There might be a shortage of jobs – but there’s certainly no shortage of stories about the shortage of jobs. This weekend was no different: apart from the slightly more cynical slant that a teeny drop in unemployment might just give Obama a leg up in his campaign, it was the global jobs shortage that made the press. In fact, no matter what your paper picks, I’d hazard a bet that anyone with even a slight interest in the news will have come across at least five articles mentioning the ‘U’ word every week this year.
For many young people (16-30-year-olds are one of the hardest hit groups to be affected by the jobs crisis worldwide) each statistic represents a friend – the unpaid intern, the hopeless jobless work ex – the friends who need work experience to get work experience and are thereby trapped in some miserable and endless cycle of rejection – the ones who resorted to setting up their own company instead of relying on an unsteady climb up the career ladder for their first pay slip since they left uni, oh, about four years ago.
It’s not easy. In fact, it’s pretty depressing. So when, instead of the usual gloomy features depicting a broken generation, I stumbled across this: an Unemployee Of The Year Competition. The headline stood out as I flicked through the Sunday supplements. ‘Tell us about your Non-Work Experience,’ it went on. Pictured, was James, a 23-year-old Non-Sound-Engineer ‘form the UK’ [sic]. Yes, it was a shameless advert, for the United Colours of Benetton – and yes, the spelling was shoddy. Are the brand picking up on a pretty damaging issue in young people’s lives and exploiting it for cold, hard cash? Probably. But I liked it.
It's likeable because of its ability to laugh at the situation, WITH young people (like me and my friends) without being patronising. It's lighthearted – but with a strong message about unemployment and, actually, a pretty good cause. Because, as they say, one in nearly 100 million people under 30 in the WHOLE WORLD are searching for a job. And this project is offering any one of them to log on to unhatefoundation.org by next week and submit their ‘project’ ideas. The one-hundred most popular projects will be supported by the #unhate campaign - and given 5000 Euros (or £4,000) to help them on their way.
Alessandro Benetton, Chairman of the Benetton Group, pretty much sums it up: ‘We can’t change the world,’ he says. ‘But United Colors of Benetton wants to use its voice to champion young people and celebrate their strength and value.’
It’s certainly not going to change the world. But its humour and support is refreshing. And, let’s face it: things are pretty dire. Every little helps.