Making people jump for work that does not exist must stop
OPINION:It is demoralising, nay, degrading, to herd vulnerable people into a long line to ‘sign on’, writes BRENDAN LYONS
A RECENT editorial in my local paper, The Southern Star, was titled “Demoralising for the Long-Term Unemployed”. It was a humane and considered piece. It cited national statistics from the Central Statistics Office, and got me thinking.
Here is my less than scientific snapshot of the work situation in Skibbereen last week. When I looked at the job aggregator website indeed.ie, it had one local job listing. No, I lie, one internship offered through Fás.
In nine months’ time, “the intern will have attained skills in running of a shop, including dealing with customers on a daily bacis” [sic]. Literacy skills are obviously not a prerequisite for paid employment with the National Training and Employment Authority.
I trawled the Fás website: a hotel has an unfilled vacancy for a chef de partie, a fish plant has an assistant sales executive job and a pizzeria has work at €12 an hour. The nine other local vacancies are schemes – community employment, work placement or JobBridge – and there are also a couple of internships.
One-morning-a-week housework was the only vacancy I spotted for Skibbereen in the Southern Star of September 1st.
I looked at the CSO site myself. In July 2012 there were 789 men and 582 women available for work in the town.
It is demoralising for the unemployed, either long- or short-term. Demoralising also, because Skibbereen is a microcosm of the whole country.
More demoralising – no, let me be blunt – more degrading, is the 19th century practice of herding the vulnerable into a long line to “sign on”. For the most part, I imagine, they would prefer to have nails surgically removed without anaesthetic than this.
Despite all the rhetoric, expensive reports and rallying cries, there are, in Skibbereen at least, few “real” jobs. So why maintain the charade? What is the rationale for the degradation?
Information technology is our way out of the mess, we are told. It cannot be beyond human ingenuity to devise a humane technological solution that accepts unemployment is a reality for many people, and treats them with some modicum of dignity.
The vulnerable are, as always, an easy target, queuing on the street for everyone to hurry past, eyes downcast.
I applaud journalist George Monbiot, who, in his blog on the Guardian website, last year tried to promote accountability in his profession by publishing an overview of his income sources. On August 29th he wrote: “One or two journalists have told me it was a ‘brave’ thing to do (by which, I assume, they mean stupid); no one – as far as I know – has yet copied it.”
People do not like all and sundry knowing what they earn. Neither do I, but I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb: it is €95.70 a week. As someone who was self-employed for more than 20 years, this is what I now receive per week in State benefit.