by Eleanor Palimore, special to The Daily Damn
Being young and unemployed is difficult, in today’s Britain. ‘Young people’ are still invariably feared and resented, and suspected of all sorts of heinous things. Many of the young unemployed feel that they’ll be judged solely on their age, and the general views that adults have towards young people, and are discouraged by the thought that they won’t even be given a chance. Our relative inexperience doesn’t exactly recommend us to employers, and often our skills aren’t quite enough to give us an advantage over other applicants, many of whom will be older, having had more time to gain qualifications and valuable life experience.
For the fresh-out-of-college, such as my cousin, and for those, like my sister and I, who have been working for several years, it can seem equally impossible to find work. Those who have never worked before are rejected for lack of experience in the job role. Those who have just left college with a specific qualification are often forced to apply for jobs at supermarkets and cafes, and are subsequently told that they’re over-qualified. Those who have worked, but haven’t gained any official training, are rejected on the grounds that they don’t have the necessary qualifications, regardless of whether or not they have the practical skills the job requires. And for those who have no training and no experience, those who apply for menial jobs, are applying for a job that will likely have attracted 50 or more other job applicants. Against those odds, it can feel redundant and useless to even apply. Why bother sending in a Curriculum Vitae (résumé), wasting money on stamps or taking the time to phone, when you know at least the 50 or more other people are doing exactly the same thing, and that you’re just one of the many? What hope do you have of being the applicant hired?
There are many of us on JSA (Job Seekers’ Allowance), which pays the recipient £50 per week. The government considers it ‘just enough to live on’, and some of the conditions for receiving it are fortnightly JobCentre appointments, regular job searching, and a sincere effort to improve your desirability to employers. If you’re fortunate enough to only be on JSA for two weeks, or even two months, that money is a welcome stop-gap while you’re searching for the right job. If, however, you’ve been on JSA for the better part of a year, looking for work constantly in that time, receiving rejection letter after rejection letter (if they bother to reply at all), the money isn’t so great a consolation. The JSA isn’t enough to live on in the long term. It barely covers the essentials; even if you live at home, as I do, and have many things provided for you, you can’t do much with £50 a week. It gets harder and harder to maintain enthusiasm and energy for job-hunting, especially when all you expect is rejections.
Of course, the alternative – NOT receiving that £50 per week – is worse. But I know quite a few young people who aren’t on JSA, because they simply can’t stand the way they’re treated. There’s an implication that if you’re still unemployed after a year, as I am, that it’s you that’s doing something wrong, that clearly you’re not making enough of an effort to find work. We’re often regarded as ‘scroungers’, and many assume that we’re deliberately avoiding working because it’s more convenient to stay on benefits. This may be true in some cases, but the majority of the unemployed are fed-up, dejected and embarrassed by their situation. I know I would gladly trade the £50 per week for a 9-5 job that meant I wasn’t totally dependent on the government – and my parents.
And that’s my giving a damn.
Trudging her way through England’s waning middle class, Eleanor is student majoring in history and English. She absorbs popular culture by reading, relaxing in front of the television, and volunteering for a burgeoning youth music project in her hometown. When a break in reality is required, you can find her on Vampire-Diaries.net, where she serves as a stellar moderator.