Wednesday, 9 January 2008


I've seen yet another person proposing that people be forced to work in order to collect benefits. Oh, and this chap too, more worryingly.

Question - is the work that benefits-seekers are to be drafted into going to pay them the minimum wage? It doesn't seem so, since net benefits (for a single adult) don't add up to the same as the minimum wage. If that's the case, surely by forced labour one is essentially supplying a huge pool of labour who can (unwillingly) give their labour for less than the cost of a regular worker. If that's the case, won't that destroy minimum-wage jobs, as companies queue around the block to get their hands on the cheap slaves? And then they start shedding their existing minimum-wage staff back into the unemployment pool, and "rehiring" them as forced-workers, until there are no minimum-wage jobs left?

Another question - would you really want someone working for you who had effectively been forced into the job? I mean, I realize that a lot of people work in jobs that they don't like, and often it will be because they have little alternative, but isn't there a quantifiable difference between taking a job because it's the only one going that will pay the bills, and taking a job because if you don't, the government will force you onto the streets as a homeless person?

Third question - what would a government do with the heap of discarded people from this ludicrous policy who were homeless and wandering the streets? Existing charities would be stretched to breaking point.

So yeah - forced labour: it may sound seductive on the surface, but seriously, it's a stupid idea.


Tristan said...

The minimum wage is part of the problem - it prices people with low skills out of the market (denying them the best way to improve their skills too).

So we should scrap the minimum wage (its a sound liberal policy too).

How about one of two other proposals - a negative income tax or a citizen's basic income.

Of course, that's not enough interference in people's lives to satisfy the right wing which dominates all parties.

Chris Black said...

If a minimum wage policy was good enough for Winston Churchill, it's good enough for me.....

sanbikinoraion said...

I really hope that's sarcasm, Chris. I mean, it's not as if Churchill never did anything wrong, and it's not as if the social situation we find ourselves in now is the same as during the war.

Chris Black said...

No it's not sarcasm, just an observation.As wikipedia puts it:

more significance was his pursuit of radical social reforms, which have become known as the Liberal reforms. As President of the Board of Trade, he introduced a bill in 1908 (enacted in 1909) setting up the first minimum wages in Britain, mandating rates for both time- and piece-work for 200,000 workers in several industries.

I don't normally like dredging up the past last this , but I am proud of many of the achievements of the Liberals of 100 years ago.