Not usually ones to blow our own trumpets, we nevertheless don’t plan to let the world forget we were well ahead of the game in predicting the current jobs crunch.
But, as we have also said before, it was blindingly obvious this was going to happen.
Yesterday*, Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, said his government was doing everything possible to create jobs.
This is, of course, a lie.
(In the Prime Minister’s defence such mindless exaggeration has become a quasi figure of speech and few take it literally. Nevertheless, it behoves politicians to be accurate with their use of language.)
There are many things the British government could do, some of them cost free, to boost employment.
The two most obvious are the abolition of jobs taxes (Employers National Insurance) and the abolition of employee rights legislation.
The first of these raises a lot of cash for the Exchequer and its doing away with would be seen as dealing a very substantial blow to Britain’s already parlous financial circumstances.
However, there is a fiscally neutral way of getting rid of it: simply convert this from an employer to an employee contribution, while at the same time imposing a time period during which employers must increase employee gross salaries by the equivalent of the National Insurance payments they would otherwise have made.
This would protect employees from being out of pocket, but would also avail them of the knowledge of just how much their job actually costs and how little of their 'hard earned' they get to see at the end.
It would not save employers a penny from existing employees. However, it would pave the way to reducing substantially the costs of new jobs created. Those who are currently unemployed might well prefer a lower salary than no salary.
But, the really big fish to fry is the abolition of employee rights legislation. This wouldn’t cost the government anything but would make British companies far more competitive. They would grow, new ones would start, and employers would no longer be fearful of hiring.
It’s not that the government doesn’t know this. It will be blindingly obvious to them. But they find it just too politically unpalatable to take action.
The Conservative Party is still trying to detoxify its brand, and shake off the image of being the nasty party: hence seemingly obscure obsessions with promoting gay marriage and ring fencing the overseas aid budget (one of only two areas of spending so protected).
It is the same fear of being seen to be nasty that obstructs the political will to tackle the uncompetitive employment burdens Britain has shackled itself with for the last 15 years or more.
So, though received wisdom says “it’s the economy, stupid” really “it’s politics, stupid”.
But, in time, the economic argument and the political argument will converge. Democratic governments pursue paths of least resistance and there will come a day when there is more to be lost politically by keeping these employment burdens than by getting rid of them.
Employee rights and jobs taxes are not the only barriers to economic growth but they are huge ones and their removal would certainly be a big step forward.
Sadly, as the drastic austerity measures now being imposed in Greece suggest, things have to get very bad indeed – which means much more unnecessary suffering for us all – before politicians find the political courage to do what they knew, deep in their hearts, they would need to do all along.
* This blog post was first published on 13 October 2011