Tories committed to 'full employment', says David Cameron

media captionDavid Cameron: "Our aim is for a Britain of full employment"

David Cameron has called for Britain to overtake Germany and become a nation of "full employment" in a speech setting out Conservative jobs pledges.

The PM is aiming for Britain to have the highest percentage of people in work of any developed nation.

Mr Cameron said it had been a "tough few years" but added that the country was "coming out the other side".

Labour said the Conservatives' promises would sound like "empty words" to the unemployed or those on low pay.

Mr Cameron's goal of "full employment" would involve the UK, currently 72%, overtaking Germany's 74% in terms of the percentage of people in work, said BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith.

There is no timescale, but it is an "aspiration which he wants to achieve", he added.

'Tough years'

In a speech in Ipswich, the prime minister said full employment would mean that "anyone who wants a job is able to get a job in our country".

He outlined Conservative manifesto pledges on employment and enterprise, including an increase to 75,000 in the number of start-up loans provided by the government in the next parliament. The loans provide about £5,000 to young entrepreneurs founding a business.

He also pledged investment in infrastructure to attract businesses and creating three million new apprenticeships.

It had been a "tough few years", Mr Cameron said, adding: "We haven't solved all Britain's economic problems, but the plan is working."

He said it was a "myth" that the economic recovery was only benefiting the south, or that most new jobs were being taken by foreigners.

'Empty words'

On immigration, where the government has failed in its bid to cut net migration to the tens of thousands, Mr Cameron said: "We have made some progress, but not as much as I would like."

He promised the "toughest possible welfare controls on people coming from the EU".

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said average wages had fallen by £1,600 every year, while the number of people paid less than a living wage had risen to nearly five million.

She added: "David Cameron's talk of full employment will seem like empty words to working people after five years of talents wasted and opportunities denied."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said full employment "should be a goal for any political party", adding: "But we also need to create decent jobs with good pay and prospects."

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "Full employment should be a goal for any government, but it can only be achieved when Britain's businesses are firing on all cylinders."

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