Fears for New Deal jobs

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The Independent Online
EUROPE HAS voiced new worries about the effect of an economic slowdown on the Government's New Deal jobs scheme, and warned that the young jobless may simply return to the dole when their subsidised work ends.

The European Commission's Joint Employment Report, issued yesterday, welcomes the scheme but raises the prospect of serious problems for the flagship policy.

Under the pounds 3.1bn New Deal, all young people unemployed for more than six months have to take one of five options, which include subsidised jobs, training or environmental work. Because the scheme is new, there is no evidence of employers' willingness to keep them on after their subsidy ends. Nor, the document says, is there reliable data on how many would have found work without the deal, or how many posts were genuine new vacancies.

There are also worries about the strains an economic downturn will put on the government's welfare-to-work strategy, as the Commission notes that the initiative was implemented "at a time of relatively low and falling unemployment".

The report queries whether employers' participation, and the "apparent success of the intensive and customised counselling conducted by the personal advisers can be maintained as the scheme expands and the numbers eligible increase".

The Commission says that employment in general "looks favourable in relation to EU average". But "long-term unemployment is substantially concentrated among older male workers, some ethnic minorities, lone parents and people with a disability, and is concentrated in a relatively small number of deprived communities".