Monday, December 19, 2011

Unemployment figures are up 0.1 of a percent

Watching the news earlier this week I was struck by the above item - the fact that the unemployment has risen again. Just in time for Christmas.

Many folk I know are happily oblivious to such items on news bulletins. After all, most of what passes as news here in the land of Oz is devoted to minor celebrities, sporting acheivements and how to make your dollar stretch further in the wake of rising costs of living. This last point is trumpeted about repeatedly, despite the fact that Oz-stralia has one of the highest reported qualities of life world-wide.

To wit: 1) Australian's are building bigger houses than anywhere else IN THE WORLD; 2) We have comprehensive wage setting and industrial relations laws that ensure that minumum wage is nearly 600 Australian dollars a week; 3) Australian capital cities are routinely featured on top ten lists of the world's most liveable; 4) We have a comprehensive social security system that includes income support for people looking for work, unable to work, students, carers and pensioners, universal health care and housing assistance schemes (although these benefits are nowhere near the minimum wage); 5) While economic growth has slowed since the financial crises world-wide of 2008 onwards, the Australian economy is one of the very few that aren't in recession; 6) National unemployment is still very low overall, hovering around the 5% mark; 7) the gap between rich and poor in Australia is not quite as large as it is in many other places around the world.

I could also write a whole lot more about how quality of life is defined and interpreted in the first place; how overconsumption is increasingly being conflated with quality of life by media, politicians and those who are not living on the margins of our communities; and how much of this so called 'quality of life' is funded by extraordinary amounts of household debt. Suffice to say though, that Australian levels of debt per household are amongst the highest in the global North, with this debt mostly linked to mortgages and credit cards.

Yet a trifling point about a small growth in unemployment is usually ignored by everyone who doesn't work for government agencies paid to care about these things. But for me, the reason it caught my attention (apart from the fact that I am a) unemployed, b) a sociologist and c) have a social conscience and wonder how those newly employed people are faring given the focus on consumption at this time of year) is because I am wondering this: Does a 0.1% rise in national unemplpoyment figures have anything at all to do with the fact that Universities in Australia employ up to 50% (yep, FIFTY) of their staff on a casual or contract basis and the teaching year has just ended?

Happy holidays everyone.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What to do when you're unemployed? Start a blog.

I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while. Mainly I was put off by the thought that I really didn't have anything novel or interesting to say. So I spent a lot of time reading other blogs. Mostly ones to do with being "post-academic".

As the title of my blog suggests, I have a PhD. In Sociology. I gather from the blogosphere that Sociology is way down the list of disciplines with credibility. I had no idea. Maybe I would have a job by now if I had chosen a different discipline.

But I love Sociology. I love the way it is, in essence, about figuring out why people are constrained, shaped, influenced and pushed into acting the way that they do by the cultural, political and social dynamics of the contexts in which they live. Does that sound suitably vague? Good. It's meant to be - Sociology is, after all, whatever you want it to be.

That said though, throughout much of my research career, I have been accused of being "not sociological". WTF is that supposed to mean? Seriously. Who are these people that act as the guardians of the discipline? Why do they find it necessary to so rigorously defend those boundaries in the first place? Is it really about their own anxieties, maybe?

I am never very good at figuring that last point out. I don't know what it is, but usually it takes me forever to realise that when someone is being judgemental or undermining in some way that it has little to do with what I am doing and much to do with their own anxieities... Anyway, that's for another day.

So, why do I want to write a blog? I am not sure. Maybe as a way of figuring out what I am going to do with my life. Currently I am unemployed. Since finishing my PhD six years ago (Count 'em: SIX!!) I have been lurching from precarious contract to precarious contract. This is not personally sustainable any longer. I think I am going to have to move on and look for... gasp... a NON-ACADEMIC job! EEK!

But what to do? Where to go? How do I leverage my considerable experience/expertise into something that won't make me want to vomit? That's all I ask really. Less precariousness in my working life, and non-vomit inducing work. (NB: vomit-inducing means corporate. I think. I might consider working for a company with a good ethos though, eg. strong corporate fundraising values, no unpaid overtime. But then again, if the job is interesting/stimulating then I would consider going corporate too...)

Which means: I have NO IDEA where to start.

TGIF. I think that means I can have a drink. Of goon (wine in a box that is), 'cause it's cheap.