Norman Tebbit is quoted as saying, rather infamously , that the unemployed should get on their bikes. In fact I believe this was a paraphrase from him saying “When there was no work locally, my dad used to get on his bike” to look for work elsewhere. Just how easy is it to ‘get on your bike?’ It is a mantra of many older tories, that the unemployed in the North should just tootle on down to the prosperous south east and get a life there.
In the last interview I heard with Tebbit, now being 87 and perhaps out of the media circus for all time, he had mellowed and said the miners had been treated unfairly in terms of the closing of so many pits and economic devastation reaped upon whole communities. He thought there should have been more done for them, perhaps he meant buying them bicycles so they could pop down the road to look for work? Oh, that north english or central scottish town has also had a pit closure or steel works mothballed…..
As any business leader will know if they have geographically spread locations and markets, you have a fixed investment and cost base in plant in one place where perhaps there isnt a market, so you hope for better communications ie roads these days, such that you can get your goods to market or punters will come for your service. However transport has a cost, which may errode profit margin enough to render it unattractive. Then you have your capital investment potentially making a big loss when it is sold if you close up and relocate. It can be painful and risky then to relocate because the initial investment may be far higher in moving to an economic hot spot like the South East, and also you may find you cannot recruit the skills you need, or more often, the wages you need to make a high gross margin the investors are looking for to get ROI. Why then should a Tory look any differently upon someone moving job?
In a jobless community or region, you have three choices if you own a house or your family are imbedded in schools, activities and friends. You can daily commute enormous distances and times. You can weekly commute, Or you can move the whole shabang. In the UK, for a while the wise money was on the latter, because if you moved ‘darn sarff’ you got better pay, and despite your mortgage being costly, you also earned very well from the steep value curve of the property market. However that is a purely financial decision, you leave your community behind for the temple of Mammon.
I have really done all three variants, all be the long commute not actually that long and it was in a fully expensed company car so I cannot really complain with that luxury, driving 90 -100 miles a day total. It took less than an hour and a half usually. Weekly commuting I have done, and it just does not add up when you take the costs of the flat, travel and your own ‘bachelor again’ food together with the psychic and emotional stresses involved. The benefit is getting valuable work experience. The same was true of just upping roots and moving, which I have done in fact six times, the last time to totally reduce my mortgage leverage to spend more QT with the family, but lack of work lead me into my first proper weekly commute.
There are a lot of hidden costs within the weekly commute equation. Firstly there is the fact that a single person actually costs more than half that of two people very often, in terms of food and heating (/ electricity) in a flat. Then if you have a car, you may find that the combined daily commute if you have one, and the weekends commute put a very high mileage on your car which brings forward depreciation bgit time, and you loose many thousands in a shorter period of say two years – as goes for long distance commuting, which many folk who live along the main English arterial motorways do. Then you have the home front, where your absence can result in more running around in the second car, from cold, and perhaps more wasted food as families back home refuse to eat left overs ! You then actually have on the one hand the ability to work over time, or even have two jobs while away, and so earn even more. BUT the converse of that in a fixed salary bullshit job with long hours, as is typical now in the UK and USA, is that you work hard and loose opportunities for extra work, because you are travelling Friday nights when service industry might need you behind the bar.
The biggest single financial pitfall of weekly commuting, is actually not money per se or ‘gross margin’ with all monthly expenses in the picture, it is rather cash-flow-is-king. Twice I have moved or weekly commuted and been wondering why I was always skint at the end of every month, until I had worked over a year ( and towards 18 months I always wanted to move on, the company goes bust, the boss has a niece for the job….etc) is that I was paying all the initial ‘investment’ off. Flat depost, first months rent, moving costs, first months commuting daily costs, first month’s weekly travel, first months’ food for the flat. You can find yourself in a lot of debt having just moved and not passed Go! So you either sit with that debt, or more likely you pay some of it off, or owe family and mates with no interest, but a moral obligation to pay back asap! That negative trough on the cash balance sheet takes a long time to work off, because weekly commuting erodes so much of your monthly gross margin anyway in the months after, and you still have all your home costs to contribute to back on the ranch.
Now you could just say as Norman Tebbit would surely nod to, well that is just a fact of life. However what you could also do is sod all that extra time traveling and use all that initial outlay you have for partial relocation of your body, and put it into running your own business along with all the energy you are likely to put into a new job. Many say that starting a business and being an owner-employee eats up loads of time, and you will be away from your family, BUT you are embarking on that anway in weekly commuting. Also if you think jobs do not include selling, you are kidding yourself on in the modern service world, or the corporate structures or even in trades as an employee. You are going to be doing sales, or selling yourself internally or selling yourself onto the next contractor with the next big contract. Why not sell yourself ?
Ok, well I am pretty terrible I think at this, but in fact I just lack motivation to get over the threshold and am a bit naive when it comes to sussing out who is worth spending time on during a round of knocking on business doors or networking in a sports club. But you dear, younger reader, or dear highly skilled and experienced older reader, you can sod weekly commuting and get either local work or do remote home office, digital commuting as it is called these days.
I sound like a Tory! Well yes if you are Norman Tebbit, but no if you are today’s breed of corporatist Tory who is primarily concerned with a fat pension from helping companies and individuals evade tax, while keeping up a small business friendly front and now of course, collapsing into BritNatz identity politics verging on outright racism, scapegoating and scare mongering.
I’m not talking aboujt the hipster e-yuppie alone here either, very much at the young person who hasnt really thought about trades, or the older DIY maniac who is a dab hand but with no papers. Very often you can be sub contracted in self employed as a ‘labourer’ and end up picking up enough skills to then be able to take part time education as a plumber, or brickie, or joiner or something specialist in property like ‘framing’ (tømring in Norwegian, building heavy wooden beams and columns for either expensive new houses or refurbished ‘period’ houses) Recruiting is a pain for employers because they often want disposable staff these days, and have come to expect to be able to lay off most of their work force at the end of one project rather than offer any job security. As the population ages, and post Brexit, they may have to change their attitude to this down time, and the state may pick up less of that tab of churn unemployment.
So self employment is a real alternative if you think about it, and are felxible in your local market. I would suggest that Mr Tebbit senior actually toddled off on his bike down the road in the 1920s and depressed 30s and worked on the black for cash in hand, but today you do not need to do that because the employer saves so much in not using a VAT liabel company or sole trader. It is risky and can be shitty getting money out of people, but you can often get a simple, legally binding contract there and then as the deal is signed literally.
Many countries need a bigger business birth rate in areas where there are skills gaps and high pricing, especially the trades. However enterprise and investment companies are run by middle class graduates, who had like Storming Norman, parents who push them to get on and up and out of their blue collar or lower white collar backgrounds. The whole school system too is biased towards university level education, and away from what is the trades. We presume that is what thickos do, and the poles can take the jobs if they want. However these jobs pay a lot better than most graduate start jobs, and with over time can rival many a masters’ degree graduates pay after several years.
In the long run, graduates apparently earn more and move into management, which is partly true, but plumbers start their own firms and employ people themselves and do very, very nicely and work probably a lot less hours than an average corporate middle manager.
On this kind of point of burn out, relating to lifestyle, there is something very woeful happening to my late baby boomer compatriots. This is anecdotal, but those outside Law and Medicine are struggeling. There are some with ill health, in fact a surprising number are out of work on health grounds or have down sized their ambitions or jobs. Secondly there is then downsizing by firms, and also a deal of people running out of steam. My generation are becoming over experienced and under qualified. Times now are changing too fast for many to retrain and keep up. Outsourcing cuts the cost of those forty and fifty something technocrats and managers who were in house. Employment becomes more tenuous as companies merge, get bought out or restructure. My generation were also not equipped with the sharp, self centred tools of the modern world, where winning, even if that includes outright cheating, is what matters. Entitlement is something I have had to deal with before with so many mediocre bosses in marketing, but now it reaches into areas including so called liberal establishments like the UN. A young, sharp, egotistist generaion (or two) lie below us now, who are entitled by being highly qualified in modern masters programmes, corporate iternships under their belt, and into the fabric of organisations with a power base made by basically cheating , being greedy and conniving. They see millenials as their cannon fodder, and want to manage the robotic, algorythmic revolution which perhaps threatens to prove the Luddites finally right, or perhaps will free us from mundanity and the surly checkout girl.
Moving on then for work, also means through life being prepared to change career and being opportunistic when the personal balance sheet of money, family and health is in the picture, with quality of life as the bottom line. We have had our own local version of t’pit closing, with the loss of 180 direct jobs and maybe another 40 contractors etc, and a knock on to local spending and a decline of around 1% in the population, but also a marked shift towards the over fifties with now a drastically falling school roll.
Living out on a wing, or in a pit town isolted up a valley or just surrounded by other former coal towns, does not lend itself to getting on your bike, and you can unfortunetly end up sitting with fixed assets which make it hard to be flexible with moving. So Norman Tebbit spoke of a two wheeled bicycle of course, riding up a two way street, where in fact it doesnt always work out that you can tootle off round the next village or borough and get work, whistling home with a jaunty aire and a jolly whistled tune on your lips.