I have never been unemployed. I was 17 when I bunked out of sixth form because I’d landed a job as a cub reporter.
Apart from four months of maternity leave, high days and holidays and a few bouts of flu, I’ve worked solidly for 36 years.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to be jobless. I have absolutely no first-hand experience of it; no one in my family has ever had to go to a job centre, or rely on the arrival of a benefits cheque for survival. So, how does that make me feel? Smug? Superior? Safe?
Damned lucky, actually. Yeah my parents taught me the work ethic, but they also brought me up to feel compassion. As such, I’m disgusted by those who are quick to judge the jobless, swift to slap on the dole-wallah label and assume they are all in the unemployment club because they want to be.
Bashing the have-nots is a growing trend among the haves. A study by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute says British society is becoming increasingly intolerant of the unemployed. Joblessness is seen as a lifestyle choice; people are poor because they are ‘morally-lacking’.
Where has this snootiness and ignorance come from? We’re Downton-obsessed, but not even their toffs are as snobbily judgemental as we, the current working class.
Government rhetoric on falling unemployment figures and the clampdown on ‘scroungers’ is constant. Both have to be promoted, but when times are hard, workers forget that Shameless-style families living on state handouts bigger than the average wage are the minority, and forget that getting a job can be the hardest job in the world.