British cuts will slash half million jobs by 2015: estimates

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Britain's austerity cuts will cause the loss of more than half a million public sector jobs within five years, official figures showed Wednesday, although overall unemployment is expected to fall.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted that government jobs will fall from 5.53 million in 2010-11 to 5.04 million in 2014-15 and 4.92 million the following year.

The Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that leaked Treasury estimates indicated 1.3 million jobs would be lost over the next five years, including up to 600,000 public sector jobs and as many as 700,000 private sector positions.

Prime Minister David Cameron refused to comment on the report but pointed to OBR figures showing unemployment would peak this year at 8.1 percent and then fall for each of the next four years to reach 6.1 percent in 2015.

The OBR figures are based on last week's emergency budget, in which finance minister George Osborne detailed higher taxes and major spending cuts aimed at paying off Britain's record public deficit.

Interim Labour leader Harriet Harman warned Wednesday that the cuts planned by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition that took power last month would cause "abject misery".

Osborne has insisted the cuts were vital to put Britain's economy back on track and the Guardian said the Treasury estimates that 2.5 million private sector jobs will be created to compensate for the public sector cuts by 2015.

Britain's public deficit soared to a record level of 154.7 billion pounds (188.75 billion euros, 231.6 billion dollars) in the 2009-2010 financial year, as a severe recession hit tax revenues and the then Labour government spent billions bailing out banks.

© 2010 AFP

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