One of the mantras of the current UK Government is that work should pay more than welfare, so that living on benefits is not a choice which leaves people better off than seeking work. It’s hard to disagree with the principle, but as any good mathematician would know, if A>B, there are two ways of reversing the sign, not just one.
Leaving aside for the time being the not inconsiderable problem that if there are no jobs available, then effectively B=0, the other problem with the government’s approach is that they have sought to concentrate entirely on reducing the benefit side of the relationship. One of the better decisions of the previous government was the introduction of a minimum wage; but the fact that leaving benefits to take a job at the minimum wage doesn’t pay for a number of people highlights the inadequacy of the level at which the minimum was set.
There is always scope to review benefits to make sure that they are set at a suitable level, but there is also scope for making sure that the minimum wage paid to those people in work is set at a level which ensures that work really does pay. Setting the wage at a level which means that people receiving it have an income below the officially defined poverty line contributes directly to the imbalance.
Employers and businesses will object, naturally. They objected to the minimum wage in the first place as well. But I simply don’t believe that large numbers of businesses are only viable if they are allowed to underpay their employees.