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Don’t Shout at the Telly: Unemployment


On this month’s Don’t Shout, volunteers put unemployment back on the agenda.  Despite UK unemployment rising above 2.5 million why have there been no mass protests or marches for jobs?  Should we accept unemployment as a fact of life or demand more jobs for all?  Are benefits making us lazy? In this contentious on the sofa discussion, unemployed volunteers discuss their concerns with Angus Kennedy who argues that the focus on youth is itself a problem and dependency on the state can make us sick.

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Related topics: Debates, Economy, Social Change

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Kelly Armitage said:

Useful points made by guy below but I think university and many rubbish courses has been used to mask unemployment because governments have failed to address economic failure. I don’t think its a question of too many people studying to be architects which are not needed and not enough builders, rather we should have a less instrumentalist view of education, why not study architecture regardless of what jobs society needs doing, study architecture then open a restaurant? University has never prepared people for the world of work, the world of work has.

Joe said:

3 points:

Firstly the reason why nobody is hitting the streets to protest about the lack of jobs is because the tendency in today’s postmodern, individualised society is to experience things like lack of employment passively as a personal and uninfluencable misfortune rather than a broader social problem. If someone says they’re signing on because they can’t find a job anywhere, the standard response is to say “Oh what bad luck” and if you want to help that person you’ll typically ask things like “Have you set out your CV properly?” or “Are you putting across your key skills effectively enough in interview?” rather than “Why the f**k aren’t there any jobs out there? Who is to blame for this??”

Secondly, if you create a favourable economic climate you won’t need to worry about making sure young people have enough skills to compete on the job market because there will be so many employers desperate to fill their vacant positions that they will pay the costs of training up new employees themselves. Government-run apprenticeship schemes and such like are a waste of time because they are approaching the problem from completely the wrong angle. Better by far to work on revamping the economy than on revamping the workforce.

Finally, though, on the subject of training and education: the current trend to push everyone through university (thanks to Blair et al) means that a whole generation is growing up under the delusion that they can all be graphic designers, journalists, lawyers, TV producers etc. If you talk to a recent graduate and ask what they’re up to, the answer is often either “I’m unemployed” or “I’m temping”, and the tone of the response generally implies that both are as bad as each other, because said graduate is actually trying to get a job in a literary publishers or some such and the temping is therefore beneath them. The brutal truth is that society does not need many literary publishers, and that a large percentage of graduates looking for jobs in that field are on a hiding to nothing. 40 years ago only around 10% of people went through university, so there were enough “graduate-level” jobs to go round. This is no longer the case, but society nonetheless expects graduates to attain “worthy” employment, and considers those who do not get appropriate jobs to be failures. We need to recognise that the economy requires only certain numbers or people with certain skills and that it makes no sense to churn out armies of deluded media graduates who all expect to fall into jobs in what is in fact a fairly elite occupation.

Having said that, education is a good in and of itself, and needs to be defended as such. We just need to simultaneously recognise that a building project (for example) might require 50 builders but only one architect. We can’t all be the architect, but there is no shame whatsoever in being the builder. There is a tendency to define people (in terms of character, social standing, values etc) by the work that they do, whereas in reality all you should be able to tell about someone from their job is that they need to earn money.

Carol said:

Just because someone is on benefits, doesn’t make them lazy. Its hard work trying to survive on the pittance that is called ‘benefits’. The youngsters that are leaving university with good grades are struggling to get even menial work.Older people are too old. So, who are getting the few jobs that are out there?

The government need to pull their fingers out and help this country get back on their feet and put the Great back into Britain!

Sarah kelly said:

I don’t think benefits make people lazy except on benefits you have so little money you can’t afford to do much. I think the really interesting point here made by the main speaker is that young people have been made THE problem yet they are the most resiliant section of society. I do think young people have taken this on board and see themselves as victims in need of help instead of people well placed to demand change who refuse to accept the rubbish on offer.

Demi said:

To be honest I do think benefits make people more lazy because at the back of their minds they know even if they do not have no jobs, they have something to rely on therefore do not try as hard. If you did not have that support, there will be more determination to do well. However as said in the video, some people have no choice but to be unemployed and be on benefits because of their health or just because they have a family to juggle and find it difficult to blanace both.

Although with the new Conservative governement and the welfare cuts, I wonder how this will affect the unemployment.