Monday, February 22, 2010

aging system fails to keep up with new economic reality

it's a very interesting experience, this being unemployed and encountering the social welfare system to which i've paid so dearly for so many years, both through my (rather alarmingly high) taxes and through an extra unemployment insurance called an A-kasse, through my union. although a job is on my immediate horizon, it won't start 'til april, so i need to enter the "dagpenge" or "day-money" system for a month. and in fact, having paid into the system for so long, i actually want to try it out, to see how it works.  it is an interesting, frustrating and yes, even infuriating experience. and a huge eye-opener into a system that has not kept up with the reality of those facing unemployment today.

in many ways, i think it's fair enough for there to be some oversight and monitoring of people who are, as the brits put it, on the dole. so a certain amount of paperwork is fair enough. it's also fair enough that you have to be actively seeking employment so that you can rejoin the ranks of taxpayer and not payee (tho' interestingly, you ARE taxed on the money you get from the government - that's a whole 'nother issue that i won't go into at the moment).

the first thing you are asked to do is enter your "CV" into an old-fashioned and cumbersome online system called the jobnet. i am, as you know, quite good at things internet and it still took me the better part of an hour to do this. there is one point where you should give a written description of your work life thus far and the skills and talents you have to offer to an employer. sort of like you do at the top of a normal CV - a profile of yourself. however, it is limited to 250 characters, so it's kind of like the twitter version of who you are and what you want. i found this quite limiting, i must say.

at the end, after you have entered all of this, the system helpfully suggests some jobs to you that are found in its database. for me, the system admitted that it didn't have anything that matched my profile, but suggested that i have a look at several jobs that were marked as "hot" with a little red chili pepper symbol. the "hot" jobs the system suggested i apply for included: telemarketer for a mobile phone company, helper in a nursing home and yes, you guessed it, cleaning staff in a hotel. at this point, i said, aloud, WTF?

apparently the system, which forces you to spend the best part of an hour entering a whole lot of information about your work experience and education, but will not allow you to actually upload your real CV, doesn't actually know what masters degrees and ph.d. programs and fulbright scholarships and elite american universities really are. is it really relevant for me to enter my real and true information into this system that is so clearly targeted at someone on a totally different plane(t) than i am?

i realize that this sounds rather arrogant and in a way, i don't mean it to, but in a way, i do. seriously? this system was clearly developed when denmark's unemployment was for all intents and purposes nul. so anyone who was on the job market was looking for telemarketing or a cleaning job. but now, the reality is something quite different--there is a job market full of highly-educated people with extensive work experience on the market. and the system hasn't changed to reflect this.

next week, i actually must attend a two-day course which will help me determine my "competence" and then write a CV. hello, people. i could TEACH that course. without preparing in advance.

i also have to log into this ridiculous jobnet on a weekly basis and apply for two jobs. two jobs that are apparently listed there in the jobnet. so they are actually FORCING me to apply for telemarketing and cleaning jobs in order to get grocery money for one month. it makes no difference whatsoever that i have a job lined up, nor does it matter that i've paid into the unemployment insurance scheme for ten years. if i want that one month of assistance, i have to jump their hoops, because they have made the hoops the same for all.

although it gave me a serious headache mid-afternoon when i was knee-deep in all of it, i am now more relaxed and ready to take it as the sociological experiment that it is for me. a test of the system, if you will. and i'm going to do quite a lot of writing (in my journal, don't worry, i won't subject you all to all of it) about the psychological effects of such a system. i have to admit that it already feels quite defeating and psychologically damaging to enter my experience and education and have the system suggest to me that i become a telemarketer. the implications on job seekers and society at large are potentially devastating.

i'll bet this isn't the only example of a system that's broken in the face of the new economic reality.


MissBuckle said...

Yay for the job. Ready to spill yet?

I was in the system for a while when I only could get half a positiion as a journalist. It was just enough work so that the dole-office couldn't help me at all. If i was an idiot and not employed at all they would pay me more that I would have earned in a full time position at the paper.Yay for socialism.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

I wish you the best of luck with your new job!

The unemployment is real bad in South Carolina (3rd or 4th highest in the US)--some people are not getting paid and now some in the State House are wanting people to be tested for drugs before they get unemployment.

I do agree with you last sentence--it fits SC very well.

Marilynne said...

It's the same here - in California, USA. Once I quit work, took a long vacation, then went to the employment office looking for work. I qualified for a two-week waiting period, and a small amount of money. During the second week, one of my own contacts called me about work and on Monday I was gainfully employed. However, the Unemployment Office told me they thought I wasn't looking for work, and denied my claim.

I appealed. When I came in I had my pay stub for the week in question. I told the judge I was not only looking for work, I'd found it - myself.

It was rather satisfying to see their faces. I told her I made more in one day than they were offering to pay in a week. I had no incentive to not look for work.

Lisa-Marie said...

The interweb system here is much the same, you fill in a for for jobseekers' direct, which goes Via the jobcentre. We have the same problem, in that the stereotype of 'person on the dole' hasn't evolved to include people with highly developed skills.

Whilst it's true here than the majority of people who 'sign on' are people who are the2nd or third generation of families who were affected but the UK manufacturing industry's collapse in the early 80's, about 20% of people seeking work are highly skilled.

My experience when I was made redundant was that they wanted to focus on the service industry things I've done (cleaning, carte, shopwork), but had no interest in the skills i've developed - sewing and pattern cutting, and education and development. It is quite, quite frustrating when you know what you are capable of.

Vancouver's Enviro Girl said...

I know how you feel, it is mostly the same here for EI (they call it Employment Insurance instead of Un-employment Insurance, because that is supposed to make us feel better. Truly.) They think we all fit into some neat little box and laeve very little room for people who have varied and extensive work/education histories. I had to spend two hours of my life at the local office learning how to use the web to find a job. Seriously?

Suecae Sounds said...

This could be Sweden. Only Sweden's welfare system has been hit harder (from what I've gather) the last few years.

I may misinterpret the statement made by MissBuckle, but I do not think the problem lies in the idea of an extensive and well functioning welfare / or socialism. Rather the implementation and disciplinary efforts to keep 'people in line' and 'at the jobmarkets disposal'.

Kuka said...

wow - this sounds a lot like the system we have in Australia! When I was studying and mistakenly put on a job seeker program instead of a student allowance program I had to apply for 2 jobs a week - which I obviouslt couldn't have taken anyway on account of my full time study!
By the end of the year I was applying for whatever gave me a laugh filling in the forms - like "chicken boner" and driver for the chinese embassy

Bee said...

Without words. Maybe two: Wow. Ugh.

Erin Wallace said...

I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this. Ive been there (am there) too, and I have to tell you, it is incredibly frustrating to have to attend classes on how to write a resume when you learned how to do that in high school, long before you graduated with your PhD. And searching and searching for a job, only to find that only "phone entertainment" and cleaning positions are open, and when you actually apply, you are told that you are over-qualified. But if you don't apply for your job, you lose your unemployment benefits. Bah. No more complaining. Just that I feel you, I really really do.