The Dole (Again)
It was released last week that 170,000 people left the dole queues in the space of the past year. But the soaring numbers dropping off the dole this year were still not enough to prevent an even bigger surge on the overall Live Register, to 440,056 claimants.
According to the Irish Independent, the cash-strapped Government is now struggling to cope with an unemployment rate of 12.4pc, almost three times higher than the average 4.5pc jobless rate in 2007.
I can definitely see how these figures are coming about. I have been out of full time education about a month now but still cannot find a job. I also know many people from my Masters course in the same position as me.
Today I went into the dole office, not for the first time since I have been back in Dublin. You always have to wait about 30 – 45 minutes to be seen and today is no different. There is one of those digital clock things where you take a number. The woman in the pink crocs and matching pink cardigan is in front of me. She looks like the type to take a long while as she gets up slowly gathering her belongings and strolling to the desk with no rush. Take your time there love, I’ve nowhere to be, I think.
About ten years pass. The man beside me, his has grown very long and grey, we have a new Taoiseach and the recession is over. Then my number finally comes up. 616, 616, 616! You have won: a meeting with the happiest woman in Ireland! Exited, I run up to the desk. The woman on the other side does not look as exited to see me. She looks at me disparagingly. I smile at her. ‘Hi,’ I say. She raises her eyebrows without a word.
‘I had to bring in some stuff,’ I tell her. She waits for me to explain. ‘I had three things I had to bring in,’ I say fumbling in my brown envelope for them.
She says nothing. ‘Do you want my PPS number?’ I ask. She nods. I end up giving it to her four times. This obviously isn’t her day because the computer freezes. I want to tell her that computers just hate me for some reason and it probably senses me on the other side of the screen but she is gone to find one that does work without saying a word.
I look at the glass. The dole office is a funny place. Never is the discrepancy so clear. On one side you have people out of a job, and on the other side, you have people with a job. They are almost like famous people. Famous for having a job. All the jobless people come to meet them every day and look wishfully (or in some cases, not wishfully) at this breed of human lucky enough to have a job. You always look at them, well I do, and think – I could do that. And I could do it better, and probably look better while I’m doing it. But then you don’t get hired to the dole office for doing the job with style. You just get hired if you can be like this woman here, who incidentally is back again looking quite angry.
I hand her over my fathers P60, reminding her I’m under 25, and my letters to prove I’ve been looking for work. ‘And I’ve just registered with Fás,’ I add. She looks non-plussed taking the stuff from me. ‘Didn’t you bring your checklist?’ she says. ‘No, I uh..’ – ‘You forgot your checklist?’ she repeats in disbelief. ‘No, I didn’t forget. I lost it,’ I correct her. Uh oh. I see a dragon emerging. Maybe that’s the reason they have a glass divider – to protect the customers. ‘I know it was only three things I needed,’ I say. ‘You should have brought your checklist,’ she snaps. Ummm. This might take some work. ‘Can’t you check on your computer or in my file to see I have everything before I leave? It’s just I don’t want to have to come back again.’ She shakes her head. ‘Can’t help you, you should have brought your checklist,’ she says unsympathetically. I can see where she is coming from. It must really wind them up when women in pink crocs take ages and people like me forget their checklist. Unfortunately, I have no money and need dole.
‘Did you bring in your six months worth of bank statements?’ she asks. I scan my memory. I brought in two recent ones but not six months worth. The story seems to change every time I am here, which is convenient. ‘No, I.. uh’ she is about to reprimand me again, as she opens her mouth. ‘Yes I did’ I intercept. She staples something. ‘It will take a few months now anyway. We’ll be in touch,’ she says, standing up and walking away from the desk. ‘Ok, thank you,’ I mumble leaving. What can I say? Another day, another dole-er…