It only exposes your own ignorance when you do.
The UK is currently experiencing high levels of unemployment as a result of the damage to the economy caused by the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. The country slipped into a recession that resulted in countless businesses going under, and many jobs being lost. Due to the austerity measures enacted by the current government, the UK’s economy has barely lifted from this slump and the current level of unemployment is 7.8%, an over 50% increase from its pre-recession level of just over 5%.
The austerity measures of the current government have not resulted in an increase in work vacancies, and a shaky Eurozone has enabled the incumbent government to attempt write off the double dip recession that occurred under the watchful eye of Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. The stubborn fact remains however that there are simply far more unemployed people than jobs available in this country. Click this link to see how your area fares ratio-wise; and notice that the only area in the country with more job vacancies than unemployed people residing there is the City of London. Fortunately for the predominantly very well-heeled residents of the City of London and immediately surrounding boroughs, the housing benefit cap of £500 maximum a week ensures that those jobs remain available only for those who can either afford the inordinately expensive city rents even while out of work, or are able to afford the time and money to commute from the outer zones. Everyone else in the country, apart from those who can afford to work in the City of London, is having to face the grim reality of there not being anywhere nearly as many jobs available as there are people who are unemployed.
Why, then, are the ranks of those being expected to be out and looking for work rising day by day? Why the media narratives suggesting that the high unemployment figures are somehow in any way related to the attitude of people who are unemployed? If every single unemployed person decided next week to spend every waking hour applying for jobs, handing CVs out, writing to employers, joining agencies etc; jobs for them would not magically appear. More and more disabled people are being ruled “fit-to-work” by the much-maligned Atos-administered Work Capability Assessment. Lone parents with children aged between 5 and 13 are also for the first time being expected to find work. In an environment where there may be (as in my local area) 8 unemployed people for every 1 job vacancy posted, more people are being sent out to compete, even though the latest additions (disabled people and lone parents) have existing disadvantages that mean realistically that they have very low chances of securing employment compared to people who are able-bodied and/or don’t have care commitments.
There is a massive industry built around the existence of unemployed people. If enough people believe that unemployment exists because unemployed people don’t know how to get jobs, or don’t want to get jobs; then businesses can, instead of offering job vacancies at minimum wage or higher, simply get people on the dole to do it for their benefits. They are supplied these unfortunate unemployed people by Jobcentres and Work Programme providers. The Work Programme itself is founded on the idea that the people who are most struggling to find a job (i.e. those who have been unemployed for 9-12 months) would be able to find nonexistent work if they went to more frequent weekly sessions teaching them about how to look for the nonexistent work. It costs the taxpayer, and has no quantifiable results insofar as getting its clients back into work goes; the December 2012 report strongly suggests what everybody who is actually going through this recession as an unemployed person already knows – that you are just as likely (or even more likely) to find a paid job without any specialist taxpayer-funded Work Programme help as you are if you’re on their books and being dragged in for pointless make-work every other day.
So, we have a situation where the dominant ideology regarding unemployed people is that if they “try hard enough”, they’ll certainly find something. People who have not been able to find work in this current environment of there being far more unemployed people than there are work vacancies are being told by everyone – friends, family, media and the government, that they aren’t trying hard enough. Paid work has become the only sort of “work” that a person does that is to be considered of any real value to society in general. Reject this toxic notion.
Society is built not only by people going out to work for money, but also by the people who work by helping others out for free. When we devalue the latter form of work, when we tell people who are not in paid work that they are “useless” and a “drain” on society, they can start to focus and obsess about finding paid work and their care commitments can be viewed as being a useless waste of time, keeping them down and stopping them from ever becoming valuable in the eyes of society. Who the hell wants to live in a society where a person who is good at caring for a vulnerable person is being told they aren’t valuable enough yet, and have to go and look for nonexistent jobs that fit around their care commitment – when there are currently many people without care commitments who are applying for the same jobs? Who wants to live in a society where despite there being scores of able-bodied people having to compete for the scant amount of paid work available, disabled people are being labelled “workshy” and forced out to find jobs? Despite over 50% of the people in this country being net beneficiaries of the tax system, an alarmingly large amount of that same percentage of people believe that because they work and pay tax, they’re paying for other people’s households while they’re out of work, not realising that they haven’t even covered their own household’s cost to the state yet, nevermind the cost of anybody else’s. This group is responsible for a lot of the daily misery suffered by jobseekers, as they are often part of their peer network; and through ignorance of the facts make life very difficult for those around them unable to find paid work.
Society needs to return to a belief in the value of unpaid work and the work of those with caring responsibilities. If you are a person who currently cannot find paid work, but you do unpaid work and/or have caring responsibilities that you do well with, you are just as much of value as the citizen who is fortunate enough in the current economic climate to secure a salary that is taxed and redistributed. The only citizen without value is one who does not help to rally people together, or support them, in these tough times. The liar who knowingly blames innocent people for the failures of himself and his cronies. The person who has plenty to give, but hoards and keeps everything for herself and people she believes to be just like her instead.
This doesn’t sound like any decent person I know, in paid work or not. I want unemployed people who feel as though they are struggling to stay strong. Remember that as long as you contribute daily, it’s only a ballsed-up narrative telling ignorant people otherwise that is bringing you down. This won’t stop those ignorant people, but it will help you to stop believing in them and their value judgments, and to focus on improving your quality of life without the strain of feeling as though you can’t be useful if you’re not currently in paid work.
Respect and solidarity.