The following is a ‘guest post’ written by my beloved daughter Rebecca. It illustrates the parallel universe occupied by those struggling to find work and those talking about ‘economic recovery’. The Financial Times had a story with the headline ‘Employment surges ahead at record pace’ on Thursday, but the stats it used to make this point put the numbers to this Alice Through the Looking Glass world. Unemployment dropped by 1.2% over the last year, but wages are still falling. The FT had to point out that recent claims of marginal increases in income were largely due to banker’s bonuses which have now worked through the system, having been paid at a time in order to avoid tax. The real picture is the ultimate wish-fulfilment of capitalism – more people working for less and fighting like dogs for the privilege.
Statistics also show that unemployment was very low amongst African-Americas between the early 18th century and 1st January 1863.
As the latter comment may hint, I’m writing this from Washington DC of which more anon. Here’s Becca’s piece:
My experience of the UK job market in 2014
I am currently on a gap year in London and have been looking for work, on and off, for the last ten months. I finished college last June with three good A-levels. I have a good command of English, can do basic maths and speak Spanish. I also have two years experience working in retail. I don’t have any criminal convictions. I don’t have tattoos or piercing. I should be fairly employable. However, I estimate that I have applied for about 100 jobs and, as of today, I have been invited to seven interviews.
I often have difficulty explaining my experience of the job market to people less than 10 years older than me, never mind my parents’ generation.
People are shocked when I say I have done five applications in a day, not realising that applications sometimes require nothing more than my personal details, two references and a multiple choice test where the correct answer is obvious, i.e. for a big cinema chain, “How interested would you say you are in film? A. Not at all B. Somewhat interested C. Very interested”. When you hear stories of Job Centres telling people to fill out 30 applications a week to avoid sanctions you lose hope of anyone reading your application, never mind getting a response, knowing that people well over qualified for the job will apply because the applications are quick. At the last interview I went to we were told that applications had been stopped at 600.
Group interviews are another phenomenon I’ve found hard to explain, but if you’re interviewing 100 applicants then of course you have to do group interviews. It can be very intimidating but generally I’ve found that people are actually really lovely to one another. In one of the group interviews I had, which went on for four hours, a woman said to me “Group interviews are so hard because you get to know each other and you think oh it would be nice for her to get the job but then you need the job yourself”. You see people s competitive side come out when someone is clearly really nervous and not participating or if they say or do something bound to lose them the job. You see them taking peace of mind from the fact that there is now one less person in the competition. That is how the situation forces you to think.
The other strange thing about group interviews is that you get the insight of seeing who you’re up against. I have been applying for entry-level jobs, often with unpleasant hours, that are paid £6 – £7 per hour. In my last interview we were told, “everyone is on a zero hour contract, but it’s not the bad kind of zero hour contract you read about in the papers”. Mostly it has been other young people without much experience, but at one of the better jobs I applied for half were middle-aged professionals. One woman was a section manager and had 25 years experience in the industry, one woman was a tutor to new social workers and the last was a civil servant working at the Houses of Parliament, all going for a part-time job involving manual labour where you start work at 6am. It is ridiculous that these people are now in the same part of the job market as me. It means that the only jobs I can hope of getting are agency work, temporary positions, jobs paying less than £7 and hour, while those with less qualifications and experience than me are destined for unemployment or unpaid voluntary work.
The whole situation can be incredibly depressing and also shows that our economy is much more damaged than they would have us believe.