Conservative and Labour Policies in Relation to Employment and Unemployment

Conservative and Labour Policies in Relation to Employment and Unemployment

The term social policy is a sensitive and key term to every citizen of a country as it entails issues that directly and indirectly affect their well-being. Social policy may simply be defined as the study of social relations that is essential for citizens’ wellbeing as well as the ways of promoting these welfares (Coffey, 2004). Social policy issues gained some notice in U.K in early 16th century during the provisions of Elizabeth Act, The poor old Law, which was focusing on the less fortunate in the country. However, the matter gained importance in the British curriculum after the Second World War during the time which, the speedy growth of main community services motivated attention in the upcoming welfare state. During these early days, social policies entailed five key components which include; unemployment, poverty, unfavourable housing, poor health, and inadequate education. These social ills were considered vital to post-war reconstruction. Nonetheless, the government has recognized other groups such as businesses, families, charities and among others that are essential in delivering effective social policies so as to improve the welfare of citizens. Due to the sensitivity of social policy issues especially to those relating to unemployment, there has been a strong stand on ideologies regarding the issue by the political parties in the U.K. Therefore, this essay will compare and contrast conservative and labour policies about employment and unemployment.

The citizenry in the United Kingdom faces many social challenges that need to be addressed by the current government. These issues include but not limited to unemployment and poverty. Nevertheless, it is prudent that the opposition and other key stakeholders keep watch of the manner in which the policies aimed at reducing social inequality and promoting social justice are implemented. This monitoring and oversight would be essential in ensuring that there is a fair distribution of available opportunities on geographical and demographic aspects. As such, there is the tough basis for argument by politicians affiliated to the Labour and Conservative parties.

Fundamentally, the employment rate as at 2015 stood at 74% while the rate of unemployment was approximately 5.1% in the same period. The Labour party believes that the rate of unemployment, especially among the youth, is unacceptable given the economic stability in Britain (Office of National Statistics 2016). They, therefore, propose offering employment opportunities preferentially for those aged between 18 and 24 years given they have been getting jobseeker’s allowances for at least two years. This program, the Labour party purports, would be funded through changes in tax policies aimed at obtaining revenue from bank interests and reducing tax relief for high-income earners.

On the other hand, the conservatives are seemingly pressing hard for the unemployed lot to refrain from demanding for the allowances. The ruling party threatens the unemployed youth with compulsory and unpaid engagement in national programs if the continued with the demands. This step by the conservatives would imply compelling the young adults to seek alternative measures to secure employment or be patient until the opportunities are created for them.  Alternatively, the ruling party would opt to transform the current system into Youth Allowance program limited to six months beyond which those youth who will not have secures jobs would be required to join apprenticeship centres. Nonetheless, the Conservatives’ policy on tax concurs with the Labour’s perspective since they postulate that reducing the tax for businesses would reduce operational costs, thus, the costs saved thereof can be used to offer wages and salaries for new employees.

Ideally, full employment is not practically possible due to the economic harm it would cause to a country. Maintaining a certain level of Unemployment is, therefore, necessary since the proportion of workforce needed to accomplish the epitomes of capitalism is small compared to the entire population. Another plausible explanation of the need to maintain unemployment is to control the general increase of prices for consumer products, that is, inflation. Once many people are entitled to salaries and wages, other benefits notwithstanding, money supply within the economy increases. As a result, there is a temporary increase in demand for goods. Given the supply does not adjust to these changes in the short run; prices of commodities would increase thereby causing instability within the economy. Nevertheless, there seems to be a justification by the Conservatives towards achieving full employment as guided by Keynesianism. This is an economic proposition that models the relationship between national income measured as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the rate of employment (Kindleberger 2013). The concept asserts that increasing levels of national income should guarantee a rise in the employment rate. As such, the remarkable growth of the British economy should be sufficient to reduce the unemployment rate to almost nil.

Additionally, the Labour party would formulate policies to increase the number of vocational training centres for those aged above 18 years. This would, in turn, facilitate the development of quality interns ready for the job market (Labour n.d). Furthermore, they propose that any company that secures a contract with the government ought to have provisions for absorbing interns and utilizing the local workforce to reduce the unemployment rates. Besides these policies, the people to be employment ought to have good literacy, numeracy, and computer applications skills to enhance their employability.

It is also notable that both parties agree on the issue of reducing procedures and financial obligations for start-up businesses. The aim of this policy is to enhance the culture of entrepreneurship, which a major boost for the creation of employment opportunities.  However, the conservatives fail to acknowledge that energy bills for the manufacturing and other industrial-based establishments need to be cut to reduce operational costs, a point on which Labour capitalize on. On the contrary, Conservatives would prefer dealing exclusively with reducing corporate tax to achieve the same objectives. The standoff is certainly a political fissure because the global market regulates energy costs and as such, a single government may not be able to have control over it. Despite the reduction of taxes, the government would increase its revenue through privatization that was introduced by the Thatcher administration. This involves transferring ownership of government assets to the private sector. The money raised thereof can be used to create employment opportunities and boost welfare of workers and retirees (Moore 1992).

Another social policy related to the well-being of employees in the United Kingdom is handling of the zero-hours contract. This concept involves the engagement of a person in a job in which they are entitled to benefits like other regular workers, only that the minimum working hours per day or week are not defined. More so, those involved in the zero contracts are entitled to leaves, although their services may be occasionally withdrawn. These irregular disruptions in their work affect their time-related benefits adversely, which raises political and manpower management concerns. As a result, both the Labour party and the Conservatives agree that the application of zero hour’s contract by employers should be abolished.

However, the conservatives, being the ruling party, have not made any legal justification for the ban. This implies that the employees under such contracts have no legal basis to sue for their jeopardized job security. On the other hand, the Labour party has outlined clearly their measures to curb the menace. They propose that legislation on a new set of rights for the zero-hours employees should be prioritized. The rights would compel employers to fix the terms and conditions of working hours automatically. Furthermore, their policy would include mobility of employees if the employers insist on the zero hour contracts. As such, the Labour party would hold a consultative meeting with employers to negotiate the job security issues, a step that the conservatives have failed to undertake. In respect to job security, the two parties converge on the fact that there is a need to restructure the terms of service.

Another contentious issue that needs strong policy decision is reducing the poverty levels in the country.  The methods and achievement of this objective are dependent largely on the political and economic landscapes since they require legislations as well as financing. Despite over 31 million people being in employment in 2015, affordability of the desirable lifestyle remains a struggle for most of the people. Therefore, the Labour party finds it prudent to raise the minimum hourly wage to at least 8 pounds. According to them, this would ensure that consumer purchasing power is increased and, therefore, standards of living would improve proportionately. However, this idea is not plausible considering the current budgetary allocations for various projects. Furthermore, the higher demand for wages would strain the government revenue sources. As a result, the conservatives believe that such a policy would only push the national debt up as well as compel the government to increase various taxes. Nevertheless, the conservatives agree that the current minimum wage is not sufficient, but other parameters including tax rates and national debt have to be adjusted accordingly. Notably, the two parties converge on the necessity to have the value-added tax and taxes tied to health insurance reduced to facilitate increased access to commodities and health services.

Unravelling the minimum wage, tax benefits, and Job seeker allowance menace has instigated the development of the concept of universal credit. This is an umbrella of monthly payments for those in employment but has low income as well as those who are within the productive age bracket but remain unemployed (Turn to Us 2016). These include job seeker allowance, housing benefits, child tax credit, and income support. Those employees who depend on food banks for survival due to the inadequacy of wages are also incorporated into the universal credit facilities to enhance government support and administration of social justice.

Housing poses a potential crisis in the United Kingdom. Over the years, affordability of decent and secure houses and homes has been a nightmare for most of the low and middle-income employees. Clearly, there is a political disconnect between the different levels of government that leads to an uncontrolled escalation of housing expenses (Oxley and Smith 2012). In efforts to mitigate the problem, the conservative party has embarked on reducing mortgage rates and extended the Right to Buy to some tenants to enhance home ownership. Additionally, the party would construct 200,000 housing units to be sold at subsidized prices to employees under the age of 40 years. Similarly, the Labour Party would be involved in the construction of a similar of housing units, but the rates of sales and the target market remain unspecified. Moreover, reduction of mortgage rates is not outlined expressly in the policies.

Another social policy factor that impact on employment and unemployment is education level. Education is vital in assessing a decent job in any country. It provides one with relevant skills to secure a good job in any part of the world hence mitigating the occupational mobility. Moreover, due to a high level of globalisation in the world, education is essential in acquiring the job in the multinational companies in the country. In the UK for instance, the rate of unemployment in the southern part was higher than any other part of the country (Office of National Statistics 2015). The reason being that the level of education in the region was relatively low and hence people could not move to other regions secure a job. Therefore, to mitigate the situation in the region, better education policies were to be advocated to improve education standards. Regarding this issue, labour and conservative parties have come up with some common policies to address the issue. For instance, ensuring high standards of education through the appointment of school directors in all regions, as well as aiding teachers in making Britain the best country in respect to technical and other science courses.

Also, the policy by the Conservative party to create at least 3 million apprenticeships so as to enhance a smooth transition from school to the workplace, and improve the incentives to secure a job, was among the best policies to reduce unemployment in the country. Moreover, their policy to open about 500 new free schools would offer a large number of UK citizens with the qualification skills to get employed. This was in line with the 2011 trade union report that suggested that at least 11% of the adult citizens in the Britain fail to have any qualification (Smith 2015). However, the labour policy has deviated from this ideology by advocating for the protection of the whole education budget for early years. Nevertheless, social policy on education affects the levels of employment and unemployment in the UK.

Health is another current issue that is impacting on employment and unemployment. Health-related complications have an adverse effect on employment due to high levels of absenteeism and may be early retirement. Since employment is the main source of income for many adults in the UK, health issues may curtail the productivity of an individual leading to total exclusion. Consequently, this increases the government cost on social welfare scheme to sustain these individuals at home. For instance, in recent past, the government has incurred high costs on NHS kitty to sustain high levels of an individual who have dropped out of employment due to health issues such as depression, stress and among others. Therefore, this has lead to policy by Labour party, to invest more on recruiting more GPs, nurses and midwives so that to care for patients may extend even to homes. This is in contradiction with the conservatives policies which are advocating for more spending on National Health Service so that the service may remain free for use.


The development of any country is highly dependent on the political landscape that is vital in formulation and implementation of various economic and social welfare policies. In the United Kingdom, the rate of unemployment is a contentious issue that has triggered heightened political debate from the Conservative as well as Labour parties. Since the mid-1950s, the two parties have been at the helm of the nation and clear differences have been exhibited in handling the rate of unemployment. For instance, it is known that whenever the Labour party clinches power, the rates of unemployment go up. Therefore, the Conservatives capitalize on that failure to advocate for full employment. Nevertheless, Keynesian theory postulates that there should be a given level of unemployment so that the growth of the economy remains sustainable.

Among the major issues of contention between the two parties include the manner in which job seeker allowance is handled. Labour party proposes that preferential employment should be considered for youth under that scheme, while the conservatives believe that the allowance is detrimental. Other factors that affect employment include the level of inflation, taxation policies, accessibility of compulsory apprenticeship centres, workers’ benefits and minimum wage, and globalization. However, the two parties have a consensus that universal credit could be a great way of ensuring that job seekers and those out of employment for various reasons are adequately covered to promote equity.



Coffey, A 2004, Reconceptualizing social policy: Sociological perspectives on contemporary social policy. New York; McGraw-Hill Education.

Kindleberger, CP. 2013. Keynesianism Vs. Monetarism: And Other Essays in Financial History. London: Routledge

Labour n.d. A Labour government will create jobs for young people. Available from <> [10 February 2016]

Moore, J. 1992. British Privatization—Taking Capitalism to the People. Accessed from <> [11 February 2016]

Office of National Statistics. 2016. UK labour market. Available from <> [10 February 2016]

Office for National Statistics 2015, Statistical bulletin: Regional labour market. Available from: <–october-2015.html> [10 February 2016]

Oxley, M and Smith, J. 2012. Housing policy and rented housing in Europe. London: Routledge

Smith, J 2015, Labour governments: More fiscally “conservative” than conservative ones? Available from: [9 February 2016]

Turn To Us. 2016. Universal Credit – What is Universal Credit? Accessed from <> [11 February 2016]

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