37 year old male, being unemployed for over two years now. Despite good qualifiactions, education and a lot of effort, still haven 't found a new job. Meanwhile the bureacrazy in this country continues to anny the hell out of me. Occasionally I write about my experiences with labor bureaucrats and being unemployed in general. Below is the most recent post to my own journal which I realize is probaly beyond the scope of this journal. So feel free to ignore it :-)
A recent (March 2005) published report (in pdf for the interested) by De Inspectie Werk en Inkomen claims that UWV does not do adequate checks on the unemployed efforts to find a job. As receiver of WW (unemployment benefits) you have the duty to do everything possible to get out of the benefits situation. I quote the report: "De werknemer moet dan ook doen wat in zijn vermogen ligt om weer aan het werk te komen en niet afhankelijk te worden van een uitkering. Daarom moet hij actief zoeken naar vacatures, regelmatig solliciteren en een aanbod van passende arbeid accepteren" (p.7) . Ok that's the same old broken record we hear time and again saying: "You're unemployed, it's your fault. Find a new job or else....". Anyway, the maker of the report, the self acclaimed independent watchdog on social security is not so independent, but was set up by the Ministry of Social affairs and Employment (SZW) and exists solely to check on the efficiency of the policies on work and (un) employment by the several involved parties. SZW has a huge stake here since under the neo liberal government they have to keep money spend on benefits (of any kind) as low as possible. The easiest way to do so is tell people that it's their fault that they're unemployed, so why would they be entitled to any kind of support? And that's exactly what's happening here.
Back to the report now. The main conclusion of the report is that UWV focuses too much on quantity of job applications, too little on quality: "Bij de beoordeling van de door de werknemer vermelde sollicitaties verricht UWV primair een kwantitatieve toets op het aantal sollicitaties" (p. 9) Maybe you wouldn't expect it from me but for a change I agree with this conclusion: as a longstanding UWV client and expert on filling in those forms I know that they only look at quantity, eg did you apply for the mandatory amount of jobs in a certain period.
I always thought it was ridiculous that for UWV apples and pears are the same. For example going through a long and serious process of getting a job (multiple interviews, a lot of preparation time etc) is treated as an equal effort to get a job as hit the "apply on line" button on monsterboard for instance.I support its findings, however an extensive examination of files and documents, interviews with UWV staff ("...analyse van relevante documenten, gesprekken met UWV-functionarissen op centraal niveau en in de regio’s en dossieronderzoek. Daarnaast heeft de inspectie onderzoek verricht bij CWI..."(p.7))wasn't really necessary to reach that conclusion. Ask anyone on unemployment benefits and they would have told the same. But (of course) the receiving end of the line wasn't involved in the research.
I browsed to the report a bit more and found some interesting passages that echo the neo liberal ideology so well but have little to do with reality. For instance:
"De introduction of case managers is an extra instrument of UWV to help its clients to get back to work as soon as possible [my translation]"(p.8).
In 2 years time I met two different case managers, both for approximately 15 minutes. Both had really no idea what problems I encountered in (not) finding a job, nor were they really interested in it. This case manager doesn't really do anything except for checking your papers and your passport (to see if I was actually who I claimed to be) and give you some hints like "have you thought about contacting a temp agency" or "maybe you should look into another line of work". Like you haven't done that already extensively. Besides this helpful information they add a little human touch and say something like "it must be hard for you t be i this situation". Nice, friendly, but what does it do?
The former Arbeidsbureaus (labour offices) main tasks consist of helping the unemployed to find a job and help you getting you benefits.("De activiteiten van CWI zijn erop gericht werkzoekenden te ondersteunen bij het vinden van werk. Wanneer als overbrugging van een werkloze periode een uitkering nodig is, draagt CWI zorg voor de WW-aanvraag. UWV beslist over het recht op uitkering. Werkzoekenden die goede kansen hebben op de arbeidsmarkt worden zes maanden door CWI begeleid naar werk. In deze periode heeft CWI geregeld contact met de werkzoekende. Na zes maanden wordt de bemiddelingsactiviteit door CWI gestopt en wordt het dossier overgedragen aan UWV" (p. 9).) Or in CWI's own words: CWI does everything to help people find jobs. It invites employers to offer vacancies and activates job-seekers to find work in every possible way. ‘Pro-activity’ and ‘personal responsibility’ are concepts that play an important role here".The CWI supports and facilitates unemployed with good "labour market perspective" towards a job and keep in regular contact with the unemployed. After 6 months of mediation the case is handed over to UWV.
In those first 6 months I had 2 meetings there. One to fill in my forms, the second with a personal advisor about my labour market perspective. Since they viewed my perspective as very good, they didn't feel the need to do anything else. A year later I got one letter referring me to a possible job opening. Now that was a job that required quite different skills and experience than I had but it's mandatory to follow CWIs advise so I applied. Oh wonder, I didn't get the job. Every so many months I have to stop by at their office (with passport of course) to renew my application. That is my experience with CWI, that's their "CWI does everything to help people find jobs".
Now it's not totally true that they don't do anything there. I have noticed that:
1). they have moved offices, the new building is much nicer to work in, all new computers and furniture and all that for the staff. It's only a bit further away for me.
2). CWI has changed the style of their forms at least 3 times in one year. I can tell by putting them side by side. And we're not talking about change of content, but no of change of form. A different font or the logo placed on the right instead of the left. That kind of important changes.
OK you say, if this situation is all so bad, why don't you get away from it, why not get a job no matter what? I'd love to and honestly I have tried to get a jobs way under my experience and educational levels, but never I get a positive repsons to that. I can write entries about that too.
Anyway to find anything in my field (sociologist, labour researcher) is hard, since most organisations around are more busy with laying people of or cutting costs. They do hire sometimes but you have to be either young and fresh out of school (so they can mold you) or to be older, experienced and preferable in the possesion of a huge (possible) client net work. I do not fit in either of those to categories.
Despite claims otherwise unemployment is not an individual problem but a social one. Lets have a look at some stats: on the national level there're still more people looking for a job than there are jobs offered. Even the official governemt approved statistics from CBS support this thesis. By the end of 2004: there were 128.300 job openings versus 321.00o officially registered unemployed (source: CBS Statline. And it's not only a matter of number and statistics, it's something you experience every day, if you're trying to find a job.
Before I go I decided to check what job opportunity options all above mentioned organisations (SZW, UWV, IWI, CWI) have to offer. Currently currently no job openings at SZW, UWV, IWI:
UWV: Momenteel zijn er geen vacatures binnen onze organisatie.
SZW: Er zijn momenteel geen vacatures!
IWI: De inspectie heeft op dit moment geen vacatures
And the CWI itself, the labour office, does not even bother to mention the (non) exsitence of any job opportunities on their website.
Somehow I found that typical and not surprisingly.
Instead of working om employment programs (ha they've mostly been stopped), they push harder and harder towards "individual responsibility", putting all responsibility for being in this shitty position on the unemployed. Despite their claims of support to find jobs, they don't do shit. Literally.
In the labour market debated these days, no one ever mentions these kind of discrepancies. It seem that all policy makers (and most researchers) have accepted this reality "as is" and have taken over most of the "discourse" originating from right wing agendas to be the one and only.