Looming long-term unemployment …

Daily habits leave your life soon after you become unemployed. While the get up-go to work- come home-go to bed-get up again routine might seem monotonous – even soul-destroying – it gives your day structure.

I keep forgetting to take my daily medication. This has made me a bit poorly. It is my fault, of course, but it is because my morning routine no longer exists. Taking my medication is just one of a few things I forget. I often brush my teeth midday. I sometimes only remember to wash when Pointless comes on. I’ve even failed to make a brew first thing.

This is not, though, because I’m lounging around wondering what to do with all this free time – it is because I rush to log on to my computer to begin a job search. I suddenly realise it is midday as I fill in the pages of my Looking for Work booklet.

Where dreams go to die

But this misperception – the idea that the unemployed lose half a day watching This Morning and Judge Judy re-runs – could be why employers often choose not to hire the long-term unemployed: the numbers of which have doubled since 2008.

Research from the Department of Work and Pensions found that “employers had not always had favourable experiences with recruitment through Jobcentres […] This led to a perception that it is difficult to find suitable long-term unemployed people to recruit. Long-term unemployed people were commonly believed to lack skills and to be unaccustomed to work routines.”

You are classed long-term unemployed if you have been out of work for six months. For just 24 weeks. By this time you have already started to question your own abilities and feel your confidence slipping away.

If you have been out of work for six months, you’re no longer a professional seeking re-employment but illiterate, in need of re-training, incapable of turning up to work each day – and not to be trusted or relied upon.

It is hard not to react to these assumptions and rush to start job searches while others start the day with a brew and breakfast. You don’t want to be seen as someone who gets up around lunchtime and spends the rest of the day being lazy and stupid. You know this is not the case because maintaining a Jobseekers’ Agreement being a job in itself: The usual agreement is three actions per week to find work, writing to at least two employers per week, phoning at least two employers per week, visiting at least two employers per week, looking in agreed newspapers daily and, of course, visiting the government’s jobseekers website every day.

This doesn’t just take time – it takes imagination. Could you write, phone and visit at least six employers every single week asking for work? Would this, for example, mean visiting all weekly newspapers owned by one company or going to head office repeatedly? Perhaps I should tap on the doors of universities saying, “gizajob”?

Also, these actions have to be explained fully: you find a job to apply for, you then apply for the job and you follow up the application, making sure you quote the job reference for authenticity. You also have to list the site searches you have been told to make: I was able to list every local council website I had visited, pointing out there were either no jobs or no full-time, permanent jobs.

The point here is not to look for work but to prove you are looking for work.

Besides, the research says that employers want more than an enthusiastic job search – they want jobseekers who have kept themselves busy with “caring, voluntary work, training or travelling abroad”. There is no advice given on the ways in which someone who hasn’t worked for six months – and is unable to afford to travel to interview – can get money to backpack around Asia.

It adds, “Those [employers] most favourably inclined [to employ long-term unemployed] viewed themselves as ‘socially responsible’ employers and wanted to give unemployed people a ‘chance’. Those less favourably disposed tended to have less sympathetic stances and viewed long-term unemployed people as a high risk with potentially detrimental commercial implications.”

So, to give a job to a worker who has been signing on for six months is an act of charity. It is this thinking that starts to permeate your own mind and ego, leaving you grateful for an interview.

Orwell wrote of his growing awareness of unemployment in 1928, saying:

“… the thing that horrified and amazed me was to find that many of [the unemployed] were ashamed of being unemployed. I was very ignorant, but not so ignorant as to imagine that when the loss of foreign markets pushes two million men out of work, those two million are any more to blame than the people who draw blanks in the Calcutta Sweep. But at that time nobody cared to admit that unemployment was inevitable because this meant admitting that it would probably continue.

“The middle classes were still talking about “lazy idle loafers on the dole” and saying that “these men could all find work if they wanted to” and naturally these opinions percolated the working class themselves.”

There are many millions of unemployed workers all over the world: There are 2.49 million in the UK. We can’t all be dismissed as “lazy, idle loafers”.

The Office of National Statistics reveals that one in five homes have no adults aged 16 to 64 in full-time work. That is 18.8% of all households in the UK. This means 1.8 million children live in homes where no adult works. The overall number of households in which no adult has ever worked was up 18,000 from last year to 370,000.

Meanwhile further research suggests that 400,000 people may never work again. Those over 50 could be forced to retire early, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Workers in the US, meanwhile face the worst jobs crisis since the Great Depression: the number of people out of work for six months or more hit 6.4 million in June … that’s 44% of all 14 million unemployed Americans. Nearly half of the unemployed in the US have been jobless for over six months.

To allow the world’s unemployed to be treated like mindless drones, thrown on the scrapheap or seen as incapable after just 24 weeks without a job, is to excuse the fact that there isn’t work available.

This is a blatant attempt to put the blame for unemployment at our feet – but our joblessness is not our fault.

Wage difference between jobs I am applying for: from £18k to £44k – some with same employer

How much I receive in monthly benefits: £600 per month, approx

Number of relevant, full-time jobs I found searching 12 council jobs pages: 0


One thought on “Looming long-term unemployment …

  1. It continues to amaze me how many parallels there are to the unemployment issues here in the U.S. to those in the U.K.! You probably read my post re: the unemployed need not apply. I feel we have come to be viewed as a derelict segement of society! And I can totally relate to your comments re: unstructured days. Sometimes I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth on any given day!

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