Saturday, September 10, 2011


The thing about being on the dole is that you have so much time on your hands - and none of it is truly your own.

There is no distinction between jobseeking time and free time so there's always the nagging feeling that you could be doing something constructive and that what you are doing is not it. Unless you are looking for a very specific job, there are always more places to look and more jobs that could potentially be applied for.

Earlier in the summer, it was easy. I was applying for teaching assistant positions and there were a limited number of secondary schools that were within a reasonable distance. Each of them had a website with a vacancies page so all I needed to do was open up all the websites and check if there were any vacancies, apply for any that there were, and then I'd done all I could in terms of direct job searching for the day.

Now, with most of the TA jobs filled I have a broader job search - meaning it has no end. There is no real distinction between 9-5 and the evenings and no distinction between weekdays and the weekend. At any point I could be using my time "constructively" and this has the perverse effect of making me use my time less constructively. With no boundaries, constructive things are easy to put off and leisure activities such as taking a couple of days to go camping leave one feeling that it's an undeserved guilty pleasure. I long for a 'real' Friday night!

It's a bit like being self employed but without the cash.


  1. You could find some temporary work teaching English. Even part-time work could help while you're looking for what you really want.

  2. That was the succinct argument I've ever seen against the welfare dole.
    I went severely under-employed for a period of time while I was in Taiwan and without the a welfare dole that meant I also went hungry.

    As a result, I faced no "nagging feeling that [I] could be doing something constructive". I actually did something constructive. I went to job interview after job interview. I remember one afternoon looking at my last NT$10 and deciding to spend it on bus far an interview rather than bread.

    I'm actually a pretty lazy person - but I developed such a work habit that even after I was well employed I was spending 70 hours a week either working or looking for work.

    As a side benefit, I lost weight. 30 pounds in 2 months.

  3. You're quite right that benefits affect behaviour. As do taxes and many other political and economic choices we make about the structure of our society. None of these are a given, or natural state of affairs - these choices about taxation, spending and the division of labour are a necessary consequence of society.

    Taxes and benefits are designed to modify behaviour, alongside their primary purpose of raising revenue/preventing the worst excesses of poverty.

    Given a (hypothetical) binary choice between prostituting myself and starvation, I'd choose life. I'm not in that position and I don't believe anyone should be. So it is possible to say benefits can be a disincentive to work without saying they are necessarily a bad thing. It's quite reasonable to argue both taxes and benefits should be fine tuned to optimise social goods. What those goods are is another matter.

    The argument also breaks down when there are fewer jobs available than people looking for them. People who are unable to find work through no fault of their own because the economic numbers are against them should not starve.

    Even when people are occupied looking for work and receiving benefits as a result, I think as members of our society it is a good thing / it is right that they should have a hinterland - leisure and personal time too.

    N.B. I have paid my taxes, and still do.


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