UK Politics

Miliband pledges 'real jobs guarantee' for youngsters

Ed Miliband has pledged to "conquer" youth unemployment, as he said Labour would guarantee a job to unemployed young people if they came to power.

The party's "real jobs guarantee" would offer six months' work to those aged 18 to 24 who had been jobless for a year.

The Labour leader said the "only answer to a job crisis was jobs" and the £600m policy would be funded by a bankers' bonus tax.

Ministers say Labour cannot afford the pledge and its past plans have failed.

Meanwhile the coalition's £1bn Youth Contract, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, will provide £2,275 to employers to take on a total of 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds for six months.

'Real chance'

In a speech to a one-day Labour conference in Coventry, Mr Miliband said that if Labour were in power, the first line of its Budget would be "real jobs, real wages, a real chance for our young people".

"To business we say, we'll pay the wages, if you provide the training," he said. "To young people: if you're out of work for a year we'll guarantee you the opportunity to work."

Labour's plan would involve the government paying a business to cover 25 hours of work per week at the minimum wage for six months - £4,000 per job.

The firm would then cover a minimum of 10 hours a week training and development, focused on helping the young person to get a permanent job with them or another firm.

But Mr Miliband also warned young people they have a responsibility to take the chance and that "saying 'No' is not an option".

Those taking part will be expected to turn up for work, as well as looking for a full-time job and complete training, or face "tough consequences" - including possible benefit sanctions.

However the party's deputy leader, Harriet Harman, appeared not to know the details of the policy when questioned about it on the BBC's Daily Politics.

'Fully costed'

Asked how much Labour's bankers' bonus would raise, Ms Harman said: "I'll have to get back to you on that." She also appeared not to know how much the jobs policy would cost.

She said it had been "worked out and fully costed" and apologised for not having the figure "at my fingertips".

Shortly afterwards she told the BBC News Channel that the bank bonus tax would raise at "a conservative estimate" about £1bn - however Labour expects it to raise £2bn.

The Labour jobs initiative is similar to the Future Jobs Fund scheme established by the last Labour government but scrapped by the coalition, which said it was too short-termist and overly focused on the public sector.

But Labour say this scheme is more "intensive" than its predecessor, with guaranteed training and job help.

Mr Miliband said the initiative was different from the government's Youth Contract in that it guaranteed a paid job on the minimum wage and on-the-job training, saying one of the government's work experience scheme was "the only work programme in history which does not guarantee work".

'Irresponsible'

Labour argues the government's scheme subsidises employers without creating new posts - while they would pay for the full wages and ensure that if not enough businesses came forward, the gap would be filled by the state and voluntary sectors.

But Conservative Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi said the previous Labour government's Future Jobs Fund had "squandered millions" on short-term placements.

"This government is committed to getting our country back on track. Labour must stop these irresponsible calls for more spending, more borrowing and more debt in the middle of a debt crisis."

And the Lib Dems said the Labour initiative was a "pale comparison" of the government's youth contract scheme and did not stand up to scrutiny.

"Just like with previous job schemes which Labour dreamt up while driving the economy towards a cliff edge, Ed Miliband's plan does not provide jobs that last," said Jo Swinson, a ministerial aide to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

"As soon as a government stops paying the full wage, employers would have no incentive to keep someone on."

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