Friday, July 21, 2006

Occupation

And now for instalment 3 in “How to bore your readers to tears in 4 easy steps”

I am officially unemployed. Yep that’s right a bottomless pit for tax muney. No you don’t get any points for guessing it. It’s way too obvious from my other post.

In the beginning there was shcool and I was very good at maths science etc.

And after graduating from high school my marks got my first preference in University of Chemical Engineering. I did well in that getting 1st Class Honours when I graduated 4 years later. After a short stint of work experience I went into the netherworld of a research based PhD. It was at this time my depression was getting worse and I can unreservedly say a PhD is an awful idea for the depressed.

I dragged this PhD on for a looong time and it is not yet complete. After a while 5 years actually I was no longer an official student and was instead a dependant on my exwife. Grand.

After coming out I was a dependant on the dole which has a fancy name now. I’ve been on it two years and been dunked in some of the dregs of society and it’s been a fantastic experience but I hate being on the dole.

The concept is a simple once really. A safety net much like trapeze artists use. We fall all the time in the job situation especially now that employer and employee loyalty means nothing. The net of small money is there to let us live.

You know when the trapeze artist falls do they lie there in the net until death do them part? No. They try to get up and out and back on the next show. Does everyone sit there gawking at them? No they jump to help the artist on their feet.

These two things aren’t happening enough.

At any rate in my case I’m working on depression so that I can finish my thesis and get a part time job for basic jobs skills in my CV. Hopefully to later springboard into a better job.

I have no doubt I’ll comment more on the dole but here are a few highlights from my opinion;

1) The dole pays very low here about $300 a fortnight ($US225). It is too low to be taxed. I think the dole amount is fair not too much or too little really. Too much and it would encourage people to remain on it. Too little and people would fail. Nearly all the money is gobbled up by rents, bills etc. A small rent assistance (it averages 1/3 of the rent cost) is paid as an extra.

2) Some time ago the Centrelink (the dole providers) split the duty of giving work searching assistance out and it is now managed separately by small groups, some corporate some quasi charity. This was a good idea IMO because it looks like the work assistance given in the past was appalling and the new form of assistance is more effective. Now Centrelink manages the money side basically.

3) Too many people have debts to Centrelink they are paying back. Some of them are fair but many are a failure of responsibility on Centrelink’s side. For example, if they are paying the wrong type of payment and discover their error they will recover all payments and not credit the payment they should have been making.

4) When choosing the group to provide the employment service you are given a list of company names with no info at all not even the address and of course you must decide on the spot. So you are choosing between say Employment R US and SupaJobz. How competitive.

5) There is a huge problem with single mothers in the dole. Plenty of them do the right thing dealing with the situation and bringing up their children. But there are the others. You know the more kiddies you pop the more money you get. And it happens. How well do you think those kids are looked after?

6) When you go for your initial interview you are not told all sorts of important things. Like cheap bus fares, special bill subsidies (mainly for families), rent assistance and the effect of part time work.

8) When my hearing aids broke which I am dependant on to communicate there was no assistance from any source. It took 8 months to get them and not from Centrelink. I remain bitter about that to this day yet happy they were provided eventually.

9) Mental illness is a hidden problem in the dole and I think accounts for a proportion of long term ones. There is no real support from Centrelink or elsewhere.

10) Another large segment are the ‘bludgers’ who are content with low payments and ‘live’ on it in a permanent way.

11) There is a requirement for many on the dole to list where they’ve looked for work (min 4 per fortnight up to 10) No big deal for an active jobseeker really except it ignores a few problems. The prime problem is the buckets of people ringing up and flooding the employees with inappropriate or blatantly false desires to get job X. This is costing business a fortune. The hidden problem is the inability to properly enforce it being genuine.

7 comments:

AFSister said...

It sounds like you're trying to get your shit together though, Trias. Fighting depression, unemployment, and also "coming out" makes for a hard road. You've got a good head on your shoulders (even though it SCREAMS "liberal", haha!), so I'm sure things will turn out ok for you.

Sometimes life sucks. And other times... you suck on the lollipop of life, taking in it's sweet taste.

I think we both need more lollipops in our lives right now.

Trias said...

Thanks for your reply. Have you head the monty python song? I know it's [koff] British but..

Where did your lollypop go? I better check your blog.

Barb said...

I'm thinking the 'screaming Liberal' part is not so much, because you evidence desire to complete your education and get off the dole. Sounds like you've also found some of the holes in the concept, and I fear that our welfare here in the US contains similar, if not identical, ones.

I'm curious whether you are also penalized on the dole by finding part time work, as those here are when taking welfare assistance. For instance, if you find some job that might aid you (maybe in allowing you access to resources for research and writing), can you still take part in the 'remainder' of the assistance? (Example, you could replace part of the $300 per fortnight with $150 from a part time role with perks, can you do so, or risk losing all of the assistance?)
Here in the US, I know of cases where folks have tried to leverage themselves off welfare honorably, and found their attempts blocked by losing food stamps and other resources if they dis-Q for welfare. Hard to boot strap in those situations.

At any rate - I can see that it's a challenge, and that you're trying to get to your goal. Good on you.

Patrick said...

I guess I am lucky, I have not often been unemployed. On the few occasions I was the experience of applying for benefits was a humiliating one.
I was fortunate I found work before I actually needed them.

Life is a hard road, I wish you nothing but the best.

Trias said...

I have looked into the question of part time work. Over here part time work results in loss to your dole payment. As far as I can tell you don't loose other benefits like cheap bus fares until a certain point is reached. At low pay rates (say $60/frtnight) from the job the financial penalty is small. At modest levels it seems to reach a point where the tax you pay and the cost of employment (ie car, uniforms etc) mean you are slightly worse off than the basic dole. I'll know more clearly when I actually do it.

I want the job for its interaction and cv benefits more than money. Sure I think if I work part time I deserve the money but that's the system and I live with it. Of course there are limits to how much financial penalty I can take.

In reality people in my situation tend to do under the table jobs if they want money. No reporting no tax etc and also illegal of course.

Once you move into full time good quality work though the pay rates are well above the dole.

There are no food stamps here.

dreamkatcha said...

I've never been on the dole, but I've been out of work on several occasions between jobs and after finishing uni so know what a slippery slope it is. Feeling useless and being poor saps your confidence and makes you depressed. You turn up to interviews and project this image and you've got no chance.

Making the leap from no job to a permanent position can be very difficult, but temp work is relatively easy to come by. Even an entry level data input role will pay better than the dole and get you out of the house meeting people.

I think if the conventional ways of finding employment aren't working (they certainly haven't for me) you've got to look for other avenues and be more flexible about what it is you want to end up doing.

I've never had much of a clue what I want to do with my life, and still haven't, so have drifted from one thing to the other. I never thought I'd end up working in finance as I'm one of the least money-motivated people you could meet, but here I am. I'm still working on a temporary contract through an agency, though at least it seems to be heading somewhere. I'm learning new, transferable skills and the pay isn't bad.

Gollum said...

Trias,
Dude, you've got to get that manuscript finished. Seriously. That's your 600lb gorrila.
Stuff falls apart. That's what the social welfare net is for. I lived on it as a bairn. BUt the quicker you get off of it the easier it is.

Some hints for further down the road.
1) Try to save up a months worth of rent and food(even if it means eating top ramen three times a day as sole sustenance) for when you go serious job hunting. When you get a job they typically slash the amount you recieve. They often leave you with not enough to make ends meet.
This is a garauntee that you will still have a roof and eats. No beer for two months(shreik!) is a good place to start in saving this up.
2) Don't stress about the future job. One will be there. Ph.Ds aren't as rare as they once were, but there'll always be something. And you went chemeng? Dude, come on over to this side of the Pacific. They're always hiring in Martinez, Ca(near the San Francisco Bay area). It's all pyrolytic distillation for petrochem stuff, but it pays well($60kUS/annum). If you're interested I'll hunt down my uncle Keith----that's where he worked for 20+ years, and he desperately wanted me to go chem e.
3) Get that major obstacle of a PhD thesis out of the way. Gawd, that's a scary thing. Drives those of us without clinical depression into moments of despair. Get it done and things will look a tad brighter.
You sound more like my friend Kelcher, who finished the projects but got untracked when it came to writing, than me(whose projects cannot be finished). You've got a good shot at finishing. Get it done. Don't let it continue to hold you back.
4) Don't sneer at temp-to-perm type agencies. Sure, they skim 10%, but it is work experience. They get results pretty fast. Allows you to (sneer) network too.
Take care,
ry