According to a report in the Western Mail, the Welsh Jobs Fund promises to offer “a real job” to the hardest-hit young people who are struggling to find work.
Allegedly, Huw Lewis, the Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, “punched the air” with excitement when he head about the policy. He said: “I thought ‘This is fantastic. It’s just the sort of thing a constituency like mine is crying out for.’”
Yet whilst Labour tries to paint the issue of youth unemployment as something that is a direct result of recent UK Government policies, the statistics show a very different picture.
The graph below shows the proportion of 18-24 year olds that make up the claimant count in Merthyr Tydfil.
It demonstrates that, contrary to the views of the Welsh Labour Party, there has always been a major problem with youth claimant counts in the constituency.
More relevantly, there has been, under the last three Labour-led Assembly Governments, a policy failure in dealing with this issue. In fact, the current rate of 33.4 per cent for January 2011 is in stark contrast to the 42.8 per cent recorded in May 2007. There are also 190 fewer young people as claimants in Merthyr in January 2011 as compared to September 2009.
I do not doubt Huw’s passion for his constituency and his campaign for the Labour leadership had more ideas that the other two candidates put together. But these statistics show, as they do for the whole of Wales, that this is not something that has happened overnight.
In fact, there has been a systemic failure to deal with the problems of youth unemployment in Wales over a number of years.
One could argue that, despite having access to billions of pounds of European funding, there has been a failure to make any real difference to constiutencies such as Merthyr Tydfil with high levels of deprivation.
Given this, I would suggest that Huw should have a word with the Deputy First Minister on why only 95 gross new jobs have been created in his constituency since 2007 through the use of European Structural Funding and only 67 businesses assisted.
That is the real failure within Merthyr Tydfil.