THIS week hundreds of young people from schools in North Tyneside are gaining work experience in local businesses and organisations.
Work experience is important but few would expect it to count as actually “being employed”.
Yet for people required to do extended work experience in return for benefits, that’s precisely how they are counted.
I have nothing against people being required to do an appropriate work placement to qualify for benefits, but should they count as being ‘employed’?
Ministers boast of a million new private sector jobs since 2010. But the government counts those on work placements.
I am also suspicious that public sector council employees whose work has been contracted out now count as being in the private sector.
Put them together and the million new private sector jobs claim looks questionable.
It may also explain that while the economy flat-lines or is even in recession, claims about increasing employment just don’t feel right.
It may be, of course, that employment is genuinely rising. I hope it is.
But even the experts have problems explaining what is really happening.
I recall as a former crime reduction minister looking at how we could stop a predicted increase in crime as recession loomed. We acted and crime didn’t rise, despite models showing it would.
Either there had been a structural change in the causes of crime and how it happens or crimes were being counted differently. We did a lot of work to find out which it was – in order to give confidence to the statistics. This government should do the same with the employment figures.