In previous months, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News, the publication or mere mention of a new Organisation for Economic Co ““ Operation and Development (OECD) report that involved Britain usually made for grim reading for the FE sector, and for the Government avowedly concerned with the particiaption rates in education as a whole.
In this latest research, entitled “Employment Outlook 2006”, the OECD paints a happier picture in the employment market than that which is painted in education. According to the report, Britain currently enjoys the highest rate of employment from amongst the Group of Seven (G7, now called the G8 following the addition of the Russian Federation to the original seven powers, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA). This positive finding for the United Kingdom becomes even more important when the amount of time it has taken to top the table is taken into consideration; this is the first time in half a century that Britain has enjoyed employment rate and inactivity rate supremacy.
The OECD report has found that the UK enjoys an employment rate of 72.6%. This figure is drawn from a study of the figures for 15/16 ““ 64 year olds for both sexes, rather than16 -59 year olds (for women) and 16 ““ 64 year olds (for men). The latter are the definitions used by theOffice of National Statistics (ONS), thus explaining the discrepancy between the OECD results and those of the ONS’s latest Labour Market statistics survey, which on the 17th of May put employment rates at 74.7 %.
The role of new bodies and agencies in this combination of high employment rates and lower inactivity rates (currently second lowest to Canada and standing at 23.9 %). Jobcentre Plus and the implementation of the New Deal have both been recognised for their importance, with the OECD report commenting on “the role of effective re ““ employment services” and of “removing existing barriers to labour force participation.” It is believed that these programmes combined with the modified Jobseekers Allowance have afforded Britain a flexible market position.
Minister Murphy on Reform and Progress
The Minister responsible for Employment and Welfare Reform, Jim Murphy MP, spoke of the relative progress made as shown in the figures. He said: “This governments policy of reforming the labour market so that it is able to provide the skills and opportunity for people who have traditionally been left behind such as lone parents, have enabled us to continue performing where other countries have stood still. Our commitment to this approach will not waver.
“As other countries start to adopt similar measures to the ones we have already implemented,” he continued, “we must continue to look at new ways of creating opportunity for people and maximising their skills. We have an aspiration to reach an employment rate of 80% and I want to see that achieved.”
Mr. Murphy also spoke of the need for further reform to remain at or near the top of the tree, saying: “The welfare reform green paper we published in January sets out a programme of reform designed to help a million people off incapacity benefit and into work. It underlines our desire to ensure the welfare state is able to meet the demands of the 21st century and help people into the workplace. Where people can and want to work, we must continue to make sure the jobs and opportunities are there.”
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