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Opinion

Serving up a different take on jobs and unemployment

Opinion

With ‘job snobs’ accused of being too picky to accept hospitality jobs going begging in the city, Dale Beasley gives his insight into working life on the other side of the counter.

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Last week I had the rather cringey experience of reading an article that claimed job seekers themselves were the reason for South Australia having the highest unemployment rate in the nation. They simply couldn’t be bothered working the “plethora” of jobs that were available.

The reporter used as evidence his own “investigation” of walking into 20 hospitality venues, saying he was a reporter and asking for a job. Apparently he was offered everything from bartending shifts to dishwashing gigs, which any job seekers should apparently be grateful to receive.

Hospitality can be a wonderful industry to work in. I wanted to be a chef since I was a little boy and ended up spending 10 years of my life working in kitchens. Those years were exhilarating, fun, challenging and rewarding.

Unfortunately you also pay a price as a worker who loves working in a fast-paced industry built on insecure employment. I missed out on Christmases, Easters, birthdays. One boss even tried to get me to work the weekend I had booked off to get married.

And hospitality isn’t easy. It’s physical work. They’re long, demanding hours without a break. It’s early mornings, it’s late nights, it’s weekends. And it is skilled work.

During my 10 year career in mostly casual and short-term jobs, I often struggled to make ends meet. At one point, in addition to my regular chef job I had to take a second casual job at a pub and deliver pizzas at night to be able to afford my rent. It was difficult to find rental accommodation and impossible to get a mortgage. Working a changing roster means that your pay fluctuates hundreds of dollars based on what hours you end up getting week to week. You can’t plan your life like that.

Ultimately, I made the heartbreaking decision to leave the industry that I loved because I wanted to start a family, and be available as a husband and a father. It’s a choice that many hospo workers end up making.

SA doesn’t just have the highest unemployment rate in the nation, we have a skyrocketing rate of underemployment, which is the number of people who are employed but are still unable to make ends meet. 25% of us are in insecure work and these insecure jobs are the type that have been growing for some time and show no sign of slowing down. They’re the type of jobs which hold back wage growth and stop workers having enough money to spend on discretionary items, like, say, hospitality.

The fact that our friendly reporter was offered these sorts of casual jobs while doing his research for his article demonstrates how workers are being driven into these sorts of insecure jobs.

The time when people could stay in one job for their entire career may be gone. Indeed we know that people my age will have at least half a dozen careers during their working life. But that shouldn’t mean that you have to work all of those careers at once just to be able to afford to pay the bills.

There has to be a better way. And blaming workers for the shoddy state of our employment market isn’t it.

Dale Beasley is SA Unions Secretary.

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