The Budget 2014 objective : making work pay, was given a big practical boost by the announcements last week of a bubbly revamp to the national employment policy in the context of the Jobs+ initiative.
The exercise was announced after extensive consultations with the social partners to ensure that there is full 360 degrees appreciation of the impact of the measures proposed, and to guarantee that they contribute and re-enforce each other to reach the intended objective with as little unintended consequences as possible.
Of all the measures announced two are particularly promising and capable of delivering much needed flexibility in the labour market contributing in no small measure to job creation, economic growth and control of social benefit fraud.
1. The proposed top-up to minimum wage earners should address social dependency for those who can live just as well on permanent social benefit as much as on minimum pay employment. Add to this the tapering of social benefits over an extended period for those who choose to move from dependency to being enabled in productive employment, and we should see the labour market work in favour of those who actually wish and want to work. Government should be able to fund the extra top-up of minimum wage earners from the additional revenues generated by economic growth.
2. The spread of the cost of maternity leave on all employers will remove many of the residual barriers discriminating against female employment.
What needs to be tightened up after the successful implementation of these initiatives is a case by case review of all social cases who remain on permanent entitlement. Social payments, outside the parameters of permanent sickness and disability, should be temporary and enabling. If they fail to enable it means they are not reaching their purpose and should be reviewed. Anybody who is on social dependence for anything more than a few months and who is not suffering permanent sickness and disability, should only be allowed to stay on social dependency if subscribed to some full time skills training programme under the aegis of the ETC.