A strong social security system can lower unemployment and bring social benefits to the whole of society, according to new figures published today.
Figures from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that three of the five EU countries with lower unemployment than the UK have higher social security spending, while seven of the nine EU countries with higher average earnings have also spent more on social protection.
The figures contradict claims made by George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith, who said last week that the welfare system “actively discouraged claimants from seeking work” and “traps people on low incomes”.
EU members of the G7 who spend more on social security than the UK also have higher productivity levels.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) says the figures highlight the “economic and social folly” of the UK government’s pledge to cut a further £12bn from the welfare bill.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee, said: “These new figures demonstrate exactly how appropriate public spending on social security doesn’t just offer much needed support for people in need of help, but that it contributes to a stronger, more productive economy and a fairer society – giving lie to the ludicrous Tory claims that their punitive cuts are designed to get people into work.
“This research shows, many EU countries with lower unemployment and higher earnings that the UK have higher spending on social protection – highlighting the economic and social folly of this UK Government’s continued assault on the poor and showing exactly why we need to take a new direction.”
Mr Stewart said the figures show why more welfare powers should be devolved to the Scottish parliament.
“With powers over the economy and social security in Scotland’s hands rather than in the hands of an out of touch Tory government intent on attacking the poor, we can take real action to boost the minimum wage, tackle inequalities and create a social security system which supports and empowers people rather than pushing them further into poverty – and which contributes to a healthier economy and more productive society for everyone.
“It’s abundantly clear that we can’t afford to continue to have these decisions made by out of touch Westminster Tories like George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith engaged in a relentless and sustained assault on the poor – which is why all progressive forces in Scotland must unite behind the devolution of these powers now to allow us to take a new and better approach.”
George Osborne told the BBC today that he knows how to reduce welfare spending by £12bn and will detail at least £8bn of these in the budget on Wednesday. He is expected to announce cuts to Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and a lower Benefit Cap – among others.