Shawerma Republic Society encourages the young to stay jobless

When Ceasefire columnist Ruqaya Izzidien started her job hunting upon graduation, she discovered some rather startling truths.

New in Ceasefire, Shawerma Republic - Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 0:00 - 3 Comments

By Ruqaya Izzidien

Youth unemployment is at a record high, but government and private-sector actions indicate that this is the desired outcome

Tuition fees have been allowed to sextuple over the course of seven years and the Future Jobs Fund, which provides temporary employment to 18-24 year olds who are struggling to find work, has been scrapped. Yet when the number of unemployed adults under the age of 25 plummets to the lowest level since records began in 1992, we are supposed to act surprised.

Close to one million young adults are unemployed in Britain today, yet any of the approximately 5 million Britons under 25 years of age could have predicted this statistic.

Surviving on nine pounds a week

10% of students who graduated in 2009 were unable to secure employment in the six months that followed. I confess I fell into that bracket. Such was my embarrassment of having paid more than most MP’s claim in false expenses for my education, that I still remember the exact phraseology of that excruciatingly debasing survey from which this statistic resulted: ‘On January 10, I will be unemployed’. Box checked.

Still jobless, I signed up at my local job centre. Convincing myself that the money was worth the degradation and the incessant suggestions of becoming my brother’s personal housemaid, I swallowed my increasingly-deflated ego and signed on. I was persuaded that receiving jobseekers allowance would, at least, enable me to afford the train tickets to London for interviews.

Today, the only foundations graduates have to hold themselves up (as a degree appears to be about as persuasive as Monopoly money) is the experience they boast. So I set about establishing a portfolio of experience and I carried out some small, unpaid jobs for a newly-established organisation in the field that interested me.

Considering my actions mildly enterprising, I was sure that I was a model jobseeker, using industry experience to make myself as employable as possible.

Alas, no. Jobseekers are discouraged from gaining experience.

When the first notification of my Jobseekers Allowance landed on my doormat, I was sure they had got their sums wrong (maybe it was the intern?).

But not only does attempting to boost a CV with internships go unrewarded, it is actively discouraged. I had my Jobseekers Allowance docked for doing work experience.

I received £9.00 per week to survive on. The bus ticket to my job centre costs £4.00.

Exploitative internships

Many young people are unable to get the basic work experience they need to break into the professional world.

Since the onset of the financial crisis, companies have needed to cut back costs. One of the ways that this was achieved was by herding the desperate graduates and offering them ‘work experience’ in exchange for a meagre London Travelcard and perhaps some sustenance. If you are fortunate, this amounted to companies paying your expenses of “up to £15 per day.”

Such internships are valuable experiences, particularly if you are attempting to break into a highly competitive field, but they are utterly unrealistic and exploitative for the majority of students, who don’t happen to live in London, where many of the largest companies, charities and firms are located.

Although these measures are, no doubt, cost-effective they are sly, underhanded and bordering on the realms of slavery.

As a fresh-faced graduate, I considered whether or not I would be able to brave the harshness of the capital city, in exchange for some much sought-after bonded-work experience. It turns out £15 a day won’t get you very far. There were even numerous advertisements that required the intern to be able to commit to a minimum of three months.

That is not “work experience”; that, folks, is called a “job”.

You could argue that these tactics worked in the end, but I doubt the purpose of job centres is to promote Darwinist theories, even if they are alarmingly representative of surviving the world of work. Now I am blissfully employed, but nearly a quarter of my pay is siphoned off and I’m not entirely sure it is ending up anywhere other than duck ponds and bogus train tickets.

I suppose taxes, in theory, are honourable in their own way, existing to support members of society in their most vulnerable moments.

Thank you very much for my £5.00.

Ruqaya Izzidien is a writer, cartoonist and a spoken word artist. Her column, ‘Shawerma Republic’ appears every other week.

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Society encourages the young to stay jobless | Shawerma Republic
Mar 14, 2011 15:11

[…] week in my column for Ceasefire Magazine I recall my embarrasing and frustrating crusade for a job when I graduated nearly two years ago. It […]

Sam
Mar 14, 2011 23:06

I was recently debating the issue of tuition fees with a Loughborough university lecturer, he accused me of having capitalist views, and I accused him of being a socialist, but a few of the points we touched on are relevant here.

1) Pay peanuts, get monkeys
I work for one of the biggest campus recruiters, and am involved in some aspects of recruitment. We held the number of graduate positions available throughout 2008 and 2009 and have increased them in 2010 and 2011. Unlike other recruiters, we do not believe in “work experience”. The reason is the same as the driver for the British military dropping conscription in 1919; there’s no room for monkeys in a properly managed company. We did however increase the number of gap year interns, this allows students to earn a modest salary (12-18k) before they have actually graduated.

2) The Economy is in a hole
The UK national debt is £900Bn and is set to rise to £1.2Trillion by 2012 which equates to about £20k per person in the UK (including children). Its unfortunate, but this is a problem we have inherited from our parents generation. Every man, woman and child MUST chip in, work hard, make sacrifices and take some of this burden if we are to find a solution. The “not me guv” mentality wont do. The alternative, is that UK government bonds get downgraded, and we end up in a downward spiral which results in the government going bust (think Greece)

3) Beggars can’t be choosers
The sheer quantity of graduates on the market at the moment means that it is increasingly unlikely to find an “ideal” job. When I graduated, I was more interested in getting “a job” than “the job”. I graduated in July 2006, and started working in September 2006. I’ve seen an increase in the number of university graduates recently who are happy to sit at home, adding to the national debt, because the only job they can find is “too far from home”, “in the wrong industry” or “doesn’t pay enough”. I’m certain that if the comfort factor of living rent free at home was removed, these same graduates would walk to London to find employment.

4) Spread your search –
We have an influx of Europeans (Polish, Romanians etc) who are more than happy to work as builders, plumbers, and a host of other lower paid roles. I can’t help but think that if all unemployed graduates where willing to take up any employment, that this would not exist, and a large chunk of the national deficit would be removed. It’s also worth looking further afield. Just as Europeans are able to work in the UK, British nationals are able to work elsewhere in Europe, as well as further afield. The salaries may not always be as good, but the international experience you will gain is guaranteed to differentiate your CV from others.

So I may have some capitalist traits, but one thing is for sure, graduates who can keep their chin up, go the extra mile, and do absolutely anything to start making money are guaranteed to land their dream job…eventually.

Andy
Apr 7, 2012 4:56

Sam, nice little pack of neoliberal myths you have there.

1) There’s a lot of badly managed companies, then. But we already know that.

2) It’s not out fault, why should we pay for it? That debt was run up from the 1980s onwards, to pay pump-priming to attract capital, provide a social basis for Thatcherism, and finance wars and repression. Tax the rich. Better yet, renege like Argentina – they’ve never looked back. In any case, the British government has done nothing but ignore me, take away my rights, and spend money on things I loathe for my entire lifetime. I feel not the slightest obligation towards it, or its debts. Let’s start worrying about things which really matter instead, such as the millions of children dying of curable diseases, or the fact that the ecosystem will collapse in 50 years’ time.

3) You obviously don’t have a disability or a mental health problem. It’s just not possible for all of us to take whatever is available. And having your needs met is not a “comfort factor”, it’s a human right. Economic coercion is no different from holding a gun to someone’s head. Also, if there’s a duty to work, there’s a right to work. No right, no duty. End of story.

4) Nonsense. Firstly, we lose whatever benefits we get here, by moving abroad. Secondly, most of the jobs you’re on about pay below reproduction-cost rates in the UK, which is why people from lower-reproduction-cost countries are doing them. In short, Poles are doing those jobs because their families can buy stuff cheaper in Poland.

5) Your conclusion is not “for sure”, especially since you have only wishful thinking and personal anecdotes to back it up, not peer-reviewed research. The statistics stay otherwise, many people end up unemployed or in dead-end jobs forever – it must be nice fooling yourself that this is because they didn’t try hard enough, when all the verifiable evidence says it’s for reasons such as class, race and economic structure.

In any case, I don’t have a “dream job” to aim for, because I’ve abandoned the fantasy of “succeeding” in the pointless capitalist rat-race, which for me, is neither a valid goal nor a worthwhile life.

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