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May 27, 2014

Rose Simpson: Media types should stop calling jobless Canadians lazy

Rose Simpson's column appears every Tuesday morning on the OttawaStart Blog. She also blogs at Rose's Cantina. You can read her previous columns here.


Last week, I was watching Power Play, the CTV blorgfest chaired by the cherubic Don Martin who was discussing the current state of the job market. According to Martin and panelists, a shocking trend has developed.

One third of all people without jobs have simply stopped looking for work.

The fate of the unemployed has become a hot button issue in the Ontario election, a hot tamale being tossed back and forth by Tim Hudak who would actually cut cushy public service jobs in favor of good new jobs in the manufacturing sector and Andrea Horwath who would somehow pull jobs out of thin air.

The jobless situation also recently turned into a political football at the federal level when it was revealed that employers like McDonald's have been feathering their nests with cut-rate foreign workers rather than hiring Canadians.

I was looking forward to hearing some spirited discussion on Martin's program. Instead, I heard this.

"Are these people just lazy?" asked Martin, reframing the same question several times.

Many the "experts' agreed with him, brandishing that old saw that there are great jobs out there, but the jobless think they're too good to take them.

Finally, Martin, the proud Albertan that he is, declared that these lay-abouts simply needed to move to the Wild Rose province where, apparently, all the good jobs lay.

As one of the 30 percent who have stopped looking for jobs, this condescending banter stuck in my craw. Who are these people with all the answers, the journalists who only stray away from the Parliamentary precinct long enough to wet their whistles at Hy's, these so-called experts who test the pulse of the job market from their lofty perches in the hallowed halls of academia? Have any of them, once, felt the sting and despondency of an unreturned phone call or email? Have they felt the boot on their superannuated backs when being turned down to pack groceries at the local Loblaws?

I didn't see one unfortunate jobless person being interviewed on that program. There were only gaping maws making an extra $200 for their five minutes of fame by talking about something they didn't understand.

Now, I like Don Martin, who usually provides a fresh, irreverent and down-to-Earth approach to issues, but I didn't like him -- or any of his panelists -- that day.

That's because his remarks cut too close to the bone.

I live in a pretty typical household these days. My husband, a professional cameraman and producer with more than 30 years experience in his field, is now selling cars to rich people on commission. My son and his girlfriend live with us downstairs because they work at Target and most months have difficulty making the rent. Both of them would happily work anywhere, take anything, but like many educated young people, they've become slaves to a retail industry which hires only the bare minimum of staff, all of those part-time. Me, I am one of the one-third who have simply given up on looking for a job because I haven't been able to find one, part-time or full-time.

The market here in Ottawa is terrible. Part of the problem is that the federal government has systematically reduced the public service, so there are lots of retired or packaged public servants out there taking all the jobs that used to be plentiful for people like me. I spent much of my career working in the not-for-profit arena, a place that held out relatively low paying but interesting jobs. Those jobs are now being gobbled up by people who already have pensions or a stash of money, who come to the table with their fancy subsidized French certificates and Master's Degrees.

The agencies, once a hotbed for worker bees, have stopped hiring people like me because they have a stable of people with better credentials. In the meantime, they've reduced the pay for writers and editors who were once considered professionals. Now those jobs go for minimum wage.

I don't want Don Martin to feel sorry for me, but I want to straighten him out and give him a little schooling from the cheap seats.

I've applied for jobs at grocery stores, at pet stores and department stores. You can't just go in with a resume anymore. All the hiring is done by human resource professionals, on-line, who use key words to weed out people like me. The key words are: retail, cash and keyholder. I don't possess any of that experience.

I do have experience at call centres, the places where souls go to die. But I haven't got a reply back from a call centre in years.

I suppose I could move to Alberta, although my skill set doesn't involve experience with
Snap-on tools. I could go back to school, but at nearly 58, by the time I graduate it will be time to retire.

Last week, I had a lead on a media job. Unfortunately, I was turned down in favor of a twenty-something even though I've got thirty years experience in the business. If you think that age-ism is dead think again. Nobody wants a lumpy old granny like me even though I'm more social media savvy and literate than most of the grads coming out of journalism school.

I faced the fact, long ago, that I'm passed my expiry date.

You know, and I know it.

Back to Don Martin. Maybe Don would do well to walk a mile in my well worn jobless shoes. By the looks of him, he probably doesn't know how to use a Snap-on tool, either. And he isn't bilingual enough to get another job in this burg.

Guess he'll have to go back to Alberta when Bell Media gets tired of his wrinkly opinionated ass.

Seriously Don, we jobless people who have stopped looking for work, we aren't lazy. We're discouraged.

Some of us are suicidal.

Stop disrespecting us.

Stop talking smack in front of our backs.

It isn't useful, and it hurts our feelings. 

-- Rose Simpson


See also: Ottawa Jobs Guide
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