A couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Daily Mail entitled ‘Jobseekers who fail to find employment will be forced to do voluntary work for 30 hours a week’. It was a rather interesting article about David Cameron’s announcement that people who have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance for over two years will be made to do regular voluntary work for six months, so long as they still do not have a job.
The idea is that these people will have been out of work for so long that the voluntary work will help them get into the habit of working, rather than sitting around doing nothing. It will get them into a good routine, boost their confidence, improve their skills and probably make them want to get a job even more because a job will pay them more. While they do this voluntary work, they will be earning their jobseeker’s allowance and, according to the article, those who refuse to do this voluntary work will be stripped of their benefits.
Some would argue that there is some sense in this. Many would say people have to do at least some work to earn their jobseeker’s allowance and many would argue that voluntary work is indeed a good way to gain vital experience, especially for those who have little experience. It could also help them get a job, as it shows they have at least been working for some time while claiming jobseeker’s allowance.
Despite understanding the reasons behind Cameron’s proposal, I completely disagree with it. Being forced to do work in order to carry on receiving your jobseeker’s allowance means that any work you do is not voluntary. From what I gleaned from the article, it sounds like the work will be akin to voluntary work, except, of course that people will be essentially forced to do it.
If you are working 30 hours a week, I believe you should be paid at least minimum wage. After all, you are doing a job, having to work a certain number of hours a week and therefore should have the right to be seen as a salaried employee, not a volunteer who was made to do it. The unemployed deserve to be treated fairly, especially the many who actively seek work and are just unlucky, and if they are made to work, they should be paid accordingly.
It already shocks me that many major companies are allowed to get away with hiring staff and paying them nothing. Remember that case about the graduate who was made to do an unpaid two-week stint at Poundland? She had been volunteering at a museum while on jobseeker’s because she was trying to get her foot in the door. She was then made to do this unpaid work, even though she clearly wanted to continue her voluntary work in the hope that she would eventually land a job there. This is just one example of a company using people for cheap labour and it appalls me that this can be allowed to happen, especially in this day and age when so many people are clamouring for full-time jobs.
It baffles me why more jobs cannot be created when there is clearly plenty of work to be done. I sincerely hope the government does not go ahead with this scheme of forced labour. Treat the unemployed with respect and pay them what they deserve. Initiatives like this just criminalise the unemployed and give large companies more reasons not to create jobs. In fact it is counterproductive as it actually hinders genuine job seekers attempts to find work. It seems like some common sense is needed here instead of just trying to get some quick votes.