Unemployment is rising to levels not seen for more than a decade, and heading for the level of the early eighties.
The fight for work, and against the impoverishment, both material and mental, that comes in its wake, is one that the left has to take up if it is to be worthy of the name.
Though many on the left may have memories of previous recessions, there is little knowledge of what it is to be unemployed today. It is a long time since many have been into a “dole” office (which isn’t easy considering most now have security guards on the door making it hard even for those with legitimate reasons to enter to get inside, as I can personally attest)
Below is an interesting article in yesterday’s Guardian about the contemporary “Job Centre Plus”
If the Blair and Brown governments have ever wanted to create a utopia, Selly Oak’s jobcentre gives you a pretty clear sense of what it might look like. The carpets and furniture are all in deep, warm tones: oranges, blues and purples set off by photographs of apparently grateful faces and reassuring slogans – “Make a new start”, “Jobs for everyone”, “Yes, you can retrain”.
By the entrance, two staff stand sentry behind desks simply labelled “welcome”. To their right, a steady procession of people flit their fingers across pristine touch-screen installations that spit out receipt-like summaries of the jobs currently available. This place was opened in 2007, and you quickly sense it runs on two articles of faith: that even if unemployment is still rising (the most recent figure puts it at 2.47 million, the highest for 14 years), anyone who enters here will somehow get a job; and that a life on benefits is no life at all.
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