reactionary Government considered—The Corps will increase Trade Union bargaining power—Why it is indispensable to get the unemployed back to work.

Every politician agrees that it is better to provide work than maintenance; but every Government in office, despite all professions, has hitherto ended by providing maintenance rather than work.2 For, whatever may be the ultimate cost to the community of leaving the unemployed to decay in idleness, from the standpoint of the Government maintenance comes in the short run a great deal cheaper than employment. This is partly because the scale of maintenance is kept a good deal below the wages that would have to be paid if work were provided, and partly because there are no materials or equipment to be bought,

____________________
1
The statistics relevant to this chapter, with certain comments, will be found in Appendix II., at p. 444.
2
The Labour Government of 1924 had, of course, no time to set on foot any general plan for the prevention of unemployment. It did, however, even during its brief term of office, pass the Wheatley Housing Act, which greatly stimulated employment in the building trades, and lay down the general lines of the scheme of electrical development that is now being gradually carried into effect.

-48-

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