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An elephant in the room: The future is mass unemployment

An elephant in the room: The future is mass unemployment

🕔24.Jan 2012

Guest post by Kate Cooper.


What politicians, other policy decision-makers party members, even commentators say about what’s going on seems increasingly irrelevant to individual lives. Every so often, though, things happen or something’s said that shines a light on this mismatch.

There’s nowt so sobering as evidence. The Centre for Cities Outlook 2012, published on Monday, was a sobering read. They compare stats of the 64 largest cities in the UK. The sole bit of good-ish news as far as Birmingham is concerned is about our climate change measures. Low carbon emissions? We’re in the top third.

We’re close to the bottom when it comes to matters of employment and skills: We have the second highest JSA count of the 64 largest cities in the UK (Hull tops us in that regard), we’re the 5th lowest in terms of qualiifed people and have the 5th highest unemployment rate — and of the major cities we’re at the bottom in terms of employment (this is the order: Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Liverpool, Birmingham) — and we’re one of the most unequal of cities with only Glasgow, London and Rochdale below us.

If you are a graduate anywhere in the UK, you’ll have problems finding a job, let alone an interesting one; the BBC reported last week that graduate unemployment has recently doubled, 20% of last year’s crop haven’t got a job.

If you haven’t got qualifications and you are young and you live in Birmingham, your chances of economic independence are slim.

The usual answer politicians give is all sorts of stuff about jobs and skills. And it all seems off the point. Sure, there are issues about skills . . . but putting thousands upon thousands of the jobless through training courses, often of dubious relevance to the very fast moving pace of today’s world is pointless. It’s not just that the skills required are changing rapidly, either. It’s also because the jobs simply don’t exist. Nor are likely to.

What we need to do is face up to the elephant in the room.

Today’s world is one of mass unemployment in much of the Western world, it’s here in the UK and it’s right here, especially right here in Birmingham.

Economic decline? Yes, probably. Let’s look at that face on, and work out ways in which economic independence for all our citizens can go hand-in-hand which making Birmingham a place where people really want to be.

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