What happens to unemployed and unemployable coal miners in UK?

Actually, my question is broader. Suppose you have, say, a permanently unemployed worker in a dying industry in any advanced country except the US. Do they simply get unemployment/welfare for the rest of their lives? In the US, the official position is that he who does not work will not eat. A slight exaggeration, but basically the philosophy.

Theoretically there’s re-training, but employers are often unwilling to accept older workers. Unemployment benefit isn’t much, either, but once you’ve run through your savings welfare does kick in, so yes, people are left on the scrapheap.

There have been a number of initiatives in recent years to try to channel the long-term unemployed back into paid work, ans in some cases give them a ‘nudge’ into proving that they genuinely continue to search for work, failing which they will get certain welfare payments withdrawn. If they are medically unfit for work then that is different, though that is being tightened up on as well in recent years.

When the steel industry disappeared from western Pennsylvania, a bunch of guys I knew went to work at the post-office. Around the same time, “going postal” coincidentally became a thing.

Years ago, here in the US, I worked as a contract programmer for Burlington Northern Railroad. The union contract allowed the company to install new technology, but they had to find new jobs for any displaced workers rather than just firing them. So they had a bunch of former firemen (coal-shovelers) that had been hastily trained as computer programmers.

(Unfortunately, the company had needed programmers at the time, and so had trained these guys for that – without any consideration of whether they had the mental aptitude to do programming. Several of them were not very good at programming, and not happy at it. They would have done better as yard switchmen, clerks, or even janitor, but those jobs paid less – the contract required that the displaced workers did not get their pay cut.)

Coal miners were paid pretty well, as were steel workers. When they lose their jobs they are paid a minimum of £15, 000 tax free. Many have agreements that paid more than that. Unemployment *can *continue indefinitely but they do have to show that they are actively looking for work. Most of them end up driving trucks or working in warehouses for a lot less than they were used to.

Some of those grimy old colliery towns went through really tough times when the pits closed. These days they are looking a lot more prosperous. I used to be a truck driver and spent a lot of time in the coal mining areas. Every miner I met was determined that his son was not going to work underground because it was a horrible, dangerous job.

In the US, social security disability is becoming a de facto welfare program for people who lose their jobs when industry leaves them behind. NPR had a good in-depth article on the subject a few years back.

Thanks, Lazy. That article on disability was an eye-opener. I had no idea. I guess it is what has replaced welfare, at least for older workers. For a teenage mom, not so good.

It was well known in the UK that, in the rapid declines of the basic industries like coal, shipbuilding, iron and steel, older men made redundant were put on Invalidity Benefit in order to keep the statistics of registered unemployed as low as possible. Those were mostly the industries that were in any case traditionally notorious for industrial ill-health, so it wasn’t hard not to ask too many questions, or even proactively to suggest, that assorted coughs and sciaticas could justify being treated as permanently disabling.

But that was thirty years ago, and now the relevant agencies are incentivised to get people off the disability benefit books and into any sort of job-seeking category, even if (as has happened) some of them so turn out to be at death’s door but are mysteriously found to be fit for work on their assessments.

Reading through that article in the link, I see that it reflects quite closely what happened here in the UK, with one important difference; the state vs federal funding issue. Here it is all paid for by general taxation.

My wife is disabled so I have personal experience of some of the problems, and read some of the really difficult cases on a forum for people claiming benefits. We have also seen the cases of benefit cheats which the tabloid newspapers love to run. The latter get a great deal more publicity than the former.

One thing that has changed, is that the statistics are now shown, not just the total unemployed, but also the “economically inactive”: