Britain: Employing the young

The Deputy Prime Minister unveils a £1bn scheme to reduce youth unemployment. Firms need more encouragement still.

Nick Clegg, the government's No.2, has rolled out a new policy to increase the number of work placements and training schemes to get the young unemployed into work. 

It's a significant issue, not just in Britain but in numerous countries. If the young can't find work as they leave school or college how can they apply later for jobs which require existing experience? Despite austerity, one billion is a paltry sum in comparison to the lasting and damaging effects of unemployment on the fabric of society.

Almost simultaneously, the Express reported that around 12,000 foreigners every month have been snapping up jobs which could easily have been offered to Brits. It's a quandary for companies as they raise the bar in customer service and delivery. Many would prefer to hire experienced foreigners in preference to inexperienced locals. Perhaps Clegg's plan will go some way to addressing this. But more could be done.

The European Union has just levied a retrospective tax bill of £20m on the UK for importing fresh garlic from China 2005-6 and charging on it the lower frozen garlic import duty rate. The EU wants the short-fall made up. In reporting the story, the Telegraph noted that 12% of the EU's budget is derived from duties on imports from outside the Union.

If it's alright to tax imported goods, why not labour?

Companies should be taxed a prohibitive rate for importing foreign workers. This would make them think twice, and most might elect the cheaper option of employing an inexperienced young Brit or other resident local with "indefinite leave to remain".

It must, surely, be preferable for the country to have all of its working-age people in jobs, training or education. 

Nobody would suggest that it should be made impossible for companies to employ any foreigners at all, for there are many who add considerable value by bringing useful expertise and knowledge to the UK. But it's perverse that companies should follow a policy of employing foreign workers in preference to local ones on the grounds that it's cheaper and more profitable. When at the same time the country has to pick up the tab for the damage this wreaks on society at large.

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