Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The world of the Jobcentre

Well, since I started jobhunting again, I thought I might as well go through the formalities of the Government's system. So a visit to the Jobcentre.

For those of you who are up with the times, there is an amusing new addition to the process there. They give you a page showing a typical job advertisement. Then on the subsequent two pages, you are asked, IN VERY BIG LETTERS to answer some simple questions based on this job advertisement. It serves as a basic literacy and numeracy test.

For those of you who aren't up with the times, unless you go through the modern process, reading about it in the Guardian is about as experiential as looking at a porn magazine. There must be so many people in the Ben Elton Generation who have an image of Unemployment Benefit that they gleaned in the Eighties. As my mate Richie, who being young was forced to know about these things first hand, said back in 1996: There's no point applying for Unemployment Benefit - unless you go for Income Support, you won't get anything.

Ho, ho, ho! He was right, and that still hasn't changed. But there has been no such thing as Unemployment Benefit for the last 6 years. It's Contribution-based Job Seeker's Allowance. And no such thing as Income Support either. It's called Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance.

Well, it was nice of them to tell me that I probably don't qualify for Contribution-based Job Seeker's Allowance. And it was really honest of me to tell them that I probably wouldn't qualify for Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance (she looked at me as though I was insane, and suddenly held me in enormous respect). And it was interesting to know that even if you aren't eligible for the contribution-based Job Seeker's Allowance, you can still be registered unemployed for the purpose of receiving the National Insurance credits: a non-cash value of about £3 a week, and the unfathomable pleasure of knowing that you are upsetting the eight-year-old Labour Government's cynically manipulated employment statistics.

Yessirree, Britain's Social Welfare system is of greatest benefit to those who are already in the system, and playing it. I keep thinking of my next door neighbours, who although they were housed from the Homeless List in March, somehow keep a very nice 2003 Vauxhall hatchback, and never seem to do anything that looks like jobhunting or having a job. The moves against Benefit Fraud only target Jack-the-Lads who are in the Benefit system WHILE they supplement it with cash-in-hand work.

If you're an honest person experiencing mid-life employment difficulties, you're best off blowing all your savings on holidays, drugs, sports cars, champagne, and a wife who bears as many children as possible. Even then, it's unlikely that you'll do as well as my next door neighbours unless you have a Special Interest group whose umbrella covers you.

Rant, rant, rant! Most of the people who work in the Job Centre seem just as pissed off with the inequities of the system that they are forced to perpetuate. Down in East Ham, 50% of the applicants seem to barely speak English. They are incomprehensible, barely employable, but the officers have to process them with due diligence. It probably is a massive advantage to be non-English speaking in order to qualify for the Benefits system. Maybe the whole country should forget how to speak English so that they can be on a level playing field.

And what about jobhunting in the Internet age? It's more impersonal than in the factory nightmare days of the movie "Metropolis". The job adviser lady agreed it's more impersonal, and said that most people seem to just accept it as the way things are done, (or in the case of young people, how it was ALWAYS done). Is it any wonder that throughout history Christian churches have used teachings populated with Flocks of Sheep, Lambs, and Shepherds?

Sheep. One solitary species in the spectrum of the Animal Kingdom. Used to define the whole human race. And probably very deservedly.


pogo said...

Aren't we a clever species? We invent this ridiculous system called "work" and an equally ridiculous system called "unemployment". Neither are any fun, and ultimately only serve to perpetuate themselves. Yet we invented them. Supposedly for our benefit! Proof, if more were required, that humans are pointless :-)

Great blog, by the way!

loveandthecity said...

Click. Cogs turn.

Calling them inventions really buzzes my mind. They really are complete inventions, and "job" and "unemployment" both the words and the abstractions are only twentieth century.

Earning or gleaning "a crust of bread" seems far more honest.

It does make me wonder how I might be constraining myself to these two abstract conditions, just because they are the only ones emphasised in my time. The hippies rebelled against it, but before I knew them, and now they are gone and have left a vacuum.

I think "job" and "jobless" as two defining binary states are equated with "money" and "moneyless". For those of us who aren't running our own business.

The concept of a job may be the very one that inhibits the development of personal enterprise. As such, discarding the concept of a job is something I could do well to experiment with.

Somewhere I really need to spend more time