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Occupy England
November 17, 2011 1:44 AM   Subscribe

"Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: 'I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that's what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.'" -- The Guardian on Britain's "Work Experience Programme," which provides thousands of free man-hours to some of the country's largest and most profitable private companies
posted by bardic (69 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Free chai-wallahs for everyone! At least they aren't paying for the privilege, as some American jobseekers are finding.
posted by jellywerker at 1:52 AM on November 17, 2011


No unemployment benefits unless you work for free sounds like some kind of government shaming or punishment scheme for young people on the dole, with the side effect of subsidizing businesses that don't need subsidizing. I'm sure this made sense in some well intentioned bureaucrat's mind at some time or another.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:03 AM on November 17, 2011


Why would Tesco hire workers, if the government provides them for free?
posted by Malor at 2:10 AM on November 17, 2011 [22 favorites]


The post touches on the forced-labour aspect of the programme, which I will agree is rather odious. However, from a public policy viewpoint I would argue that it's even worse than that. Because unemployment benefits are tied to the unpaid work, it's simultaneously both an run-around of minimum wage laws, and the payment of private employees' salaries directly from tax revenues.

The taxpayer is taking it from both ends. There's the race to the bottom that the minimum wage is supposed to prevent, and it's costing the government money to do it.
posted by cotterpin at 2:11 AM on November 17, 2011 [49 favorites]


Unpaid, forced labour, eh? One could be forgiven for thinking that this might make some people quite upset.
posted by robself at 2:17 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know I should be bone-grindingly cynical about the collusion between government and big business to exploit the populace, but no matter what happens, I'm still fucking outraged
posted by criticalbill at 2:18 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know what else is absurd about this? A 2 month trial period to tell if you can do the work at Tesco.
posted by cotterpin at 2:22 AM on November 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm sure this made sense in some well intentioned bureaucrat's mind at some time or another.


I'm not entirely sure those intentions were exactly "well."
posted by louche mustachio at 2:23 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, say what you like about workhouses, but if properly run they can significantly reduce the burden on the parish and its ratepayers.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:28 AM on November 17, 2011 [15 favorites]


Well, say what you like about workhouses, but if properly run they can significantly reduce the burden on the parish and its ratepayers.

Impressively, this scheme does not actually do that. It isn't even employers with an elastic demand for labour; you only need as many shelf stackers and till people as you need to man the store, and each person who is there for no wages pretty much displaces a minimum wage person. This is appalling for taxpayers. Workhouses produced product and the taxpayer was paid for that with provision of room and board. In this scheme the workhouse still exists and the taxpayer still pays for room, board and food.

There's one main benefit and one only; I believe that people 'in an apprenticeship' count both as not-unemployed and in training, thus improving both statistics and covering up the impact of cutting back investment in real subsidies for education and worthwhile HNDs, NVQ provision, and the true rate of youth unemployment. All that was required was a slave class who must either work for £60 a week or have no benefits and literally be unable to eat without family/charity support or petty crime. So that's OK.

TL;DR: 6 months down the line the Chancellor will proudly say unemployment headline figures have flatlined/risen with the more optimistic forecasts.
posted by jaduncan at 2:42 AM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'll bet there's a revolving door policy and few of these trainees actually get hired. Profoundly cynical exploitation of those who need a job.
posted by arcticseal at 2:54 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


It just sounds so American in its utter contempt of and cynicism towards the unemployed.

I'm surprised the British government figured out a scheme like this before the US did.
posted by bardic at 2:57 AM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


So you work as unpaid labour for months, under threat of having your already meagre meagre benefits stopped and at the end you might just get an offer for a job? It's like The Apprentice only with a shelves stacking job at the end of it, with a cool four figure salary...
posted by MartinWisse at 3:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


It just sounds so American in its utter contempt of and cynicism towards the unemployed.

Hey now. Contempt of the working class is a British thing. Corporate welfare, on the other hand, is a proud American invention which is why it is so sad to see so much innovation in this space coming from Britain. Obama is obviously to blame. American lobbyists are just gonna have to lobby that much harder if America is going to retain its leadership.
posted by three blind mice at 3:04 AM on November 17, 2011


This is a vile and cowardly move and I'm glad it's getting the negative press it deserves.

For comparison's sake: I was part of a JSA apprenticeship scheme (the Future Jobs Fund - which, despite many successes, was axed shortly after I finished) last year after 9 months of unemployment post-university. For six months I had a full-time fully paid job, as well as training and a work-based qualification, without which I could not have successfully applied for my current position. I know I was extrodinarily lucky, and it sickens me to watch my generation thrown under the bus for the sake of topping up a few statistics.
posted by fight or flight at 3:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


It sounds like anybody who goes to a "retail jobs day" organised by the dole is sent on to this scheme, and when you're signing on, they make it seem like you have to go to the jobs days.

There seems to be no limit to the foolishness and self-deluding nature of the current UK administration.
posted by The River Ivel at 3:18 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Retail Service as peacetime conscription was formalised by the Retail Service Act 2012. From 1 January 2013, healthy youths 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in one of the big 4 supermarket chains for 18 months, and remain on the reserve list for four years. They could be recalled to their stores for up to 20 days for no more than three occasions during these four years. Youngsters were exempt from Retail Service if they worked in one of the three "essential services": fast food, call centres or the military for a period of eight years. If they quit early, they were subject to be called up. Provision was made for conscientious objectors, who were required to justify their position to a tribunal.
posted by misteraitch at 3:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [22 favorites]


I'm surprised the British government figured out a scheme like this before the US did.

Never underestimate the Tories.
posted by carter at 3:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, in comparison to the Future Jobs Fund that fight or flight describes above, this is a steaming piece of crap. The games company I run used the FJF to take on someone who'd gotten stellar grades in a humanities degree from a top university but just couldn't find any work (not even at basic service jobs, because he was overqualified).

Unlike the usual Tory guff, he wasn't lazy, he wasn't too proud to take a 'tough' job, he was just unlucky because there are very few jobs at all for new graduates these days. Anyway, the FJF helped us afford to take him on and train him up, and now he's a full-time employee who could probably get a great job in the games industry now. Of course, the FJF has now gone and we've had to turn away a few very promising grads who, I'm afraid, will not find any long-term work at all now.

If I had to criticise the FJF, it would be that there was a mismatch between the funds and the companies/jobs available; I believe that the organisations administering the FJF had a hard time finding enough good companies for the spaces they had and as a result, I wouldn't be surprised if quality suffered. Obviously I don't think this is an insurmountable problem though.

I have to admit that I was surprised at quite how bad the situation is for young people. I'm only 29 myself but I've always mixed with people older than myself, so when I chatted to recent grads I was taken aback by the number of unfortunate unemployed - and critically, underemployed - people out there. There's a whole mess of issues all tangled up with this - some to do with the pitiful lack of preparation many grads have for entering the working world, some with the sheer waste of time the whole benefits process places on people, and of course, a lot to do with the fundamental issues discussed in the *other* thread about how Britain is losing manufacturing jobs.

I feel like there are two fundamental shifts going on - one where technology is eliminating jobs, and another where globalisation is drawing jobs out of the western world. It's hardly surprising this is affecting young people more than anyone else, but simply getting them to work as indentured citizens is not going to help anyone in the long term.
posted by adrianhon at 3:39 AM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is disgusting. Fucking Tories.
posted by jiroczech at 4:06 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


And meanwhile, us lot still in paid work are losing people and having to do more and more with less and less, and everyone's suffering. One media team I know is supposed to be twelve people strong, and the whole business case for what it does rather depends on having those twelve people. It's down to nine now and guess what - it's not working so well.

That team would take on two fresh grads like a shot, and it's not like the job's stacking shelves. But there's no money. They have used interns, but that's pretty poor for lots of reasons (before you get into the ethics of only having interns who can afford to work for nothing, which is not congruent with the set of people who should be doing the work).

I guess they could ask their CEO, one of the highest paid such on the planet, whether some of that extremely robust remuneration could be used to set up a decent apprenticeship scheme, but apparently that is also not congruent with desired reality. (That the company does see fit to spend lots of money telling its customers they're evil thieves who deny hard-working people employment is perhaps best not dwelt on.)
posted by Devonian at 4:13 AM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's a post from DWP with celebrity endorsements here.

You could stop shopping at tesco, for one. And may as well kill that sky subscription at the same time. Hopefully someone with more time than me will make a list of participants to avoid.
posted by davemee at 4:23 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


It just sounds so American in its utter contempt of and cynicism towards the unemployed.

Nah. If it was an American plan, there would be background checks and drug screenings before being allowed to work for free.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 AM on November 17, 2011 [21 favorites]


I read about this yesterday. It's absolutely infuriating. My only advice to a young person who is stuck in one of these schemes is: steal anything that isn't nailed down. Sell drugs to your co-workers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:24 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


What really irritates me about this is how it's all for the benefit of large companies, which don't really need the help. I can see the twisted logic from the government: "Well, Tesco and Sky employ a lot of people, we'll be more effective if we work with them."

What goes unsaid is that even if politicians are good enough to put thoughts of future consultancies and board positions out of their minds, they're still bound to be more receptive to bigger companies because they're more visible - their CEOs and top staff move in the same circles and go to the same conferences as politicians, plus there's all the lobbying.

If I understand it correctly, it's classic regulatory capture and we're suffering because the interests of smaller companies and individuals don't have a loud enough voice or power. At least if this programme were to go ahead, we should try and provide help to smaller companies that could use the help and train people for jobs that aren't likely to be replaced by robots within the next 5-10 years. But of course, even better would be to scrap the whole thing and rethink education, training and employment in a slightly more humane manner.
posted by adrianhon at 4:29 AM on November 17, 2011


You know who else used unpaid forced labour? Hitler.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:53 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yet at the same the HMRC is cracking down on unpaid internships. So it worse than just government handled corporate slavery. It is monopolistic corporate slavery. Only the companies that please the government get the free labour.
posted by srboisvert at 5:13 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nah. If it was an American plan, there would be background checks and drug screenings before being allowed to work for free.

I am spending a month in Charlottesville, VA and where I live is right next to a Juvenile detention center. Strangely, every morning there is a parade of FedEx trucks along the street so I am guessing that in the US working for free for a corporation at least comes with free accommodation as well.
posted by srboisvert at 5:16 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Now, I do think calling it slavery is a bit hyperbolic.

It's indentured servitude.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:19 AM on November 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


I've seen pointed out elsewhere: there are signficicant public sector cuts as well - so why aren't we enslaving our young people in the public good? You know, if it's bad enough to stoop to slavery, why use those slaves to only benefit a few- oh, wait, yes, Tories. Every time I think I've reached the depths of contempt and loathing for them, they manage to dig a little deeper.
posted by Coobeastie at 5:20 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I can't wait until Andrew Sullivan tells us what an amazing, bold idea this is for England.
posted by bardic at 5:42 AM on November 17, 2011


I read this last night and I was so shocked that I thought about posting this to MetaFilter. What stopped me was I wasn't sure what The Guardian's believability factor was.

How in the hell did Tesco get this deal? Did no one think about the consequences on the competition if the government paid for the workforce of a superstore? If Tesco gets free labor, why not everyone? Better yet, why not set up real internships with the companies that the young jobseekers want to work for? I'm not sure what benefit the government sees in choosing where the jobseekers are forced to work.

I am sure that even now WalMart is slavering at the idea of getting free workers courtesy of the US government. Maybe they can round up OWS protesters and give them option of WalMart drudgery or prison.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:05 AM on November 17, 2011


I found this online; seems apropos. Alas it is from the nineteenth century.

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

posted by bukvich at 6:37 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I rather like how this author has framed it on his blog

Every time I get interviewed about Stealth of Nations and the global growth of System D, I get asked a variation of this question: "Aren't workers in the informal economy being exploited?
[...]

So you be the judge. Which is more exploitative: System D--which actually pays its employees--or this scheme cooked up by the government and some supremely profitable businesses--which doesn't?

posted by infini at 6:43 AM on November 17, 2011


Related: In the US, unpaid internships are supposed to be for work experience, and it's supposed to be illegal for companies to use interns for things like filing forms and running errands. Fox Searchlight is being sued by two guys who claimed their internships were simply unpaid labor.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:49 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mother works at a store with one of the people on this "scheme". Unfortunately for the store in question, they got a rum deal. Instead of picking up one of those newly–graduated young go–getters, they ended up with a useless jobshite of a woman who needs babysitting the whole time. Most employees don't like her, but not because she's stealing a paid job, but because she's wasting everybody's time looking after her.

Eat that Tesco!
posted by Jehan at 6:56 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and when my social policy lecturer stood at the front of the auditorium and loudly declared as his very first words in the very first lecture, "WE HAVE NOTHING POSITIVE TO LEARN FROM THE US REGARDING SOCIAL POLICY." I could hardly've known the length depth and breadth of his prescience, I'm sure.
posted by Jehan at 7:00 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone I know (for internet terms of "know") was trapped in one of these schemes earlier in the year. While on it she interviewed for a full-time position elsewhere, but was told by the Job Centre that they wouldn't release her from her contract to take up this position. She fought it and fought it but in the end she had to let it pass by and stay at the unpaid "job".

The Tories, and everyone who supports them in any way, are scum.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:56 AM on November 17, 2011 [20 favorites]


You know, I was just thinking about this post from last week, and the comparisons that were made between undocumented migrant labor in the US, and more expensive agricultural labor in Australia. Perhaps there should be a way that the English government could "transport" the jobless to Australia. There they could work in the fields, and pass the savings on to both Australian and English consumers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps there should be a way that the English government could "transport" the jobless to Australia.

Again, you mean?
posted by infini at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So does this sort of insanity only go on in the English-speaking world, or do I just only hear about it in the English-speaking world because almost all of what I read is in English?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2011


This is the sort of thing that goes on where there's no union. It's not just the unpaid intern that's being harmed here, the other workers are having their labor devalued. You have no leverage at all if the guy next to you is doing your job for free.
posted by cotterpin at 8:15 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


bukvich, btw, your quote gave me a brilliant idea for a single-serving tumblr called modernconservativeorebenezerscrooge.com, which will mix quotes from modern conservatives and Ebenezer Scrooge, to hilariously depressing and indistinguishable results.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:29 AM on November 17, 2011 [12 favorites]


bukvich, btw, your quote gave me a brilliant idea for a single-serving tumblr called modernconservativeorebenezerscrooge.com, which will mix quotes from modern conservatives and Ebenezer Scrooge, to hilariously depressing and indistinguishable results.

I think you could probably expand that to "modernconservativeordickenscharacter," as there are plenty of others. Thomas Gradgrind and Josiah Bounderby come to mind immediately.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


So does this sort of insanity only go on in the English-speaking world, or do I just only hear about it in the English-speaking world because almost all of what I read is in English?

Oh no, the rest of the world is also quite busy following suit:

They also told of unpaid internships being offered to young jobseekers, including one from a luxury goods boutique looking for someone with knowledge of both English and Chinese.
posted by Skeptic at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2011


I look forward to the usual apologists for capitalism dropping by to explain why the only thing that's wrong with this scheme is that it doesn't force all workers to labor for free. These grotesque guttersnipes are getting free access to company vending machines, for god's sake! They are allowed to relieve their bowels in a company-provided restroom on company time and they are not even being charged a single penny for the privilege. What more do the filthy laboring classes want? If they want money, they should try making some of their own.
posted by scody at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they want money, they should try making some of their own.

Does the rate of counterfeiting go up in recessions?
posted by madcaptenor at 9:06 AM on November 17, 2011


Someone I know (for internet terms of "know") was trapped in one of these schemes earlier in the year. While on it she interviewed for a full-time position elsewhere, but was told by the Job Centre that they wouldn't release her from her contract to take up this position. She fought it and fought it but in the end she had to let it pass by and stay at the unpaid "job".

I don't understand this at all. I thought that the people stuck in these schemes had to stay "volunteering" to stock groceries and the like because otherwise they didn't get their unemployment benefits. If she had a new job, why did she have to stay?
posted by jeather at 9:20 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because if she went off to a paid job, Tesco wouldn't have been able to benefit from her free labour.
posted by tel3path at 9:22 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Work experience will give young people a real taste of the work environment and act as a stepping stone into a career."

You know what else is absurd about this? A 2 month trial period to tell if you can do the work at Tesco.

posted by cotterpin


This is what I find so infuriating about programs like these (and unpaid internships)- the race to the bottom to not pay for or provide any kind of training at meaningful jobs at all. Someone with a BSc in geoscience doesn't need a leg up in becoming a retail worker. She needs a leg up in working in a field related to geoscience. Somehow being a recent college graduate has become a disadvantage to being hired because college graduates "have no work experience." Of course not! What they do have is masses of potential, but employers are completely unwilling to take advantage of that.
posted by Polyhymnia at 9:30 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the painting of the officials who crafted this scheme as well-meaning fools. For the last 30 years both Labour and Tory governments, have had a systematic, highly-effective policy of reducing the working class to poverty.

Never attribute to stupidity that which is adequately explained by malice.
posted by clarknova at 9:30 AM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


This may be a bad program, but I don't understand calling it unpaid labor. They're being paid unemployment benefits. Instead of those benefits being entirely free, they now come with a price tag in labor. That's how normal employment works, too -- you get paid for doing work.
posted by shivohum at 10:04 AM on November 17, 2011


Normal employment pays you a minimum wage. You are also usually allowed to hand in your notice if you find another job that pays better.
posted by tel3path at 10:12 AM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


This may be a bad program, but I don't understand calling it unpaid labor. They're being paid unemployment benefits. Instead of those benefits being entirely free, they now come with a price tag in labor. That's how normal employment works, too -- you get paid for doing work.

Except one might point out that with normal employment, it's the employer who's paying the price for that labor, rather than the taxpayer.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 10:17 AM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Wait, we have this too in the U.S.--it's alive and well over here. Here is a mention on an NYC.gov page, and here is a highly informative PDF from the Public Benefits Resource Center. The U.S. version, however, is for welfare recipients, not unemployment recipients.

Welfare recipients do have the right to demand x many hours of education and training per week instead of WEP. But this is, surprise, not well understood and not encouraged.
posted by skbw at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because if she went off to a paid job, Tesco wouldn't have been able to benefit from her free labour.

Yes but what leverage would they have over her once she's got a real job offer? If she just stops showing up, what happens? They would stop paying benefits once she started a real job again, right? What else could they possibly do?
posted by RobotHero at 11:05 AM on November 17, 2011


This may be a bad program, but I don't understand calling it unpaid labor. They're being paid unemployment benefits. Instead of those benefits being entirely free, they now come with a price tag in labor. That's how normal employment works, too -- you get paid for doing work.

So it's a good thing we no longer have to pay unemployment taxes in our pay, then. (This appears to be a pre-employment benefit, though, not a post-employment. Still.)
posted by jeather at 11:11 AM on November 17, 2011


RobotHero: If you work few hours (fewer than 15 a week) you can get some supplementary benefit if your weekly income is less than the benefit. She could've found a (very) part-time job, which is generally a good way to put yourself on track to getting more hours, which would've still left her partially dependent on benefits.
posted by Dysk at 11:22 AM on November 17, 2011


...or, for that matter, a temporary job - you wouldn't take two weeks' work if you knew you couldn't go back on benefits at the end of it.
posted by Dysk at 11:23 AM on November 17, 2011


No matter how many manufacturing jobs leave, people from elsewhere in England still tell me that Birmingham is an "industrial city", so at least the imagined economy is doing alright.
posted by Winnemac at 12:12 PM on November 17, 2011


Unsurprisingly, the three worst affected places in the country are all in Birmingham.
posted by Dysk at 12:54 PM on November 17, 2011


This may be a bad program, but I don't understand calling it unpaid labor. They're being paid unemployment benefits. Instead of those benefits being entirely free, they now come with a price tag in labor. That's how normal employment works, too -- you get paid for doing work.

If you work 30 hours a week for £53 a week, that's £1.77 an hour pay. Translated into dollars that's $2.80, and less than half minimum wage for those over the age of 21. Not only are they not paid properly for the work they do, but they're potentially (depending of how good they are, which according to my earlier comment is not guaranteed) shoving another person out of a job.

Of course, the very fact that unemployment insurance is no longer a citizen's benefit is reason enough to be angry. Many people who are unemployed now are not at fault in terms of their willingness to work or acquire skills, rather the victims of a broken economy that has no use for their labor at a livable wage.
posted by Jehan at 12:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]


Given the option of working for a private corporation for nothing or starving, I'd choose the third option - and I don't blame anyone who does.
posted by Twang at 5:27 PM on November 17, 2011


Well, some straight-up anecdata that's interesting here. A Chinese colleague reports about her sister in China that the sister, in order to get unemployment benefits, is REQUIRED to take job training classes. So the sister, who is a banker or something like that, is taking cooking classes. While that's not exactly what the system was intended for, obviously, she says that she couldn't find an appropriate class in her field (say an MS in taxation or something like that). So in order to get benefits, she attends classes.

This bothers me a lot less because the unemployment program itself is NOT decreasing the demand for new employees (as with British WEP and US WEP). I think that education for jobseekers is a pretty decent use of the taxpayers' money.

Does anyone with Chinese connections know more about this program?
posted by skbw at 6:39 PM on November 17, 2011


The anecdotes in the article say that 'bob worked with 2 other unpaid laborers on the scheme at Tesco's, both of which were offered jobs at the end of the period'. I'd be a lot more prepared to have an opinion on this if we could see numbers on how many of them actually did get a job at the end. We also have quotes like "does nothing to break the cycle of unemployment and poverty" - really?

I mean, it sounds like a poorly run program, but not one that is intrinsically evil. Does it count as work experience? Then it's getting work experience for kids who may, as referenced upthread, have never had any, because it's very hard to find. You want intrinsically wrong - wtf 53 pounds a week benefits anyway? How are you supposed to live on that?
posted by jacalata at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2011


Someone I know (for internet terms of "know") was trapped in one of these schemes earlier in the year. While on it she interviewed for a full-time position elsewhere, but was told by the Job Centre that they wouldn't release her from her contract to take up this position. She fought it and fought it but in the end she had to let it pass by and stay at the unpaid "job".

I was unemployed in 2008. After a month or so of signing on and being asked if I knew how to apply for jobs (I had been working for some years at this point) and being told I should apply to work at an Urdu-speaking radio station (I don't speak Urdu, at all), I looked into organising work experience so that I could do something and also hopefully acquire some skills, as the job I had been doing was fairly specialised. I was told that I couldn't do any unpaid work at all, because it would reduce my 'availability' for employment, unless it was with a charitable organisation. Whether they meant by this volunteering in a charity shop or an internship wasn't clear, but I couldn't afford to work for free without any unemployment benefit at all, so that was the end of that. (They also wouldn't cover my fare to interview unless it was outwith the M25, despite a return trip into central London being about a sixth of what I had to live on per week.) Bizarre that things have turned the other way.

At the time, I got, I think, £58 a week in benefits, and £395 per month in housing benefit - my rent at the time was £510, not including bills, which they said was 'above market rate' - it wasn't, and I couldn't afford to move what with BEING UNEMPLOYED anyway. So I had to cover the shortfall on my rent with my benefits, and try and pay for everything else out of what was left over. I tried applying for a crisis loan when I was waiting for the housing benefit to come through (I was left for a month without it and rent to pay) and was told to 'ask someone if you can borrow money...yet the very minute you get a job the benefit stops. I can well understand how people feel they have to go for things like this in order to keep the money that keeps them going.
posted by mippy at 6:31 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


They no longer pay for you to travel to interviews at all.
posted by Dysk at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2011


Ok. So, after I sort those papers into piles, I put my fingers in the mains, right?
posted by Goofyy at 10:43 PM on November 18, 2011


Here's what I don't get: if I was way overqualified and found myself getting "work experience" as a stockboy at Tesco, I would be the shittiest.stockboy.ever.

I would accidentally be knocking over endcaps, seeming to be completely brain damaged in my responses to criticism, etc.

Anyone "forced" to stay on this thing isn't doing it right.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2011


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