Long-term unemployment and the employability gap: priorities for renewing Britain's New Deal

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This paper reviews recent reforms to the UK’s main active labour market policy for the long-term unemployed age over 25: the so-called New Deal 25 Plus. It discusses the appropriateness of the New Deal’s approach to the activation of these long-term unemployed people, by drawing upon evidence from interviews with 115 job seekers in one urban labour market characterised by generally low unemployment rates. It is argued that these job seekers face a combination of personal and circumstantial barriers to work, best characterised as an “employability gap”. This employability gap is a product of deficiencies in job seekers’ skills, but also: severely limited recent work experience; a lack of awareness of opportunities within the labour market; and the effects of long-term economic deprivation and inflexible elements within the UK benefits system. It is acknowledged that following recent reforms to the New Deal 25 Plus, the programme is better equipped to address some aspects of the employability gap faced by many long-term unemployed people. However, it is argued that a stronger commitment to training within a “real work” environment and a more flexible approach to the administration of some social security benefits is required if the long-term detachment from the labour market experienced by these job seekers is to be overcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-419
JournalJournal of European Industrial Training
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • unemployment
  • ALMP
  • employability
  • activation
  • labour market
  • welfare to work

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