Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Contemporary slavery

Two girls protesting child labour (by calling ...Image via Wikipedia
One of the biggest dillusions or our time is the one about abolishing slavery. Recently I came across Internship offer that actually requires payment in order to work there. For free that is. More conretely, one of distinguished EU institutions that is very far from bakrupting is inviting young people to gain working experience in their office, for a bit more than 100 EUR "award" monthly, on top of which they get also 3.7 EUR daily for lunch.

Now in Brussels, this translates into more or less at least minus 800 euros monthly for being able to bring someone coffee and admire their ability to glow importance. It is not much different in Germany, where highly educated people need to take on full responsibility and work full time in so called Practice jobs for half a salary that covers only rent and maybe food for a week.  Slovenia if equally sad and lots of personal stories of precarious young people and their experience with labour market are beautifully described on this blog (in Slovenian).

We never abolished slavery, we just call it differently now. Internships, part time jobs, you name it, there's plenty more where this came from. But times have not been particularly bright for the youth employment long before the crisis. Now our society has vividly illustrated what "The world and future depend on the young" really means. It doesn't mean we should invest in youth because it will be creating our tomorrow. It means we should make sure the youth pays for tomorrow.
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alcessa said...

Last week I read starting a full-time job at EU means 4000 EUR monthly (net salary). Though I am sure living in Brussels or Lux is expensive, it is still quite a sum, no? In light of this, paying for a job at EU is a kind of investment which may yield more money later ... If we start thinking about it in strictly financial terms, that is. The problem is you need to have enough money to do this or your parents must be working for EU in which case you live in Brussels & Co. I know EU stresses the equality of opportunities quite loudly, but this is not one of them.

In Germany, the employment market is slowly but steadily getting more and more hungry for skilled employees and this may never change. They say in Baden-W├╝rttemberg anyone can get a job nowadays, even Geisteswissenschaftler :-) What I mean is: if you have a university degree in Germany, you belong to a class of employable persons with the least risk of unemployment (someone proved this). If you studied social sciences, your chances of getting out of that pesky low-paid Praktikum are good right now. Not everywhere, but that may change one day, too.
In Slovenia, things may not change for the better soon: we don't have enough good jobs for the high-skilled, do we?

(one of the posts on the linked blog that sent me thinking hard and long was the most recent one ... You know what I found out? It turned out my opinion is you cannot stay away from work opportunities just to preserve your precious personality. Yes, the kinds of behaviour often required at work places are low-level. (it is better to freelance in this case) But this doesn't mean you have to change your private personality, too. You just construct your working persona, that's all. You needn't love it: it's enough if it brings you money. Don't hate me for saying that :-) In my experience, perfect personalities, perfect logic and honesty do not a good working environment make. They are even bad in a marriage if overdone. You do want to let other people breathe their way.)

Cherry said...

Wow, that's a comment :)

4000 eur/months isn't bad indeed. But apart from those who work in the parliament, none of my friends in Brussels who are fully employed earn that much. It's more like at least half less and it's considered a good salary even then. And yes, Brussels if expensive.

As it is for Germany, I don't think things are that good actually. A friend of mine who is an architect needed to take one praktikum after another, to be able to have any job at all. Now he is working in H&M selling clothes. Someone may have prooved that you are employable with a uni degree, but practice actually shows you're not, unless you work in the field that has deficit of people.

As it is for other things, I guess we have different view on that. I don't think we should be forced to create our working personas to be able to survive. I don't think it is unfair that people don't want to work in an unfulfilling jobs because after all this means at least 8-10 hours or feeling shitty every day and additional 2 hours of trying to realx from feeling shitty.

I've done this and would never do it again. This destroys people, so I wouldn't dare to rub their noises in it and I think in todays society, when we anyways say there is a crisis of values, we should value people who have their ideas and stick to them even more.

I think everyone should have a right to fulfilling work, that doesn't make them feel unappreciated and makes them hate themselves. I don't think creating a kind of working schizophrenia helps at all, I think it leads to self-hate, metal disease, depression and suicides. There, this is how I feel :)

alcessa said...

OK, I don't have friends at EU so I wouldn't know. :-) But the guy who said that was from EPSO and he explicitly mentioned the Commission. HE said within a few years the EU is going to need many, many new candidates as many people will retire.

There are people with what is considered clever education who don't get a job in Germany, yes. Lawyers, (East German) engineers, also architects, as you say. But it more and more depends on the country you are looking for a job in (Brandenburg vs. Bayern, you know) and also on other reasons for your employability or non-employability. My husband works for a research institute and even though they desperately need good scientists, there are always some candidates they simply cannot take (personality, previous jobs, general attitude ...).

I love disagreeing because it makes me rethink my positions and it is a process I find absolutely necessary. So: thank you for presenting your opinion in such a detailed way :-)

I still have to disagree, though. Let us have a premica (a straight line), reaching from X to Y, shall we? Now let us say X is your private and totally real personality and Y is your official persona (the one you need for your job). In what I call a normal situation, you are standing slightly to the right of X when working and are occupying X (private personality) when not working.
There is a point on our X-Y line which is painful: a point at which you cannot stand pretending to be someone else for 8 or more hours. This point of pain depends on your adaptability (ability to adapt to your environment temporarily without suffering) and also at the expectations you have to meet.
As an adult person, you should know where approximately that point is. This knowledge should be then used to decide which kind of jobs you can make and which not. As my point is very near to X I have never been able not to work as a freelancer. As a freelance teacher, I was still forced to move closer to Y, but there was always the possibility to drop out (which I did a few times). Also, my teaching Y point was really nice (I had to deal with really nice people who were simply different). As a freelance translator, Y is not too important, but I still think I might try some more "real people exposure" one day.
There's nothing schizophrenic in that: we've climbed from the trees and started to talk and ever since, we must all try to meet at some point.
On the contrary: expecting the society to enable you to totally preserve your precious non-spoiled personality outside your private life is narcissistic, which would be another kind of mental problem. This totalistic position of desperately wanting to keep one's halo on one's head is less healthy than we know...

Cherry said...

Well, yes there is the EPSO thing which is btw total joke: it is a company that is making standardised tests as a condition to pass for EU jobs. Ironically people who are making the tests and writing the manuals on how to pass the tests have either never taken the test themselves or have never passed one :)

Disagreeing is much more fun than agreeing, true :) I love dialogue because it indeed makes you reconsider your thoughts on things.

Well, the reality is we aren't really always able to learn on other people's experience but need to make our own mistakes to learn from them so I don't neccesarily think that as an adult you know yourself to the point you're describing here.

I think knowing yourself is a never-ending process that includes testing the limits and making many mistakes, including taking the wrong jobs. But yes, eventually you get to the point when you know what works for you and what not. But the real problem is there is not always possible to take jobs that work for you because there aren't any. I think actually the worse thing is knowing exactly what you want to do and being good in it, but having to do something else because you can't earn money with what you'd love to do.

Obviously I don't know which particular story at this blog you were referring too and how far the person was willing or not willing to change, but I can tell you that as a freelance copywriter I betrayed my values lots of times when writing texts for big and evil corporations because as a freelancer you are pushed to do it. Take it or leave it and if you leave it they find someone else and you don't get through the months. I betrayed what I stand for and I can tell you it makes you feel dirty so I'm not doing it anymore. And honestly I don't care what others think of that, this is the line i'm not crossing.

Yes, all the work is honourable, but then again I still wouldn't do all of it. It doesn't mean I'm lazy or unprepared to work. Being an adult I think I can decide for myself and others will have to live with it :)

Cherry said...

Also when I do good work, I want to be properly paid for it. But most of the times unfortunately I am still not.

alcessa said...

Well, let us agree at this point: if you know what you can and can't get an appropriate job, that's really bad. Also, I totally agree that one needs to find out how far one can go and that this is a process including mistakes. Yes. But at some point, you do know it, more or less.

I cannot but agree that we are all developing all the time, most of us. But tell me: would you say you don't know your comfort zones? More than other things (because they have a higher priority)?

Again: yes, being a freelancer means you adapt to things you hate out of your "free will" LOL - you can decide whether to do a shitty job or not, but if you need money, you will. I should know. Well, I am pragmatic about that as well: if I need money, I will do it, and when I don't, I stop doing things for that particular client. In the mean time, I search for other clients. Don't fell personally touched by this utterance, though: I can afford it because I just translate. It is quite a different story with you.

Again, it is a question of a comfort zone: if as a freelancer you have betrayed what you care for, you might appreciate a full-time job with lesser problems all the more. Don't misunderstand me: it would simply mean that you have psychically and bodily grown accustomed to some levels of stress connected with work-related shit and it would now be peanuts for you. As such, you would positively influence your working environment and your colleagues. which is a good work, too. (this one's ging me the creeps)

Cherry said...

Of course I am well aware of my comfort zones and am trying to get out of them on regular bases. The only problem I have with getting an adequate regular job that would include writing is, I can't do it in the office, at least now in regular office with other people and many distractions. I've tried and it's really hard, plus the work done is not good enough by my standards.

Working as a freelancer also gave me chance to explore in when and in what conditions I work best. This is something an office job can never give me, as I need to be there from 9 to 5 (at least), regardless if I am more productive in the evening. It's a pity but yes, we all make compromises :).

As you're probably the only reader of my blog, you'll soo find out how the next regular job works for me.

alcessa said...

Exactly the same reasons why I love working as a freelancer :-)

Do you mean to say you're going to start working somewhere soon? (yes, I am curious)

Cherry said...

Probably yes but mostly because I am moving. To Brussels, of all the places :) I guess you can understand compromises we make for love better than anyone else :)

But at the moment I am still getting creative in trying to get by by doing different freelance jobs. We'll see how it works out. And sometime this year, my novel should also be out, in t he worst case only as Kindle edition :)

So keeping finger crossed and getting the last kick out of my darling Berlin.

alcessa said...

Ouch ... Brussels instead of Berlin ... I feel for you :-) But yes, in my book love is a good reason. (my hubby and I, we often discuss differences between real and freelance work and we usually agree both have pros and cons we can live with but none is perfect. For example: in 2009 (the great recession year) I worked during the summer because translation jobs were rarer, while my husband took his annual holiday because there was no reason to give it away, we both agreed. So I worked and he had to take care of his (local) holiday entertainment :-) and none was good, but we didn't suffer either. At other times, he may spend a whole afternoon at useless meetings while I work on an exciting, interesting text and enjoy it terribly :-), at which obvious signs of my work pleasure he may get a bit green around the gills ... :-) But he always says we derive our pleasure from our private lives (even though we work so much) and it is true: it is our free time that really counts, in a non-defetist, non-depressive way ...)

Novel? Will you link to it on Goodreads? :-)

Cherry said...

I will probably link it to Goodread, yes. But for my only blog reader I will also provide a free copy :)

alcessa said...

:-) "only blog reader" LOL ... One single chatty reader can be a lot of work on some days, too (like today)

So you've noticed I am a happy Kindle user then. :-)

Cherry said...

Would hardly call this work :)

and yes, Kindle family is great an i really support it. In terms of reading I don't think and e-Pad beats Kindle