I'm Ben Gruber

2013 / 7 June

Working for Unemployment


About a month ago I left my job. At that point, I decided to not take unemployment benefits. I did however research the program to see what it was all about and what I found has stuck with me. Not to get back into the details of the rules of eligibility of the program, but the basic idea is that the state wants you to be trying to get a job for 40+ hours a week every week. Basically doing anything other than actively trying to get a job is grounds for termination of your benefits.

Although I think some of the activities that are outlawed are a little ridiculous and promote strange incentives, I do understand the overall idea; make sure people are trying to get a job as best they can without an opportunity for an excuse. So my idea on what might be able to be tweaked is intended to stay within those boundaries.

Okay, the State wants unemployment recipients to try to find a job for all 40 hours of their week. Well, that does not seem plausible to me in reality. The person is theoretically out of work in part because there are not enough jobs out there for this person in general. And even in fields where there are a lot of jobs available it is very difficult to spend every hour on finding the job. I can attest. When I first got out of college, I wanted to spend every hour of my day finding a job. I wanted one in the worst way. But, after the first couple of days. I ended up being able to send out all the emails and make all of the calls I could think of before lunch time. Then there was the occasional interview, but that did not take much time. Let’s call it 25 hours a week tops.

My basic idea is for the government to take this as reality and try some potentially more productive ideas with those excess hours. I am not sure what the exact number of hours a week we should assume are being used for finding a job. Let’s call it 35 hrs a week. This leaves 5 hours to work with. In following the no excuses thinking from above, the hours cannot be continuos or require much time in commute or require too much energy. Any type of work with these traits could at some level take away from time and energy potentially spent on finding a job. And if the hours were continuos or time sensitive, it could mean that someone might not be able to go to a job interview without risking benefits termination.

The required 5 hours of tasks per week would also have to be something that did not require a high level of skill, since many of the unemployed may not have high skill levels (although theoretically the tasks could match the persons prior job skills). What types of helpful or revenue producing tasks do not require skills that also do not require continuous time?

Well, there are actually a lot I could come up with off the top of my head and with a bigger brainstorm and knowledge of what is needed, I am sure collectively we could all come up with many many more.

For revenue production. What if we had each person on unemployment be required to take market research surveys. Companies pay from $1 to $20 depending on the type of survey that is conducted. These are basically just giving your opinion on a variety of topics. Many of these surveys do not take more than a couple of minutes each and even when they do, they typically do not have to be completed all at once. I am sure that everyone on unemployment benefits could from their own computer or from the library computers, take 5 hours a week to fill these out. Each week, people on unemployment are required to either fill out an online form or come into the unemployment office anyway to prove they have been looking for a job, so filling out surveys could not be that much harder for these individuals.

For helpful tasks. What if we had individuals help with public good crowd sourcing services. For example, there are mobile phone apps that blind individuals can use to take pictures of anything and other non-visually impaired people reply to the pictures with what it is (e.g. “that’s the salt not the pepper”). Again, this does not take any particular skill and it does not have to be completed continuously, so theoretically it should not get in the way of individuals finding a job.

These are just two of the many ways that I think the excess hours of the unemployed could be used to benefit society as a whole. Again, I understand that current unemployment policies have been put in place to prevent abuse of the system and to assure that no one gets a “Free Ride”, but I think that in some ways these efforts maybe creating an environment for just that. I think that taking a more realistic approach to the hours that should be applied to finding a job can free up time for those not working and taking unemployment benefits to give back while they look for work.

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