March 25, 2013

Slow Progress: Improving progression in the UK labour market

Changes need to be made to the government’s flagship welfare policy in order to ensure less people in work are reliant on the state to top up their wages.

At the moment there are 1.3 million workers who rely on benefits, in the form of Working Tax Credit, to top up their incomes. Slow Progress shows that while people said they wanted to work more, they did not actually follow their words up with action. Nearly three quarters of in-work claimants, 970,000, are not currently looking for additional work to increase their earnings.

It found that:

  • Only 30% of part time workers who expressed a desire for full time work were actively looking for full time work
  • Only one in five part time workers on Working Tax Credit were actually seeking additional hours

Responding to the DWP’s call for ideas, the report says that there must be greater conditions for in-work claimants to ensure that they are doing all they can to increase their hours and earnings. The introduction of Universal Credit this year provides the government with an opportunity to ensure that workers reliant on state benefits are explicitly asked to do more to find more work where possible.

The report makes a number of recommendations:

  • All new in-work claimants of Universal Credit should be required to attend an initial claim interview at a JobCentre where a conditionality regime should be set up to ensure the individual is doing all they can to increase their hours and earnings.
  • In-work claimants would be required to attend a quarterly meeting at a JobCentre to be reminded of their responsibility to try to increase their earnings. Sanctions would be applied for failing to attend.
  • Measures of Jobcentre performance need to change to encourage staff to help claimants into long-term sustainable work, rather than simply getting them off Jobseekers Allowance.
  • Contracts with Work Programme providers need to change to ensure that they are incentivised to help claimants progress from smaller jobs to ones with greater earnings.


“It’s encouraging to see work addressing the core issue of how we support people to not only get work but keep it and progress in it … The report makes some very sensible recommendations for improving the incentives for Jobcentre Plus and Work Programme providers to give real attention to progression in work.”
New Statesman


Matthew Oakley

Head of Economics & Social Policy, 2011-2013

Paul Garaud

Housing, Planning & Urban Policy/Economics & Social Policy Research Fellow, 2012-2013

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