1990s >> 1995 >> no-1092-august-1995

Life on the Dole

In a society where an individual’s worth is measured not by personal qualities but their occupation, to lose your job is to lose your status in society and your personal identity. Even your best friends and relatives will distance themselves from you, on the assumption that you are a scrounger.

On a regular basis, the employment office will insist that you are “available for and actively seeking work” before you begin receiving the pittance known as dole money. Many unemployed people are compelled or coerced to take unattractive training and courses in order not to lose their dole money.

The present social system is wasteful because it erects barriers against useful work by millions of able people. Because we are living under the system of “no profit, no production”, the number of workers out of work will always rise and fall as the industrial cycle goes through its normal phases of crisis, slump and boom.

In the competitive struggle which gives markets to the cheaper producer, each capitalist is trying to accumulate capital and expand their scale of operation, not to meet a known demand but as an end in itself, inevitably, “overproduction” develops in some big markets and crisis occurs, sales decline, investment ceases to be profitable, production is cut and workers are laid off on the scrapheap.

Now the government is urging unemployed workers to take “That Job”, irrespective of wages and conditions. According to Portillo (Independent, 15 September 1994), “it is better for people to have low-paid part-time jobs than no job at all”. But pricing yourself back into “that job” means accepting work less stimulating and only marginally more rewarding than wasting your time in the jobclub. Working for less wages is not a living but what has to be done to live.

The employment office is always asking why it is very difficult for you to find work. By the types of questions you have been asked, you will have sensed that the blame for your predicament is being put on you. This idea presupposes that employment is available if only the unemployed would look for it. This is an idea propagated by Portillo and his predecessors.

Every unemployed person is desperate to find a suitable job, and will take one if offered it. But forcing a job on someone regardless of the wages and conditions can only have a damaging effect.

We live in a world in which it is now possible to satisfy everybody’s needs, but the present system of production prevents this potential super-abundance being realised. Unemployment is therefore an unavoidable waste created by capitalism. The wealth that could be produced by the unemployed would be very useful and would benefit the whole community. But the present system of society does not, and cannot, work that way.
Michael Ghebre