Category Archives: employment

Unemployment – the tip of the iceberg

Busting a groove here after a looooong absence to point people towards today’s Guardian Reality Check on unemployment stats. They’ve totted up those who want to work full time but who aren’t on Job Seeker’s Allowance for whatever reason, and added it to the enormous already figure of 2.67 million unemployed.

It makes 6.9 million unemployed people.

That’s 10% of the UK population, or just under.

There are 476,000 vacancies.

This means there are 14.5 people available for every job.

And yet the government continues with it’s narrative that all unemployed people need to do is try to get into work a bit harder and stop being lazy. It’s time to ask them to read us a different bedtime story, because that fairytale is just not cutting it anymore.

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Yay! Now we can really fuck over the poor!

The Tory’s desire to screw employees is really gathering momentum. Not only are they making it fair to essentially discriminate, harass and otherwise behave badly towards employees with less than 2 year’s service, they are now charging employees to take their employers to court on day 731.

Now, I would be fine. If I had put up with the bullying or sexual harassment or whatever for 2 years, I could pay the £250 to lodge a claim and the £1,000 to have it heard in front of a tribunal. But I doubt anyone working on minimum wage could. I mean, it’s probably a moot point because they’d be fired on day 729 before their rights kicked in just so the employer wouldn’t have to deal with it, but still.

The unions have pointed out that as many tribunals for unfair dismissal also contain an element of discrimination claims in them, which can be lodged from day 1 with an employer, this will affect very very few claims. Which is both good and bad. Because now employees who are treated badly are going to be looking to make a discrimination connection to be able to make a free and timely claim, and this means our employers may be called more racist, sexist and bigoted than they really are.

A lose/lose situation all round then. Thanks Tories!

Back to reality with a thump-ing large debt

Wow, two months, no post? I can only blame my job. This Working Girl has to work, you know!

So, two things have been floating about the internet that have caught my eye and I think I see a link. Graduate Prospects has published research (well, PR driven research, I guess) that shows graduates’ salary expectations are falling wide of the mark. (I’m trying hard to find a direct link to the research but failing, so if you can help, please do!)

According to the press release, a sixth of graduates think that they’ll earn £100,000 by the time they are 30. The reality: 77% of graduates from 2000-2010 earn less than £30,000.

Now, I don’t know what the split of those years are – this might be dominated by those that graduated less than 3 years ago (and probably is as most don’t stay interested in graduate salaries after that). Those graduating in 2001-2003 who might have hit 30 recently may be rolling in dough. The 7% who said they earn more than £45,000 might be counting the entire rewards package – and 7% could be so low because hey, if you’re earning more than £45,000, why the hell would you waste your time taking a poxy survey on what you earn? You have a job to do, dammit!

But I digress with my nit-picking of the research, and without seeing the full methodology I’m going to have to bumble around in the dark, making wild statements: getting a degree right now is really kinda dumb.

Lemme explain. You rack up £27,000 of debt, which has to be repaid if you earn over £15,000. The average salary of a graduate right now is around £18,000, I believe – which is lower than all those ‘graduate employers’ surveys that do the round like this one from High Fliers. Just because you are a graduate, it does not mean you automatically get a job on a graduate scheme. I didn’t.

Starting on £18,000 at 21/22 years old, maybe moving jobs or getting a pay raise to £21,000 after 2-3 years and then up another £2,000 in another 2-3 years etc – this makes about £27,000 or so a year by the time you are 30.  This seems like a fairly familiar and possibly generous salary to most of my social circle.

But you went into uni expecting to earn more than your average school leaver, and that there would be enough jobs for you and people would fall at your feet at your three years of wisdom gained by cramming for exams, trying to get into your neighbours pants and getting hammered on 20p vodka shots. So how come, according to High Fliers, that 25% of grad jobs have gone to those who deferred or by those who have work experience with that company?

And how come, according to Graduate Fog, that SMEs (the UK leading group of employers, by the way) are now giving away grad jobs to school leavers? It might have something to do with the sentence:

“A 2:1 doesn’t guarantee a motivated candidate who will stay with your organisation.”

Two things may be at fault here: apparently a 2:1 means you expect to earn mega-bucks by the time you are 30 and the top recruiters are PWC, Deloitte, KPMG, Teach First and the Army. Teach First and the Army have built in time periods so you can leave, and I think I know one person who stayed with a Big 4 firm after completing their grad scheme, as everyone else just hated them.

So grads don’t show loyalty to shitty employers and they expect to earn a lot. Two reasons that hiring a school leaver and training them up seems like a better way of keeping knowledge and talent in your team.

The bottom line: going to uni is a great thing. It opens your eyes to adulthood, a different way of life, different cultures and mindsets and allows you to have fun and meet lifelong friends. But it doesn’t guarantee a career.  I think the degree is becoming devalued after market saturation of the last decade – and I think sometimes the more career savvy of teenagers should be looking at getting on the career track at 18 and getting qualifications as they work.

Choice paradox

I’m writing this already angry as I’m in my first day of going cold turkey on the cigarettes for the second time in 2 years, so forgive me if I rage.

Today the government ‘announced’ how many people are on incapacity benefit and its successor because of drug and alcohol addiction or obesity. It didn’t announce how many are claiming this benefit because of learning difficulties, or because of back pain – that doesn’t grab headlines. Picking on alkies, druggies and fatties is fair game for the media and the public and the government knows it. Check out this Cameron quote:

“We are finding a large number of people who are on incapacity benefit because of drink problems, alcohol problems or problems with weight and diet. And I think a lot of people who pay their taxes and work hard will think: ‘That’s not what I pay my taxes for. I pay my taxes for people who are incapacitated through no fault of their own.”

How nice of him to anticipate what tax payers may think so they can make his argument for him. He can’t come out and say that people with severe issues with drugs, alcohol and obesity aren’t going to be given any money, because then people might complain about the extra number of homeless that could create, or the further burden on over-stretched families. Oh, but he’ll listen to the hoards of Daily Mail readers saying that these people choose to be this way and so they, the honest and never-ill taxpayers,  shouldn’t have to support their lifestyle.

Really? A choice, really? You think alcoholics choose to be alcoholics? You think that anyone chooses to become secretive, bloated, paranoid, unemployed,, friendless and with no family becuase it’s so much fun and they get at most £94.25 a week?

And drug addicts choose to be addicts, not users, right? You think people choose septicemia, visible track marks, a constant worry about supply, worry about police raids, blackouts and potential overdose because it’s such a happy lifestyle?

You think people choose to be 500lbs (35.7 stone) with diabetes, heart disease, breathing issues, skin infections and the constant judgement and disgust of other people because hey, fat people are always jolly!

If people chose to be those things in the first place, if it was that easy as to be a choice, like I choose to put on red shoes and I choose to take the Tube today, then it would be as easy to unchoose it. To not choose it in the first place. To choose to be a recovering addict. and yet. The facts remain that breaking addiction is one of the hardest things to do. Because you’re a fucking addict.

An addict is very different ot a recreational user or even someone with a dependency. Addicts have different brain chemistry, deteriorated impulse control, and a physical dependency on the drug to feel and operate as ‘normal’. This isn’t some drunken lager lout getting to bevvied up one night and signing off on benefits the next day. This is someone who actively has to stop the brain and their body from needing – not in ‘I need a holiday’ kinda way but in a ‘I need air’ way – that substance. It takes time, therapy, sometimes other medication. It needs compassion.

And for those tiny percentage of claimants who are obese (it’s 0.1% of the total. 0.1%)? Many, many illnesses cause obesity, include hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, PCOS, and depression, and some medications can cause obesity. And yes, a lot of people are obese because they like fatty food and don’t move round enough. and this in turn can cause depression and more eating and breaking that cycle is just as hard as breaking an addiciton. But really, you’re going get all up on your high horse because 0.1% of claimants are obese?

These things, alcoholism, drug addiction, obesity – these aren’t choices. No one chooses that life. That lifestyle is something I wouldn’t wish on my bitterest enemy. So how dare you say that it’s a choice, and try to make it so that the baying public calls to get their incapacity benefit taken away. How dare you say that these alcoholics should be searching for work when it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to keep down a job even if they are offered one? (Of course, some do, and some drug addicts have 9-5 jobs. Well done. They can cope. these people can’t.)

Can they physically work? No. Then they get incapacity benefit. That’s the only choice we have in a society that gives a shit about others.

Your degree might be worth £540,000

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) released research (well, data analysed from the past 10 years of ONS information) that shows that graduates earn more than non-graduates. According to them, the highest average wage a non-degree earner receives is £19,400 while the highest average wage for a graduate is £34,500, and the average difference is £12,000 a year.

That’s about £5400,00 over a lifetime of working, assuming you begin work at 20 (I split the difference between 18 and 22) and end work at 65. This goes higher than the old saying that a graduate earns £400,000 in their lifetime, a ‘fact’ I question, and completely blows the PwC research that you may earn £160,000 more as a grad out of the water.

So what in the hey? Well, it’s a bit tricky this one. Remember in a previous post I mentioned that doctors and dentists can earn over £340,000 the average wage, while those with an arts degree may earn less than £3,000 more (and get to pay back students debt)? Well, this new research doesn’t look at sectors to see what’s rising and what’s not – so those doctors throw the numbers out of whack, rather than say comparing people with a degree and without a degree in the same field in roughly the same job. And it doesn’t take into account the gross rise in wages, specifically financial wages, in the boom years before the recession.

Add to that the fact that the recession hit the lowest earners (50% have no qualifications higher than GCSE level according to the Research Foundation) harder, this is beginning to show not a reason to get a degree but more the gross salary discrepancy between the haves and have nots. Which our lovely Mr. Clegg addressed in his social mobility speech that so terribly backfired on him this week.

Personally, I think it is good that if you invest money in a degree, then you should be able to earn that money back and then some – it’s a nice perk. But what I don’t agree with is the idea that you may go to Uni purely to earn more money, or that just by going to Uni, you will earn more money. I believe that anyone who is better at my job than me should earn more than me, regardless of if they finished GCSEs or not – because my education doesn’t give me a privilege, nor should it be a privilege – education is a right.

No rights – no extra mile

What the shit, Vince Cable? Why have you turned to the Dark Side? Not content with seeing Murdoch get his grubby hands over the whole of Sky, Vince has now confirmed that businesses with less than 10 employees are exempt from giving flexible working hours and the right to train to those staff. What’s next, not giving maternity or paternity leave? I know some ‘leaders’ are pushing to not employ women that might be fertile.

Look, I get it. I get that when you are in a small business, regulation and employee rights can cause you stress and in some cases, prevent you from doing business. On the other hand, SUCK IT UP. You run a business, you have to think of the people who are helping you to succeed in that business. It’s a bit like when you here large companies call their people ‘their greatest asset’ like they are a chair or something – but fundamentally, it’s true. People are the business, not the infrastructure, or the tech or even the documents. People are the ones with the knowledge and the committment to doing that company’s aims.

So the idea that you won’t train the people that do your work, or you won’t give them the ability to pick their child up from school, or even, if the Tories/FSB get their way, not giving parents time to bond with their child and set it up for life, is pretty much shooting yourself in the foot. Because these people, with their knowledge and expertise and experience, will leave. And go to another place that gives them these rights.

Well, in theory. The issue is that with huge unemployment, people may be too scared to move. It might be easy to find people to take their place. At the very least, you may get younger people with no kids and no plans for kids, although they might need some of that training you’re refusing to give.

It just makes no long term sense. To get the best from people, to gain their loyalty and trust, to get them to go that extra mile, you have to treat them with respect and acknowledge that they have rights. Without this, your turnover is going to be higher and you’ll get people who do the bare minimum, because if you aren’t giving them anything above a salary, they won’t give you anything extra either. And that’s just plain stupid. A bit like these plans.

Wolf at the Door

Alison Wolf has published her report into further education and it’s pretty refreshing. Not only does she criticise FE institutions for piling on a load of qualifications that don’t mean anything in real ‘job’ terms because they get paid by how many qualifications they put students through, she also focuses on apprenticeships and how useful they can be to both employer and teenager.

There’s a couple of things that seem a bit odd – the removal of the work experience requirement between the ages of 14 and 16 because of lack of placements appears to me to have another solution – make businesses offer placements – and asking kids of 14 to make the life-altering choice of whether they continue in academia or go to a technical school is quite pressured. Who the hell knows what they want at 14? What if they haven’t been taught the thing that they might be amazing at, like philosophy or psychology? Do they risk being labeled a thicko if they choose the technical school because they want to be a social worker? And isn’t academia kinda about academia rather than getting a job?

But these are essentially subjective questions. Each teenager is going to be different, and I like that she has recommended that people can go to the higher education they felt they missed out on later in life if they change their mind.

I also agree that English and Maths should be studied for as long as possible – but probably not in an academic way. English and Maths GCSE are, quite frankly, of no real use in the ‘real world’ – yes, reading is awesome and should be encouraged, and yes, ratios and fractions are handy for simple things like cooking, but not many people need algebra in their daily routine. Do you need to know about Sine and Cosine in your day job? I know that I use some stuff I learned in English GCSE in my day job, but I work in communications and I need to know about language – and even I don’t say Caesura, I say pause in the speech, because that’s more understandable.

What they should be taught, as these are life skills, are mental arithmatic – how to calculate the tip on a bill, what it means if you’re getting something for 20% off – and spelling and grammar, because if one more person uses ‘you’re’ instead of ‘your’, I might flip out. Spelling and grammar not only gives others a better impression of you, they make what you say more understandable, and they create less work for me! I think grammar should be compulsory until they can write an essay using the correct forms of its and it’s.

But I digress, for I  am a bit crazy about grammar. Sorting out the technical and vocational further education in this country seems emminently sensible, as we need highly skilled plumbers, electricians, engineers, carpenters and metalworkers. We also need social workers, nurses, teaching assistants and hairdressers. And teenagers need jobs. It makes sense to give young people the skills they need to supply us with services we need, because that’s how the world works. They get paid, we get nice hair and cupboards, and thus the world keeps turning. Academia is not for everyone – I bloody hated it, apart from the leisure time in which to drink, but what I wanted to do wasn’t technical or a vocation, so off I had to go to Uni.

I just really hope this doesn’t lead to a whole bunch of Tories like this one, sniggering about how they don’t need the French of Moliere, they need the French of business. What a fucking wanker.