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.