As I sit down to write this post, I struggle to formulate the words needed to properly frame the three news stories that I am about to present to you. These stories have all been published today – Wednesday, October 30th, 2013 – from the context of three separate countries (Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia). Given that these first-world, post-industrialist countries share a common economic situation, their youth share a common voice when it comes to employment. I will present the stories of these youth to you, and out of their words you can formulate your own thoughts and ideas.
I’m biased about the first article out of Canada because it’s written by my partner, William Van Hemessen, and published today in the opinion section of The Record newspaper. The post is in response to a convocation address by Stephen Lewis, who encouraged young people “to fight and speak out for the social justice issues they are passionate about” (Van Hemessen, October 30th, 2013). Will questions how reasonable this expectation is for the underemployed generations of today – let me use his words here and not mine:
“Changing the world is a formidable challenge for a generation that is finding it harder than ever to find meaningful employment. Today’s students graduate with high ambitions, but more and more are finding themselves over-educated and underemployed. An increasing number of graduates are dropping out of the labour force or settling into careers as merchandisers, labourers, or endless cycles of internships.
It is true that an increasing number of us are volunteering — but as our budgets tighten and our career prospects appear increasingly bleak, we are getting tired. We are not a generation with either the tools or motivation to make a difference, let alone change the world.
Canadian graduates — all young people for that matter — have the skills, intellect, and determination to create change and stand up for humanitarian issues. But we cannot do this effectively without the help of older generations” (Van Hemessen, October 30th, 2013).
The second article comes out of the United Kingdom. A charity known as the Prince’s Trust is sounding warning bells about the impending youth unemployment crisis, citing figures from the Office for National Statistics which shows that “115,000 18 to 24-year-olds have been unemployed for longer than two years” (Newsbeat, October 30th, 2013). The Prince’s Trust believes that “young, long-term unemployed people need specialist help to try to get them back into the workplace […] even young people who’ve been out of work for many years, turn their life around. That has to be worth it for them and for the economy as a whole” (Newsbeat, October 30th, 2013).
Periods of unemployment can last many years, resulting in psychological costs to the job seeker and an additional economic burden on the economy. This happens for people who have graduated from academia as well as those seeking casual labour positions:
Sean Pearson, 25, from Sunderland, [in the UK], was unemployed for six years and had to rely on jobseeker’s allowance and help from his mum to get by. “I kept on looking for jobs and got turned down for cleaning jobs, saying I didn’t have enough experience,” he says. “I got turned down like that all the time” (Newsbeat, October 30th, 2013).
The final example is out of Australia. An article from the website Working Life, entitled “It’s time to talk about solutions for insecure workers“, sparked a mini-debate on Reddit on today. The article suggests that 40% of workers are in unstable employment in which they have little say over the situation and conditions of their work life (Heap, October 30th, 2013). Some people still believe that youth are unemployed because they are lazy or too good to ‘pick up a mop’ and put in some real work – but the context of unstable employment suggests otherwise (Reddit Australia, October 30th, 2013).
EmbersLucent outlines how this unstable employment situation creates a working culture in which even mop pushers struggle to find and keep jobs. It’s long, but well worth the read because it outlines the various factors and vicious cycles of today’s workforce in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia:
“We aren’t unemployed because we’re lazy.
We’re unemployed because an entry level position for mop pusher now requires a tertiary education.
We’re unemployed because we don’t have five years experience pushing a mop, gained from all the other jobs we don’t have because they also want five years experience pushing a mop.
We’re unemployed because we can send out hundreds of job applications and not even receive one response as to why we weren’t good enough to push a mop.
We’re unemployed because we have to compete with a pool of hundreds of other mop pushing applicants for a single position.
We’re unemployed because we need to be available to do a 3 hour shift pushing a mop, on call, any time, any day, 24/7 preventing us from getting a second job pushing a mop somewhere else that also wants us to be available to do a 3 hour shift pushing a mop, on call, any time, any day, 24/7.
We’re unemployed because we have to have our own transport. At least, it’s always asked about in an interview. Many of us don’t because we currently aren’t pushing a mop in order to afford it.
We’re unemployed because mop-pushing companies only accept applications online. Now we have to spare 2-3 hours per application, only to have an algorithmic filtering process reject us before our submission even gets seen by human eyes.
We’re unemployed because mop pushers require a clean uniform for everyday of the week paid out of our own pockets. Don’t have the money? That’s okay, they can just take it straight out of our salary. We’re informally in debt before we even start.
We’re unemployed because corporate figured out they could minimise their costs by slashing their workforce in half and force the remaining half of us to push a mop with each hand until we burn out. At which point, we’re promptly replaced.
We’re unemployed because we’re expected to push a mop for far longer than our parents, for less. The boss didn’t account for anyone being sick or taking annual leave, so now you’re one down tonight you’ll all have to work overtime without pay. Don’t want to? Shame on you not being a ‘team player’ and letting your workmates down.
We’re unemployed because pushing a mop for reduced wages or even nothing at all for months in some form of trial/intern/probationary period is bullshit. Don’t want to push a mop for less money than everyone else? I guess you don’t really want to push this mop after all.
We’re unemployed because a bunch of old men in expensive suits and false smiles made promises about mop pushing benefits to our parents that they couldn’t keep.
We’re unemployed because it’s cheaper to hire a sweatshop overseas than a factory over here. Mop pushers get paid a dollar a day over there if they’re lucky. Don’t think that’s fair, or even morally acceptable? Don’t worry, even if some child labourer is suffering immeasurably somewhere out of sight at least mops will be a bit cheaper in stores over here.
We’re unemployed because corporate demands everlasting, unquestionable loyalty from us but god forbid they make our casual 3-month-and-we’ll-see-where-we-go-from-there mopping contract into a full time mopping contract” (EmbersLucent , October 30th, 2013).