Monday, September 30, 2013

Useless toil

It's party conference time when amidst all the bluster and the carefully orchestrated comments, the seasonal cry of help for small businesses and cutting red tape is heard. Well I can suggest one way of helping them would be by stopping the harassment of the unemployed. Let me explain.

I was talking to a friend who works in a small firm. They may need to take on a new member of staff in a fairly junior position. My friend was in despair. By advertising in the job centre the firm will get hundreds of applications, hardly any of them suitable or meeting the criteria for the post. It takes hours and hours to sort through them, time they could do without wasting. The reason for this is that claimants have to hit their targets for job search activities and so apply for everything going, especially at times like this when employment is scarce.

This is a brilliant example of the dysfunctions of bureaucracy. To prove that claimants are morally worthy to receive the benefits that they, in most cases, have already paid for out of their taxation, they have to meet a target that satisfies bureaucratic bean counters. The result is that they engage in a totally useless and meaningless activity, applying for multiple jobs regardless of criteria. But amongst the chorus of sternly paternal state guidance, nobody seems to think of what happens at the other end, to the poor employers who have to wade through mountains of unsuitable applications.

And this applies throughout the system. The focus is on the claimant, satisfying the Daily Mail that undeserving scroungers can be forced to become the deserving poor through forced labour. But what about those organisations that are supposed to take them on? There has already been a few scandals and very bad publicity for some supermarkets who used unpaid claimants to stack shelves as part of the Work Programme. I'm not sure they would be too keen this time round.

I am all for actively helping people, but this means individual support, personal guidance and helping them get suitable employment or education and training for a change of direction. This is good for both sides. Instead, there is a political race as to who can best reflect the unforgiving attitudes towards the poor that they themselves have helped produce. It results in a colossal waste of time for everybody. Someone please save us from poorly researched populism.

1 comment:

looby said...

ANd you can be "sanctioned" -- i.e., plunged into utter penury, if you don't apply for jobs for which you are incapable of doing. If the system weren't so sinister and punitive, one would call it a farce.