Lessons from Slovakia in unemployment and workfare… (Day 188)

Snow in Kosice 2013

I may be studying abroad however I try to keep abreast of what is happening in the UK and world around me. Politics was something I was never really interested in until my final year of university in the UK when I realised that it only took one person to bring about change. Though I try to keep my diary veterinary related sometimes when I see tweets on my twitter feed I just have a moment where I have to share.

The last I knew in the UK to get unemployment (jobseekers allowance) you simply have to be looking for work. I remember reading about how the government introduced something called workfare where in order to continue getting benefits claiments are forced into unpaid work within for-profit companies and corporations. The principal of for profit minimum wage paying large national and multinational companies getting free labour is in my mind close to slavery. They argue that valuable skills are being taught, however I for one have to question what valuable skills is someone learning from being forced to stack shelves for a month?

When I first planned to move to Slovakia to study I knew I was in for a different culture, and it really excited me to have the opportunity to see a different way of living. Whilst there are some things that I do not like here, one of the things that has impressed me is how clean, well maintained and tidy the city is. Especially during the periods of heavy snow we have had I have been impressed with how well the city kept running, buses and trams still ran on time and shops stayed open.

Snow in Kosice 2013I set out to look into this further, and discovered that those that were claiming unemployment were responsible for this. Instead of working for profit making companies the unemployed were tasked with working for the community. There is a list of people who are called up in rotation when needed – such as in heavy snow to work making sure paths are cleared and gritted. After the snow is gone they are then responsible for clearing the grit from the streets to be used again when needed. What I found best about it was that they could learn skills, they could work on road crews learning construction skills, in the parks learning about gardening and nature.

I leave you with a thought, multinational and national companies give very little back to you as a taxpayer, instead lets look at workfare being about the community. After all I did hear that the UK ground to halt with the snow again this year…

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