Friday, November 16, 2007

I almost feel bad

...for some words I've written about journalists and their work in the past. Well, almost.

The reason for this is a report I've seen yesterday. It stated that quite some people who used to make good money with their work are living off very little money today. Journalists, lawyers and architects are among them.

In the past those jobs were considered a safe way to lead a good life with enough money to afford a good car, a good apartment and a regular vacation at least once a year. And, after all, people had to put in quite some work before they got all those goodies. They had to study and build up a name for themselves. Today, it seems, that is no longer enough. That almost makes me glad I'm no longer working as a freelance editor. Currently I just hope I will get a job working for some company once I'm a webmaster. Working as a freelancer will surely be my last resort.

But how did that happen? There are various reasons, at least from what the report said.

One of the most important reasons seems to be the existence of trainees. Among journalists that's the main problem, at least due to the report. A trainee is paid very poorly - sometimes even not at all - and usually has to do the same things the paid journalists (or people from other jobs) do. That makes them a lot cheaper - but it doesn't necessarily improve the quality of their articles (which is why I'm only almost sorry).

Another important reason seems to be less money than in the past. That's the main problem for architects. There aren't as many people building houses any longer (and a lot of people building their own little house use pre-constructed houses - not much to do and earn from them, if you happen to be an architect). Communities can't afford new buildings either and apart from that, there's not much to do.

The third and last important reason seems to be the large number of people in the job. That's a problem for the lawyers. There's so many of them around, none of them can get enough clients to make a good sum during the week. As Germany does not have a restriction of the number of lawyers working in any given town, that cannot be avoided. Too many people are studying to be lawyers one day - after all, it still seems as if they're making a lot of money.

Now I wonder: If such formerly well-paid jobs cannot sustain people any longer, what is going to become of us? If there really is a boom, then why do people not feel it? There have been some new jobs, but most of the unemployed who have found work lately are still financed by the government to a certain extend, because they actually make less than they would if they didn't work at all.

Is this how motivation should work? Telling people "Well, if you work, you'll actually be off worse than if you don't, but as we can't make the companies see the need of minimal wages, we'll at least give you the difference between what you earn in your job and what you would get if you didn't do it"? Or giving them the good tip to get a second (or third? or fourth?) job? If they really do, how many people won't even be able to get a first job, because someone else is doing it after his work already?

Politicians from all parties celebrate the low number of unemployed people (and in the area where I live, the rate of unemployment is at about 4.8 percent, that's quite below standard in Germany). What they don't say during their speeches about "how we did this impossible feat" is "okay, so about 30 percent still get money from us and another 40 percent make about the money they got from the state before - or even a little less". (I've made those last two numbers up, the unemployment rate I've read about in a local newspaper.)

Maybe I was too strict with journalists in Germany and should keep in mind that the journalists writing the bad-researched articles were wondering how to pay the next rent while working.

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