We really do seem to be returning to the thinking of the 19th Century where the Protestant Work Ethic - amongst other thought provoking ideas - basically laid forth the idea that the rich were showing God's approval by being rich and the poor God's disapproval by starving.
Iain Duncan Smith - as reported in today's Observer [click on blog title above to read the article] wants Job Seekers to be penalised for their audacity in previously working for industries/workplaces that can no longer retain their services. So to show them their sins and remind them what it is like to maintain "habits and routines" of working life [quote from the article] the suggestion is that the unemployed will have to undertake "mandatory work activity" of at least 30 hours a week for a four-week period [quote]. Apparently the Department for Work and Pensions is planning to organise this by contracting private providers who will presumably arrange placing the unemployed with charities, voluntary organisations and so forth.
Lots of objections spring to mind and will probably continue even after I have logged off. The sheer audacity of the way that this has been announced with no regard for the feelings of those who are unfortunate enough to be long term unemployed cannot even be described or listed. However these are just a few additional 'objections' that immediately occur:
1. Will the 'volunteers' in any way displace those already employed? Litter gathering and gardening as suggested in an article on the BBC news homepage should already be covered by local workers, for instance
2. Many of these 'volunteer' jobs will require some sort of training. Who pays the trainers or will they also be taken from those naughty, naughty individuals in the ranks of the unemployed?
3. Fares/Expenses: One assumes that in areas where the population of unemployed is in a higher ratio to the employed than others there will be less 'volunteer' jobs to go around. Therefore there will be fares/expenses involved in the logistics of 'matching' individuals and work. This will surely put the benefits bill up?
4. Insurance: These part-time/temporary workers will have to be insured. They may not be permitted to use machinery because training is insufficient and insurance would not cover.
5. At the end of the mandatory work period where are the jobs that our 'volunteers' are now raring to fill? Would I be cynical to suggest that nothing will have changed really? The real winners will be bureaucracy - a lot of forms will have been completed and possibly a few more civil service jobs created? And the private providers that are organising the scheme of course. Oh but wait a minute - wasn't that one of the ConDem pledges to cut down on bureaucracy and the Civil Service? I must have misheard that.
Picture today is of Robert Tressell's grave - author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. I may have mentioned this book before. Tressell may be spinning in his grave today. I hope not, may he [and the others with him] sleep gently.