For about fourteen months between graduating from university and actually managing to find a job, I was unemployed. During this time, I was “on the dole“, claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance whilst I was looking for a job.
I suppose that makes me a scrounger, or whatever equally patronising and derogatory term Nick Clegg would prefer that George Osborne and Danny Alexander used instead.
Never mind that I was firing off on average 40-50 applications each month. Never mind that I was applying for every vacancy I could find. Never mind that I was volunteering at multiple places to both fill the time and improve my outlook.
I wasn’t working, and thus I was apparently — in the government’s eyes — part of the problem.
But for those fourteen months I was a job seeker in all senses of the term, and although it is not a time I particularly like talking about, you can imagine that I have something of a perspective on the current welfare debate.
I wonder, for example, how many of the people complaining about welfare know how much JSA is? I received some £56 per week. Which amounts to about £224 each month, and less than £3,000 per year. For comparison, the minimum wage (which itself is insufficient to live on) is £247 per week, £990 per month, and in a year more than £12,000.
I’d like to know who can live the tabloids’ “life of luxury” on an annual income of less than £3,000. They should, if they exist, probably be given a job at HM Treasury.
If I’m honest, I don’t believe that there are more than a handful if people who are happy living on benefits. It has already been shown that the myth of an epidemic of families where no one has worked for generations is just that — a myth. And as for fraud, it costs vastly less than tax avoidance and evasion by the rich.
Instead of that, you hear from the Tories about how much benefits would rise compared to average wages. Leaving aside that an inflation-matched rise on a pittance is still a pittance, and a below-inflation rise on anything amounts to a cut, the Tories are right about the scandalous depression of wages.
But as usual, they are approaching it from the wrong direction, and instead of trying to secure fair pay for all, British society is engaging in a tabloid-incited beggar-my-neighbour quest to make sure that others suffer more.
I am working now. And paying tax. Do I begrudge those who haven’t been as fortunate as me the meagre existence they receive? Of course not.
The government would do better trying to get the vast majority of job seekers who desperately want a chance to work and earn an acceptable living the chance to do so, rather than trying to persecute and scapegoat them for the parlous state of the economy.