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The former Foreign Secretary looking to revive his career claimed that the one-million job vacancies across the UK could be filled by newly released prisoners, or those deemed a low risk out on day release. Mr Raab suggested that the plan would both help society and the economy by boosting trade, and giving the new workers an alternative option away from a life of crime.
The Justice Secretary told The Spectator: “We’ve been getting prisoners and offenders to do volunteering and unpaid work.”
He went on to say: “Why not – if there are shortages – encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy, benefit for society… IF you give people skin in the game, give them something to lose, if you give them some hope, they’re much less likely to reoffend.”
Some of the industries most affected by labour shortages could be the first to see such schemes come into place.
With a shortage of fruit pickers and factory workers, officials are due to contact such industry leaders to pitch the idea.
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Recently, fruit picking roles were being offered salaries of up to £30 per hour, equating to around £68,000 per year.
The idea comes as the Government is ending its furlough scheme after 19 months in operation.
Latest figures show that some 1.6 million jobs are still being supported on the scheme, which came into effect as the COVID-19 pandemic brought commerce, retail and services to a grinding halt.
For those currently not in work, and claiming Universal Credit, the extra £20 per week top up will also be brought to an end.
Nearly 2 million UK jobs are now advertised
As the economy slowly recovers from the impact of the pandemic, as well as seeing an exodus of European workers leave the country following Brexit, more positions have become available.
According to job market data, between September 13 and September 19, 220,000 new job adverts were posted, bringing the number of active vacancies to just under 2 million.
With the service and leisure industry having felt the full brunt of the pandemic, seeing many venues forced to close during lock-downs, it is no surprise that the majority of roles are available within these sectors.
Figures show that 36,000 new adverts were for chefs, cooks and kitchen staff, 32,000 were for retail and sales assistants, and 6.500 were for bar staff.
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Low skilled workers are in huge demand
With the UK feeling the pinch of a severe shortage of fuel, petrol and food on the shelves due to logistical problems, another vacancy is in high demand.
More than 7,500 roles for HGV drivers are now live, some of which are offering drivers salaries in excess of £50,000 per year.
However, the 7,500 vacancies fall well short of the 100,000 drivers the Road Haulage Association claim is needed to get Britain back to pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit levels of logistical efficiency.
Adding to the notion that prisoners could be offered work has also spread to the idea that asylum seekers should be allowed to work whilst their claims were being assessed.
Asked about this possibility, Mr Raab said: “I would open-minded about it”, however, the Home Office would likely take the final decision on this matter.
The Justice Secretary blamed a lack of integration as a key factor when welcoming in migrants, but said: “If they learn the language and they work, they integrate much better and they make a positive contribution.”
Migrants could be given jobs whilst awaiting papers
Mr Raab concluded that in order to solve Britain labour shortage, the UK needed to look at the ‘quality of life’ and the ‘wage levels’ of the people that can be relied on.
Many Western European countries hold higher minimum wage thresholds than the UK, with Britain placing lower than Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France, hence adding to the rhetoric claimed by Mr Raab.