The Beatles pop group I think it was, sung that; "a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure." Work can also give the worker a dignity and feeling of self worth but by the same tokens the high value of a having a job can give rise to exploitation particularly by those who can offer a chance of employment in times of long dole queues. Possibly the balance struck by employment protection laws in many western countries between encouraging the creation of new jobs and protecting the rights of workers favours workers' rights a little over much and places too little emphasis on their responsibilities. However workers tend to be the weaker parties to employment contracts so most employers should be able to cope.
Western nations appear at risk of suffering from serious financial meltdowns but their ordinary citizens still assume (as witness the waves of strikes affecting several countries) that the state will provide as much after financial armageddon as before. It is noteworthy too that those who protest against what they term globalisation have little to suggest as alternative ways of providing employment or helping the disadvantaged beyond clobbering wayward bankers.
In the UK whatever is suggested to bring state spending and state income more into balance causes outcries of selfrighteous indignation from both the political left and right and even greens (Brighton). Any government which listened to the people and read the whole spectrum of opinion even in the more informed newspapers would be at risk of doing absolutely nothing which possibly explains the Eurozone countries' continuing indecisiveness.
Raising taxes in the UK is never going to be popular - 'I pay too much already' - will be the outcry. Cutting welfare state benefits likewise will cause others to complain of 'the poorest being hit the hardest' and even government attempts to mitigate local council tax increases may be spurned as the Green party is doing in Brighton. Upon analysing each of these reactions more than an element of good compassionate or logical justifications for them will be found but sadly such do not pay the bills.
Current mindsets are the product of years of relative increases in national wealth when democracy and debate caused the balance between state spending and income to switch (usually moderately) to and fro in reflection of the prevailing political climate. Citizens have in the past been encouraged to feel that they have a right to a basic standard of living and that the State should increase this in line with individuals' needs if not wants especially for those not in work. Those in receipt of income from work or non-state sources tend to want to keep the state's cut in check.
Global things financial have substantially changed . Individual mindsets have yet to change to reflect this. An absence of cash is often resolved by borrowing but where lenders have little cash or themselves go on lending strike how then is payment to be made? The UK government is not going to run out of cash anytime soon but belt tightening will inevitably hit many who already feel poor. That brings me back to the issue of whatever is proposed to try to balance the country's finances there will be vociferous complaint from one quarter or another.
The arguments of Brighton's Greens are too full of local government-speak for me to unravel but Westminster City has a Tory run council on a completely different part of the political spectrum to Brighton's Greens. Westminster is proposing to levy car parking charges for most of the nights whereas currently its car parking charges mostly apply during daytimes only. Westminster is on the whole, an affluent part of London hugely well served by public transport day and night. Raising money by a new levy on car parking would hardly hit the poorest hardest. The new levy could even result in people reviewing their quite significant personal financial priority being given to car ownership and encourage less costly alternatives such as car clubs which abound in London or heaven forbid, night buses.
However the outcry against this proposed new car parking charge is enormous. The London Evening Standard newspaper is against it so are many churches who fear that their congregations will even be deterred by car parking fees from attending services. That viewpoint sadly says little for the depth of religious fervour - the devil needs only to don traffic warden attire to secure the closure of cathedrals and churches in Westminster then? Theatre owners are hardly any better with talk of people shunning West end shows if they have to pay to park their cars. In my view this is nonsense as commercial car parks have always charged for out of office hours parking. Again there is a dearth of suggested alternatives beyond more talk of banker bashing.
But government spending and taxation are only part of the problem. Individual mindsets too as I have mentioned need changing. Unemployment particularly among young people is far worse now than was the case when the Beatles sang their song. Nonetheless recent news reports indicate that some young British job seekers may not be as hungry for employment as their counter parts from countries which historically were not as wealthy as the UK has been. This disparity I fear may explain some of the restrictive mindset affecting UK but not Eastern European workers. The was an article recently about the Pret a Porter sandwich food shop chain. According to the news report the majority of young workers in many of its shops come from Eastern Europe even though the vacancies are open to all including British youth to apply for. The old mind set needs to be changed.
Nearer to home the school of which I am a governor has been seeking two recent graduates to go with Jesuit Missions to undertake work voluntarily for a few months with a poor school in Zimbabwe. Accommodation and some pocket money would be provided yet no one so far has come forward despite the fact that a 6 months stint in school work in Africa would not only be beneficial to the UK students as well as to the local children, but also would I think look impressive on the UK students' CVs, which in turn could facilitate their job searches on return to the UK.
Even closer to home, maytrees min. upon graduating determined that she need to earn some money to fund a few months student travel before taking on longer term employment. After tramping the streets and malls for days and asking shop managers for any available work she secured some hard but paid retail work. That in turn seems to have assisted with the quest (over several weeks and months but just possibly successful) for longer term employment upon the traveler's return in 2012.
Possible conclusions to be drawn from the above therefore are that dignity as well the need to earn one's daily bread and day of leisure, derive from employment. Unemployment is therefore a scourge on society. Society does need to provide financial safety nets to cushion the tragedy of unemployment but the young person has to play his or her part by rolling up sleeves by strenuously seeking and taking on any available work even if that means initially a lowering of aspirations.