No Labour Day

Today is Labour Day, so I am going to talk about labour-related things that tend not to get their due consideration when it comes to the out-of-work portions of our population.

Just because there are jobs available does not mean any of those jobs are going to the people that need them. That person isn't the only one applying. Some jobs literally get thousands of applications, so any application handed in by someone looking for a job is sometimes just another piece of paper/email. An acquaintance once applied for a bookkeeping gig, a one or two-day a month thing with a local business person. During their interview the subject came up of how many applications she'd gotten through her Kijiji ad before she shut the ad off: 3400, and a fair bit of them were from CPAs for whom bookkeeping work was way beneath their skillset.

So, as I said, just because you see jobs out there, or just because someone wants one, does not automatically guarantee that someone you know who needs the work is going to actually get the work.

In the past year I have applied for something around 90 jobs. I realise that does not seem like much, but with my vision issues my choices are limited. Out of those 90 or so applications, guess how many I got a response to? Two, neither of which turned out to be viable. It has always been thus.

Now, I realise I'm a special circumstance, but I know from hearing the struggles of others that people with better educations than I have, and without the disability I have, are facing similar difficulties in finding work. It's not that they aren't trying, it's that they're not the only people looking for a job. These folk are competing with hundreds of others with the same qualifications for jobs they are trained and suited for. When they lower their standards, so to speak, they aren't considered because they're overqualified. When they aim too high they're beat out by people who are properly qualified. When they apply outside their field they lose out for not having enough of the right qualifications.

Anyone without post-secondary education can be tossed by the wayside because so many jobs that once were simple to walk into now require a BA minimum. It used to be that if you did have a BA you could walk into just about any job you wanted. Now even that's becoming insufficient - which is why post-secondary education should be covered in the same high school became covered when it was finally accepted that high school was the base minimum required to function in our society. High school has long since stopped being the baseline. I had a very hard time trying to explain to someone I knew who was about 15 years younger than me, that when I was younger we could go to university and never worry about finding work after, and it didn't matter what we studied. We didn't have to worry about market trends and job trends. She didn't understand why it was that so many people didn't study those things before going on to post-secondary, and just couldn't accept that it was because so many folks of my generation and earlier just didn't have to.

If you're ageing you can be screwed out of work for being too old, and If you're not a beauty, or happen to be overweight, then you can be screwed out of front-of-house/reception work because of it. I know this, because it happened to someone I know, and that person's employer was none too subtle about it. I'm pretty sure I've been "profiled" as well, given some of the circumstances surrounding jobs I did get called in for an interview for. There was a period of time around 2012/2013 where, within a single year, I showed up for six different job interviews only to find that the interviewer was not there - or so I was told. On one occasion the business was closed for the day. On another, it later turned out that the interviewer had a death in the family, so that's a pass. The rest, well, I showed up and they decided they just didn't want to talk to me, I guess. One of them even said that they'd left me a voicemail saying they'd had to cancel the appointment - a voicemail on a phone line that wasn't even in service that particular day, as I was too broke to pay the bill and the service had been suspended for a couple of days.

I think the worst thing though, was the day I found out that even having a name that's too ethnic-sounding (read: not "white"-sounding enough), can get you ignored right from the get-go, a thing borne out by a UofT/Ryerson study from some years back, and studies from even earlier. I started to wonder if that particular grotesque bias had ever played a part in my long stretches of time getting no response to my applications, because while my middle name might be straight-up English - it's Anne - my first name sure as hell isn't, and it's my first name I go by.

All that said, I do know there are people out there who make the entire situation as difficult on themselves as they possibly can.

There are some solutions for those out of work. Moving is one, for those who can afford to do so - which generally isn't anyone working a minimum wage job, or anyone depending on local supports that would disappear if they moved. There are work-at-home options that can make the wait between brick-and-mortar work a little easier to bear, or replace it entirely. If you have the financial wherewithal and time you can get retraining or re-education. You can volunteer, which can help pad out a resume, teach you new skills, and help you look employed even when you aren't. It's true that the best time to get a job is when you have one.

The upshot of all this? Well, I hear a lot of judgement from people about why some folks are unemployed, and very few of those people seem to take any of the above into consideration. A person is not always out of work because they want to be out of work, or because they are lazy, or any of a myriad of other judgement calls that get bandied about. There can be a lot more behind a person being out of work than an ill-informed categorisation.

2019 09 02 - 19:36

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