Work for 38 Hours? I’d be Stupid!

Dumb? Not me!

A long-term unemployed person asked himself this rhetorical question only to answer it in the same breath:

Definitely not!

Why? Because if he did work, according to the unemployed person, he would not earn more than he would if he received benefit payments. And who would be so “stupid”? Who, under comparably better circumstances, would go to a company every day, would get up early and work until the evening, performing all tasks, which can at times be totally frustrating, when you don’t even earn as much as you would:

if you have a long lie in the morning and do what you like when you like – admittedly at the expense of others?

Those who work may be social and productive beings but – considering a life of “benefits” – are rather stupid.

But how can this be possible?

How can a life without work provide as much money as a life with work? In my opinion, two factors are responsible for this state of affairs:

  1. The current economic process only ensures to a limited extent that unemployment is prevented. On the contrary, if one gets rid of the workforce, then profit rises and even more dividends will be distributed. Downsizing represents the easiest way for a company to reduce costs. And those who become unemployed cost hardly anything – even, nothing. Job seekers are ultimately required to further boost the economy and they don’t need to be employed to do this. Every Euro which lands in the hands of those receiving benefits flows back into the economy.

Simple maths: the greater the amount of money that the unemployed are given, the greater the amount of money which is pumped into the economic cycle. Why should purely economic enterprises have a great interest in bringing back the unemployed to the world of work? They also don’t consume much less than someone who is employed..

  • The subsistence minimum doesn’t only safeguard one’s existence – it does much more: this has rather become a type of basic income which covers all needs, not only food and housing. A “regular” at the employment office receives – from taxpaying workers – every possible necessity that a person who works and who earns their own money also receives. Let’s not forget all the exemptions and allowances such as television fees and the Internet.

Do such benefits serve to safeguard one’s existence? Public libraries offer free Internet access. There are mobile tariffs for calls and texts for a few Euro per month but no data tariffs to surf on the WWW. And let’s be honest, chatting on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and online games aren’t basic needs to safeguard our existence. The development of the public infrastructure is without a doubt necessary for successful job seeking as are support for applications and professional applications in the online self-service at the employment office itself. Not, however, the further financing of actually private free-time activities in order to perhaps increase the turnover of Internet companies in the USA …

These two points alone lead the fact that a life as a “social scrounger” is made both possible and lucrative.

And I have thought of two counter-measures which would ensure more fairness for everyone:

  • On the one hand, the so-called dismissal of workers has to become a cost factor for companies: Firms should be obliged to bear a part of the unemployment payment and this should increase according to the size of the company. The economy could at last develop an interest in employing people again. Under these new conditions such people would spend significantly more money and companies would incur much less costs.
  • On the other hand, comprehensive coverage for people under the age of 30 should simply no longer exist. Rather, one should help these people to become (re-)integrated into the world of employment, thereby developing a natural willingness to work. If you miss something in life, it is well known that the desire to fulfill this wish also increases – and that something has to be done. Benefits should be provided in relation to the employment situation. As an example: for someone of 49 years of age or older, the chances of finding a job are poor; and the situation is worse for anyone over 50 seeking employment – and then the basic income inevitably comes into effect. In order to make a steady life possible for these people.

Because, if a person becomes unemployed from a certain age and as a result finds it more difficult to find work, a concession in the form of early retirement would be reasonable; ultimately it is the state that has failed in such cases to divide work in a fair manner. A further advantage would also emerge: namely, the guarantee that all efforts would focus on reducing the burden of the public budget by employing these people. But what about the situation with adolescents? They are allowed to sink into inactivity if they are not offered any incentives. Do we want to “breed” families similar to the HARTZ-IV families in Germany in which the parents, role models for their children, live from social benefits and who pass on this “career wish” to their offspring?

And what is happening with us in Austria?

In every discussion about social protection the point is raised that a reduction is not feasible because an existence minimum is exactly that – a minimum. However, strangely enough, it is possible to reduce the income of people who work for their children and who pay maintenance by up to 25% below the existence minimum – and despite this they should be able to live. Why is this principle not applicable to people who say:

I won’t work in a company for the same amount of money that I can receive from the state without having to work?

Perhaps this 25% decrease would be enough to drastically reduce the number of unemployed by providing an incentive both for people who don’t work but who are also not yet too old to find a job and for companies to find alternatives for people to reduce costs – instead of dismissing them to make more profit. The development of a measure based on an assessment of an individual’s activity and, as a result, the withdrawal of unemployment benefit is, in my opinion, unacceptable. As such it is those who are older and who are experiencing difficulties in finding a job – despite all their efforts – who are affected. A worker at the employment office would see the situation differently…

Arbitrariness has no place in a social system.

We need fairness in society! For those who work as well as for those looking for work. Whoever wants to work should be able to. Having to be unemployed appears to be an incredibly depressing lot and should be avoided at all costs. And whoever doesn’t want to work should not receive more than he actually needs to survive. To try and find work, to be able to afford that what he wants and to:

literally earn it himself.