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The mistreatment of the jobless

by linca Mon Apr 16th, 2007 at 06:53:38 AM EST

Our societies have created the miracle of automatisation. Boring, repetitive jobs can nowadays be replaced by machines. Yet, luddist attitude can be found : people see their jobs taken by machines, and their lives broken ;  as unqualified employment dimishes, those who used to undertake it see no hope on the job market. See this article in today's Libération about supermarket casheers whose jobs are being killed by automatisation :

Les caissières sont des travailleuses de force, ne peut-on pas se réjouir de voir disparaître un travail aussi pénible ? Casheers are strength workers, shouldn't we be happy to see such hard work disappear ?
Les caissières manipulent une tonne de marchandises par jour. Nous ne sommes pas contre les nouvelles technologies, mais nous souhaitons que leur introduction soit discutée autour d'une table. Nous souhaitons une gestion prévisionnelle des emplois et des compétences, nous acceptons la transformation de ces métiers, mais que cela se fasse sans casse sociale.Casheers handle a ton of merchandise every day. We aren't against new technologies, but we wish their introduction would be discussed first. We wish jobs and competences' evolutions to be forecast, we accept that those jobs evolve, but we wish that it doesn't cause social problems.

Of course, the social costs are in the end beared by the employers, or society. Unemployment is running high, despite measures to hide it. And now, the chosen solution is to make welfare so obtrusive and threatening that the lives of those having to live on welfare are warranted no privacy. The exemple will be Germany's Hartz IV Plan, as seen through the frightened eyes of French blogs - if anyone from Germany reads this diary, i'd like to know if the vision is exaggerated or real...

From the diaries - whataboutbob

A traditional narrative in modern welfare state politics is that of the Welfare Cadillac Queen, the unemployed abusing welfare and making a better living than honest, hard working citizens.

See for example the cover of Le Point, a right wing news magazine, this week :

Or this debunking of an older article from the same magazine, claiming that a man was able, on the Allocation Spécifique de Solidarité or ASS, the lowest unemployment welfare form of the French system, which is about 450€/month, to buy an Alfa Roméo and his house...

By claiming that fraud is huge in welfare benefits, this propaganda has created a system of control on the lives of those on welfare, who need to constantly justify they are very actively looking for work. But systems such as Germany's Hartz IV go much farther : those on job welfare must thoroughly justify they have absolutely no means to live on their own, according to this blog post :

Lors de votre demande de Alg2, vous devez vous mettre à nu. On vous posera plein de questions sur votre vie personnelle, votre famille, vos relations et vos ressources. On vous demande des extraits de vos comptes, parfois 6 mois rétroactifsWhen asking for Alg2 welfare, you must show everything to your advisor. Many questions will be asked on your personal life, your family, your relations and resources. 6 months old bank movements will be asked.
Vous devez accepter n'importe quel travail que vous êtes capable d'effectuer physiquement, psychiquement ou moralement (et c'est d'abord le conseiller qui en décide)You must accept any work you can physically, psychologically or morally do (And the advisor decides if it is the case)
Vous devez accepter toutes les mesures d'insertions proposées par votre conseillerYou must accept all insertion actions your advisor decides you have to do
Si vous ne suivez pas les ordres d'insertion de votre conseiller, votre allocation sera baissée de 30%. (Il y a des possibilités quasiment illimitées de vous pousser hors du système)If you don't follow the orders of your advisor, your welfare will be diminished by 30%
Vous vivrez avec 345 euros par mois si vous habitez à l'ouest, et avec 331 euros à l'est.You will live with 345 euros a month in the West; 331 in the East.
Votre loyer et les charges seront payés si votre appartement est "conforme" aux exigences de l'ANPE (beaucoup ont très froid en hiver)Your rent and charges will be paid only if your apartment is conforming to the agency's rules (many are cold in the winter...)
Vous devez répondre présent dans les 24 heures qui suivent une convocation par courrier. (Encore un bon moyen de radier, car si la lettre arrive un jour plus tard, vous ne pouvez pas venir à la convocation et serez radié)You must be present in the 24 hours following a snail mail invitation. (A good way to push you out of the system ; if the letter is one day late, you will be kicked off welfare)
Vous vendez votre voiture si elle a une valeur supérieure à 5 000 euros pour en acheter une moins chère, et vous vivrez de la différence = (voiture + de 5 000 euros) moins (voiture moins de 5 000 euros). Pendant que vous vivez de votre "plus-value" sur votre voiture, vous ne recevrez rienIf your car is worth more that 5000 €, you have to sell it and buy one that is worth less than 5000€. You live only on the price difference for a few months.
Vous habitez dans un appartement trop grand aux yeux de l'ANPE (environ 45m² pour une personne seule), alors on vous demandera de trouver un appartement plus petit dans une période de six moisIf your appartment is too big in the eyes of the agency (45 square meters for a single person), then you're supposed to find a smaller appartment in less than 6 months.
Vous avez économisé pour votre retraite, comme le gouvernement vous le demande depuis des années : On vous laisse vos économies à hauteur de 200 euros par année de vie.You saved for retirement, as the government has been asking for many years : You can keep 200 € for each year you've been saving.
Votre conseiller vous demande d'effectuer un travail à 1 euro. C'est un travail à intérêt général, payé à 1 euro par heure que vous avez généreusement le droit de garder en plus de votre Alg2. Pendant ce travail, vous n'avez pas le droit de grève, vous n'avez pas de contrat de travail, vous n'avez pas de vacances et vous n'avez pas le droit de décliner cette "offre" d'activité sous peine de voir vos 345 euro soumis à une baisse de 10 à 30%Your advisor tells you to take on a 1 € job. It is a general interest job, with a 1€ per hour pay that you can keep over your Alg2 welfare. You have no right to strike, no holidays, no work contract, and you can't refuse this offer, on penalty of seeing your allocation drop by 10 to 30%
Vous aurez parfois de la visite de "fouineurs sociaux" qui exigent de voir votre chambre à coucher et compter les brosses à dents dans la salle de bain pour savoir si vous vivez vraiment seul. Une brosse à dents de trop, et vous êtes soupçonné de vivre en couple et aurez des problèmesRegularly, "social detectives" will visit and ask to see your sleeping chamber, and count the toothbrushes in your washing room, to see if you really live alone. One toothbrush too many, you are suspected of being in a couple and will have troubles.
Vous avez des biens de valeurs, alors vous devez les vendre et en vivre avant de toucher quelque chose.You own goods of value : you must sell them and live on the proceeds before getting any welfare

This is the Hartz IV system, but similar things happen in France for people on the RMI, as shown in this French documentary, Volem rien foutre al païs, and probably in other European countries.

This is the abolition of Speenhamland all over again. As Polanyi described it in The Great Transformation, the only way Liberalism could create a free work market was to cut off the welfare safety net, so that hunger could force people to work in miserable conditions.

Our societies are not ready to accept to see people dying of hunger yet - although they seem to accept seeing thousands of homeless sleeping in the streets

So the tools chosen to force people back to work are loss of privacy, a dimishing safety net (as shown by this collective in this report (French pdf), which also shows the cost of unemployment welfare is stable), social stigmatisation through "Welfare Queen" propaganda.

And of course the low-cost, low-paying work further destroy the work market, diminishing the number of jobs available at normal wages - a great tool to lower the share of wealth going to the people who need to work to earn a living.

lower the share of wealth going to the peopl who need to work to earn a living.

That's exactly what it's about. Obtaining cheap, disposable labour so the people who sit on top of the pile can get rich faster.

That's what is meant by the euphemism of "labour market reform".

Great diary, linca.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 at 09:54:24 AM EST
How are people on the lowest rings of welfare support treated in various European countries ? How many are declared "unfit for work", and how are those that are supposed to be looking for work treated? is it as bad as in Germany?

As an aside, les Autres Chiffres du Chômage is a great French resource on unemployment...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Apr 15th, 2007 at 10:28:36 AM EST

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