Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year Message

As we enter a new year and many of us make resolutions, I as a candidate will of course be preparing for the election which we know must come within months.

I suspect that a larger than normal number of people will also be looking forward to that election as their first and, one suspects, only chance to say what they think of Gordon Brown.

The past year has been a very bad one for us as a country. Most obviously, the value of what we produce as a country economically has fallen by far the largest amount ever recorded.

Despite that though I would like to note that in one area the economic news was less bad than feared although, unfortunately, one group may have suffered because of that.

Early in the year many commentators were forecasting that unemployment would now be more than three million but, thankfully, they were wrong. Thanks to a labour market that is still relatively responsive and flexible in spite of increased regulation, the rise in unemployment has, so far, been barely half as bad as feared.

That is because many workforces, including my own, have been prepared to accept pay freezes. In many cases employees have been prepared to work four days a week, rather than five, for reduced pay, or take sabbaticals, so as to protect their and their colleagues' jobs.

This has reduced the amount of job losses and meant that unemployment has increased less but, unfortunately, it has not done anything to help another group, young people seeking to enter the workforce, whether from school or from university.

A million young unemployed

It has been this group that has suffered most from the extraordinarily deep recession we have suffered under a government that boasted of no more boom and bust. Their lack of work may be less visible than that when there are mass lay-offs and many, still living at home whether by choice or not, will be supported through unemployment by their parents.

However, we must not underestimate the consequences of having a million young unemployed both socially and, if it were to carry on for any length of time, in terms of the skills and future prospects of our young adults.

I am surprised that, as a country, we are not talking more about the plight of the young unemployed. If, as I hope, a Conservative government is soon elected, I believe that we must and will ensure that their needs are put at the heart of what we do.


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