Jan 172013

Our Chancellor and coalition lead have been echoing the US for a while, trying to drive a wedge into the lives of those on benefits into strivers & skivers.

I hate this. People are long-term unemployed for a massive range of reasons, and some of the benefit cuts really don’t make sense.

I saw this and tweeted it. I didn’t watch the programme referred to in it; I just wanted to point out the annoying distinction:

Even the @economist thinks that strivers vs. skivers is a false distinction: http://t.co/aeQh5oVq

All basically done, then, right?

Nope. I had a few people tweet back things like this at me:

@gmehn @economist well in #growinguppoor there were two #skivers and one #striver. See if you can spot which was which.

Helpful? Nope. Missed the point.

The point is that the whole narrative is not a helpful conversation to have. Suggesting that some people are deserving poor while others are just lazy bastards. Most people want to work, but can’t find jobs. Trying to draw a squiggly line and carve out who is and isn’t deserving doesn’t help them find and keep jobs, doesn’t help companies create jobs, and just serves as a distracting conversation for bigger issues.

I’ve managed to start and run companies, and I’ve worked with enough young entrepreneurs and other “strivers” to know how bloody lucky I was to be born in a household where I could get a good education, to have parents with decent jobs so that I’d get contacts as well as a work ethic.

It’s not about the work ethic, though. There’s a lot to the fact that people get first jobs through parents, family friends, and others. Less than 2% of care leavers go on to university, and an even smaller proportion of those get and keep jobs. It’s not about the education, training, or work ethic; it’s about learning soft skills and being given a chance.

Can we please work on a welfare system that does that? More entrepreneurship and apprenticeship programmes? Can we stop being bullies and calling people names?