Lovely morning for a walk. Notsomuch for listening to local BBC radio. The topic was unemployment (more specifically 'can you find the work you want'?) and the usual array of anecdotes that, as ever, seem to be used as fact. This is the problem with the media and I really shouldn't listen to this nonsense, but there's no other debate that I can find (certainly not where I live, in the country).
So we have a discussion with old people saying that they've managed to find work later in life. Then we have some businessman in his 60's talking about how kids these days do not leave school ready for the workplace (something I'm tired of hearing, personally). We have an 18 year old kid starting up a business that has, as far as I can tell, something to do with photography, having done work experience in a studio; and we have someone that offered to work in a caravan factory getting a job. This is on top of the news that the employment figures have gone slightly down, although there are still 2 million people out of work (a figure that isn't representative of the whole of course).
What then is the truth in all of this? It's like an echo chamber or a hall of mirrors: all you get are the same opinions, anecdotes and beliefs trotted out time and again and used to judge the whole. A young person that turned up to a caravan factory this morning asking for any work is lauded among all this. Well that's great, but we don't discuss this at any length, and so none of the issue surrounding this are mentioned: did he live nearby and could therefore easily turn up at 7am to ask about work? Thus how can someone like myself travel to such a venue if a) it's nowhere near b) the buses are considerably dearer in the morning (peak time) and c) it costs a fortune. Can we really expect people to be therefore 'getting on their bikes' regularly? Is he claiming Jobseekers? If so how will this affect an ongoing claim? What arrangements for work were made with the employer? Was it just a days work cash in hand that he can (though he shouldn't, technically) declare? Does he hope it will last long enough that he won't go back on the dole in a month's time or at the end of the week? Is it a few days work before he's off on holiday with his mates for example, just some spending money?
It's so easy to put these stories forward in so simple a way. They then become the totality of the issue: why doesn't everyone then rock up at their local factory/place and ask for work - well for starters with 2 million still out of work (the figure reported as an increase is barely 1%) they couldn't possibly all compete. That's the problem: competition. We won't hear anything in the future following up on this case.
There's no discussion of whether or not everyone out of work should be corralled into all applying for the same, few, positions, over and over. That seems to be the case; the reasoning being that slowly it will whittle down the claimant count, and that people stand more chance of finding work if they apply for more jobs. But is this really true? With more people thus competing against each other are their chances of finding work really improved? There's no discussion about this. No conversation about finding suitable work for people. In fact there's no conversation about making work suitable, period! No discussion about work life balance. The system is so obsessed with getting people off benefits it doesn't care how, so getting a job - any job - is just a bonus. This is evidenced by the fact that reporting of unemployment figures never mentions the real number of people out of work, just focusing more on people claiming JSA.
Do we even need half the jobs that people end up doing? How many call centres, administrators, office people, private companies scamming money in various ways off of each other and the public purse, legally or otherwise are vital for a functioning society. Everyone has to have a job it seems so anything is fair game. There's no discussion about the right kind of work that a society needs, yet we look down our nose at people doing lowbrow work, as compared to gangsters in the financial sector.
We even degrade people coming out of school, saying they are so green they are totally unfit for work. This gets said all the time, particularly by the CBI, but I have never heard them actually explain this. It sounds to me like a well disguised plea for more cheap staff; more workfare. They complain that it costs money to train staff, that hiring people is such a gamble because they are so wet behind the ears. Well, employing anyone is a risk, unless you happen to be psychic. But nowadays it seems the business lobby can't cope with all of these useless kids. It's also part of the continued degradation of state education, most likely as a means to promoting private education and such things as free schools. Yet again the public sector gets kicked in the nuts. I don't really believe school leavers these days are as incompetent as the CBI likes to make out. Of course what isn't talked about is what a given workplace or employer is like: it may be that one of these moaning employers is himself incompetent and perhaps just a bit of a bully. It may be that they are referring to work that requires skill in particular areas that schools can't possibly cover: particular software, such as payroll or accounting tools for example. A blanket statement that is never qualified does nothing to convince me.
In the end where are we going. It's just about making money as far as I can see. Big business continues to divide and rule: look here's a lad got off his arse and now works building caravans. Look here's an 18 year old entrepreneur. But how successful will these people prove to be? We can't really judge their efforts - and thus compare the rest of us scroungers - until we see how things pan out. And if they are successful surely their success cannot be used as a template for everyone else. How do we know if a 67 year old businessman is any more skilled than the 18 year old, and will prove successful? It isn't these people that are creating jobs and saving our economy, it's the demand for their goods and services. Sure they might hire a couple of people, but that's only going to be initially: if that demand isn't there then what will happen to them and their staff?