Insecurity over jobs `rife in UK workforce'

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Chief Political Correspondent

Nearly 9 million people - one in four of the working population - have had a taste of unemployment since the last general election, according to figures issued by the Labour Party. "Job insecurity stalks the land," Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said.

Mr Brown said the figures showed why the Government has been unable to revive the "feel-good" factor. They were released to pre-empt an upbeat message in a Commons debate on the economy today led by the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, who has called the debate to draw attention to the prospects for a revival in the economy and the housing market, with low interest rates and low inflation, highlighted in the Independent on Saturday.

But Labour said the analysis by the House of Commons library, using Central Statistical Office figures showed that job insecurity was rife. The survey used the CSO's computer-based data for the first time. It has tracked a 5 per cent sample of National Insurance numbers since 1982 to show the length between spells of unemployment and the number of times a person has been jobless. The survey shows that one in three men and one in five women suffered at least one period of unemployment since 1992.

A total of 8.7 million people have experienced at least one period of unemployment since 1992. A total of 10 million have suffered unemployment since 1990, when John Major took office. Half of all people who are currently unemployed were in their last job for less than a year. A quarter of all unemployed men have suffered five or more terms of unemployment during the last 10 years. Mr Brown, who will be presenting the figures today at a Labour conference on women, with Tony Blair, the party leader, said the findings would be the backdrop for the general election.

"Job insecurity is so widespread, the Chancellor cannot claim that the housing market or the consumer market is moving forward in the way that it should be. The extent of job insecurity is going to be a central feature of the general election. It is suffered right across all social groups, all professions and manual occupations."

He claimed ministers have been sitting on the data and refusing to release it, because they were embarrassed at the findings. In London, a total of 1.4 million people have experienced at least one period of unemployment since 1992. The figure for the rest of the South- east region is an additional 1.3 million. The total for the North-west has also topped 1 million.

Mr Clarke, meanwhile, is resisting pressure from Euro-sceptic Tory MPs to announce a referendum on a single European currency in a government White Paper on 11 March on the inter-governmental conference on the future of Europe.

Misery league

The number of people made unemployed at least once since the last election

Region Total

Greater London 1,400,260

South-east 1,397,200

East Anglia 289,060

South-west 709,080

West Midlands 814,680

East Midlands 582,140

Yorks and

Humberside 775,900

North-west 1,018,020

North 498,880

Wales 419,640

Scotland 821,240

Great Britain 8,726,100

t JUVOS Cohort database, CSO