Today is the 5th of January. The bank holidays are over, and all bar me are back at work. I`m unemployed. I stopped working in mid December, and my contract finished on 31st, but somehow, it`s only today that I feel “properly” unemployed.
As there`s a new job already waiting for me (waiting for paperwork), I haven`t signed on to claim anything, and it was only during a phone conversation with my sister the other day that I was thinking about National Insurance. The British NHS is different, but in Germany, you need to be registered unemployed in order to have health insurance, so I`ll have had to sign on for that week or two.
Even though there can be a large varity of reasons for not working, I grew up associating a very negative meaning with this word. There were two things my dad absolutely did not want us to become – drug addicts or unemployed. Through social work, I got introduced to the differentiation between voluntary and involuntary unemployment, which describes whether someone is looking for work or not.
I have been (selectively) looking ever since I put my name down for voluntary redundancy in October, but I suppose my unemployment is still voluntary, because I volunteered.
Some chose not to work in order to pursue different things: raising their children, caring for the elderly, building a new home from scratch or pursuing further education. Some chose to retire early, because they can afford it. All those people are voluntarily unemployed, but I doubt that anyone would judge them. I suppose if you do something meaningful and fund yourself, voluntary unemployment is not frowned on.
It`s only if you are receiving state benefits that you`re expected to be looking for work. This however is not so easy either. I guess we all know people who turned down a job with wages that were insufficiently higher than your benefits to provide an incentive. Personally, I think it`s acceptable for an accountant to drive a taxi, but some accountants would disagree. It`s partly for those reasons that the German benefits system was revised some 10 years ago for unemployment benefits to drop really low after one year. This did *not* however decrease voluntary unemployment, but (particularly given the credit crunch, which noone saw coming when this law was passed) pushed more people into relative poverty. I was sceptical when I first heard suggestions about unconditional basic income, but when I read that this is going to be introduced in parts of Holland, I was wondering whether this could work. I`d expect wages and working conditions to improve, too.
My own situation of not working has been pleasant so far – it fell right into the party season, so I saw loads of friends (as I always do), but for once I had time to make some delicious foodstuff myself rather than just a quick salad or bring a bottle of overpriced fizz. I`ve been back to the gym, at times when it was least busy, and dropped the extra 3lb that I`ve been carrying about since autumn. We had a week away, and I didn`t have to go back to work the next day. I`ve read loads of interesting things, even watched some telly, and my house is looking nice and tidy. I wore skirts too short to work and got myself drunk on a Monday afternoon, but now, I`m starting to feel the itch. I`m not a home bird, and although I first made sure that I kept to my usual routine, my bed time and get up time have both started to move forward. But as of tomorrow, my study materials will be available online, and then I`ll need to find a good routine between working less than ever, studying and all the fun stuff I want to do more of.
2016 will be amazing, and up until then, I will indeed be unemployed for… hopefully just another week or so…