Unemployment reaches 11-year high despite Olympic pledge


The number of people looking for work reached an 11-year high in Hackney last month, raising questions over the Olympics’  promise to provide jobs for local people.

Olympic Games Village Site Stratford London 2012 E15
The Olympic Village, Stratford. (c) London 2012.

The latest figures show 10,232 are now claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance – the highest number since February 2000.

The suggestion that the 2012 Olympics is failing to meet its targets were strongly denied by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), but Meg Hillier, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, believes much more must be done.

She said: “The number of people from Hackney who have jobs at the Olympics site is much lower than other London boroughs.

“I have been pushing to make sure all these opportunities are open to Hackney residents.

“There is a 48-hour period where jobs are advertised in advance to the five boroughs (Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Greenwich), so we need to make sure residents are aware of that and know what qualifications they need to get in.”

Cuts in public services are already fuelling fears of an impending jobs crisis, with over a thousand public sector jobs expected to go in Hackney over the next four years.

Matthew Waterfall, secretary of Hackney Unison, said the cuts would have a devastating impact on youth services in the borough.

Hackney has one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the UK, with 33.5 per cent of 18-24 year-olds out of work – well above the national average of 19.5 per cent.

Mr Waterfall said: “Hackney has some of the most deprived areas in Western Europe, so I can’t see how cutting back on public services is going to improve that.

“Many of these services were designed to tackle that deprivation and provide training and opportunities for young people that will get them into sustainable employment, inspire them and make them feel like they are useful to society.”

The ODA said that nearly a quarter of the 12,112 working at the Olympic Park lived in the five boroughs, and maintained that it has helped 1,200 previously unemployed local people find work.

Ms Hillier expressed her concern over a growing skills gap in Hackney, and said the Olympics must provide opportunities to learn transferrable skills that will help people gain employment once the Games have finished.

“It’s not just one-off little jobs that people want and need, it’s the long term jobs that are important,” she added.