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SCANDAL OF THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING JOBLESS FIGURES.

The official jobless figures are set to dip below 1.8million for the first time in seven years...amid fierce claims of an election fraud.

The Government is being accused of shrinking the figures in a desperate attempt by John Major to stay in power.

Labour insists that the true toll of jobless is in fact more than 4.5MILLION.

The official figures show a drop of 255,000 claimants over the past four months alone.

But more than half of this was caused by 137,000 jobless people being disqualified from benefits by the new Job-seekers Allowance tests...the 32nd change made by the Tories in the way the official figures are compiled since they came to power in 1979.

On the right we outline the major changes made by the Tories in their phoney war on unemployment.

Ian McCartney, Labour's employment spokesman, said: "Tory Ministers are using more fiddles than the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

"In a frantic search for short-term political gain, they have been massaging unemployment figures down month by month. But nobody believes their figures.

"We must have accurate statistics and that is why the next Labour Government will publish fiddle-free statistics that tell the truth about the state of the economy."

Paul Convery, director of the Unemployment Unit Research Group, said: "The truth is that well over 4.5 million people are at present without work and wanting work according to the Government's own Labour Force Survey.

"The Government is trying desperately not to lose the election but not many people are fooled by their bogus figures."

Even Tory Employment Minister Eric Forth has admitted that only "about half of these figures we are giving each month are genuine falls in unemployment."

Leading City economists are warning that the Government's "hopelessly distorted" figures could lead to wrong decisions being taken in Westminster and the City.

Nikko Securities economist Simon Briscoe says: "Interpretation of the monthly unemployment num-bers is impossible."

And Lloyds Bank chief economist Patrick Foley says that in reality Britain's economy is the most unstable of the world's top 14 industrial nations.

To highlight the Tory' figures scandal, the Labour Party has produced a booklet called Lies, Dammed Lies and Tory Unemployment Statistics.

The TUC has campaigned for years against the moves taken by the Tories to fiddle the jobless figures. Spokesman Roger Lyons said: "The Government's picture of the level of unemployment is a crude abuse that masks misery for millions of people who are unemployed."

Every unemployed worker is at present costing the country pounds 10,000 a year, according to the Cambridge Journal of Economics.

Their research shows that it would cost pounds 17billion to create one million new jobs.

But it would leave the public purse as much as pounds 10billion better off, because of increased tax revenues and reductions in benefit payments.

What Ian McCartney says: 'Tory Ministers are using more fiddles than the Royal Philharmonic'

4.5m

1979

Change from weekly to fortnightly attendance at benefit offices - total down 20,000.

1981

Effect of Government employment and training schemes - down 495,000.

Unemployed over-60s given option of higher benefits for not registering - down 30,000.

Adjustment of figures to compensate for the effects of Social Security department industrial action - down 20,000.

1982

Change from counting registered unemployed to only claimants - down 190,000.

Introduction of higher long-term rate of supplementary benefit for men aged over 60 already on supplementary benefit for one year - down 37,000.

1983

Men over 60 who considered themselves retired no longer have to register unemployed to get National Insurance paid - down 162,000.

Men over 60 no longer required to sign on to receive long-term rate supplementary benefit - down 54,000.

1984

No longer regarded unemployed if take up Community Programme places - down 29,000.

1985

Amalgamation of statistics in Ulster with the rest of the UK - down 5,000.

1986

Count put back two weeks to remove "over-recording of jobless" - down 50,000.

Abolition of reduced rate unemployment benefit for people with insufficient National Insurance contributions to qualify for full rate - down 30,000.

Extension of voluntary unemployment disqualification - down 9,000.

Introduction of Restart Programme and new availability for work tests for new claimants - down 300,000.

1988

Further extension of disqualification period for unemployment benefit - down 12,000.

16-to-17-year olds no longer entitled to unemployment related benefits - down 40,000.

Only those who had paid sufficient National Insurance contributions in the past two financial years entitled to unemployment benefit - down 38,000.

Abatement of benefit to occupational pensioners - down 30,000.

1989

Redundant miners receiving occupational pensions no longer have to sign on - down 26,000.

Introduction of Actively Seeking Work requirement - down 25,000.

Disqualification from benefit for refusal of unsuitable jobs - down 25,000.

Weekly earnings limit of pounds 43 to qualify for benefit - down 30,000.

1996

Introduction of Jobseekers Allowance - down 137,000.

1.8m
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Author:Edwards, Mike
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 16, 1997
Words:820
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