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Jan-07-2013 11:05printcomments

Why don't they just get a job?

The job situation in Canada is light years away from the situation south of the border, but it's still no slam dunk.



(Waterloo, Ontario) - I really dislike that question. I've heard it in many ways, from many different people; some well-meaning, others, not so much. I know the question comes out of a lack of understanding, an understanding that even myself, someone who deeply cares about poverty issues, didn't truly grasp until a few years back.

I grew up in a middle class family. My parents both have fantastic jobs and we never lacked anything we needed. I learned the importance of working hard and being responsible with what I have.

When I went to university I got my first taste of what it is like living on a low income. My parents moved out west and I was left renting an apartment with my younger sister and juggling a part-time, minimum wage job, university and university tuition. It was tough. There were many months where I truly wondered where the rent was going to come from. By the grace of God, a decent scholarship, student loans and eating a lot of peanut butter sandwich meals, I managed to get through those years.

The thing is, even as a student living with very little, secretly I always knew I had a fall-back. If I were truly stuck, I still had my parents. They may have been far away, they may have been letting me try it on my own, but deep down, I always knew they would help me out if I needed it.

I can’t imagine not having that. It is like walking a tight rope without a safety net. So many people walk that line without anything to catch them. Going month to month hoping the hours at work stay consistent, praying that the car doesn’t break down again and wondering where in the world the rent is coming from when it does.

When I finished my undergrad in 2009 I decided to volunteer abroad. I returned six months later, pleased with the experience and excited to get a job in my field of study. I applied to all my dream jobs. Nothing. I applied to jobs that were at least in my field. No takers. I applied to every sort of retail position. Not a call. I didn't even get an interview with the Home Depot who was hiring for their lighting and garden departments, despite the fact that I had a university degree and had work experience both at a lighting store and doing landscaping.

It took over four months for me to find a job, and it was only a part-time position at a bookstore that paid minimum wage.

I was Canadian-born, English speaking, intelligent, educated, healthy, personable, a hard worker with plenty of work experience who desperately wanted to work and it took me that long to find a job.

What if I had been an immigrant and didn't speak much English? What if I didn’t finish high school? What if I struggled with mental health issues? How long would it have taken then?

When we ask the question “why don’t they just get a job?”, we assume that there are a plethora of sufficient jobs ripe for the taking; despite the dramatic shift towards part-time, low-wages and unstable work. We also neglect to acknowledge the real challenges/ barriers people face in attaining those jobs. Most people want to work; they want to do something meaningful with their lives. We need to move past blaming those who live in poverty, and work to create a more equitable and inclusive society where people can find jobs that are stable and adequate.

The original post can be found here: http://vibrantcanada.ca/blogs/waterloo-region/why-dont-they-just-get-job, as well as many others posts on the Vibrant Canada website.




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Marnie January 7, 2013 2:33 pm (Pacific time)

Dear Author, Your article makes some very good points. I have found myself in your situation. Good education, background in management and unable to secure full time work. I have been working two plus jobs for several years now. Unfortunately, you are correct that it is difficult for even the most experienced to get jobs in this economy. One thing that is bleeding the US coffers dry is the litany of folks who are able bodied and do not wish to find work. They continue to receive money from the government when they could at least attempt to find jobs. If this does not stop, we are going to be in larger financial trouble than we are now. I have friends who have no excuse not to find work except that the government pays for everything they need and they take advantage of that for years. Our government, instead of just giving out money should be assisting these folks in securing employment through training or volunteer work that can lead to long term jobs. The system is backwards, give help when help is needed and get folks off the public dole.

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