Thursday, 16 August 2012

Nation of Brats

New graduates are facing higher hurdles and smaller hoops than ever before, with new "tricky" recruitment practices and employers filtering their candidates by arbitrary means. From application forms requesting the applicant to use green ink and ignoring all who don't, to companies ignoring any C.V written using Times New Roman (strictly off the record of course).

While graduates are facing an unemployment rate of around 16% - 19%, more are settling on a lower skilled job (source: ONS via The Guardian) and jobs that pay less than they would have preferred. Furthermore, according to HR Magazine  more than a third of UK graduates who have searched for a job for over 6 months are now claiming Job Seekers Allowance.

But during a time where our country is struggling economically, is our "nanny state" government's attitude towards people who claim benefits too soft?

The Job Seekers Allowance, aka The Dole has a mixed reputation.

While I like to think I'm somewhere in the middle, I do think that too many people in England feel like the world, or at the very least, the government, owe them a higher standard of living. New Zealand judge John Tapene summed it up beautifully:

"Always we hear the cry from teenagers 'What can we do, where can we go?'
... My answer is, "Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you've finished, read a book."

"Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty or sick and lonely again."

"In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you..."

Claiming benefits is a privilege that only those who really need it should be able to do. Our government provides a fantastic service to those who are willing to help themselves.
The unemployed do not need to be mollycoddled, and believe me, they are. This image is taken straight from the JSA website:

With rent being as high as it is these days, many unemployed fresh graduates will have no choice but to live at home. £56.25 a week is not bad pocket money. 
There are further seperate benefits for things such as rent and dependents. The government provides travel reimbursement for interviews, there's help with starting costs such as any special clothing required for the job, and they will even help with things such as rent or mortgage repayments during the first month of employment to tie you over until pay day. Pretty much all the financial bases are covered.

Part of the JSA process when you're over 25 is that you have to attend a mandatory group session where a lady will tell you not to undersell yourself, to use more "I" on your CV and not to worry. It's not your fault, it's just tough. You are there to learn about all the different ways the government can help you. No pressure to look for a job (you only need to show that you've applied for looked at 3 jobs a week), they don't shame you for being unemployed. You are just a poor unfortunate soul.

Are you though? Is everyone who's claiming JSA like some fresh graduates, who have spent the last few months looking for a job only to be still unemployed 6 months down the line? Or is our unemployment sofa, with the government cup of tea just a little bit too comfortable?

Most people are actually embarrassed to be in a situation where they need to claim benefits. And it should be that way. Most of us are proud to be hard working, contributing members of society and that's the image that the government should be promoting. Benefits should not been seen as the easy thing to do, and definitely not encouraged.
"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."
 - Benjamin Franklin

Our unemployed don't need excuses, let alone excuses made for them. They are not sick children, they don't need baby talk and a teddy bear.
They should be treated as responsible people and the world expects them to contribute.  Motivate them and make them feel as John Tapene said: important and needed.

But there are still people in our country who think that the government doesn't give them enough.

While I was working at the Citizens Advice Bureau, I heard about phone calls from people who were angry about not having enough money, appealing for more benefits, and those people who had gotten themselves in a spot of bother by deals that were literally too good to be true.
You know those e-mails you get about how you've won a crazy amount of money, or from that guy in Nigeria who's minted but needs help transfering money? Well someone has to fall for it don't they? These are the people that call us.
Yet the government provide legal advice and a lawyer if neccessary.

I also worked in a government organisation that provides business advice. This includes seminars to help people start up their own business and personal advisors. It's a brilliant organisation with a vast source of information and resources. The minimum requirement was that people have some sort of business plan. From there, the advisors could suggest ways to improve it, recommend a specialised seminar, often with guest speakers who could provide further advice, and assist in securing funding from a bank.
What else could people want? A hand out apparently.
Pretty much every hour there would be someone calling up saying they had some sort of business idea, (usually selling things online) and needed £xxxx to set it up. No business plan, no further thought than how much money they need. When they are told that we provide assistance but no direct funding, they get angry and curse the government.

A Nanny State is a wonderful thing; we are looking after our needy and vulnerable. Helping those in desperate times. We can provide services such as healthcare and education to those who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford it. But every nanny, parent, guardian, should be wary of raising spoiled brats!  

No one is born with the right to welfare. There are many countries who don't have state funded health care or an extensive benefit system. There are also many who do, and arguably have a more efficient system than ours.
Places like Norway have one of the highest tax rates in the world, do they think that they deserve more from the government? Probably. We are human after all, but why aren't they having riots about it?
Why is their rate of unemployment still one of the lowest in the world at 3% (source: Google public data) when their highest tax bracket 48% and their VAT is 25%?
What about their unemployment benefit? Well, they get almost 88% of previous income earned (source: Forbes 2008)
That unemployment sofa looks even more comfortable there, doesn't it?
So why, do the Norwegians have a reputation for happily paying their taxes?

Maybe they just have a better attitude than us. Maybe their government isn't pandering to those who are down, rewarding them consistently for "bad behaviour".

Sometimes, some people need help. They need motivation, not justification. People throwing a temper tantrums when they can't have their own way is symtomatic of a system that is obviously spoiling us.

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