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On the dole

writing about the dole

unemployed or underemployed in Ireland, and on the dole

Soon after I returned from the Netherlands to Ireland in January of 2005, I began receiving social-welfare payments, and I was on and off the dole until April of 2011.

I'd gotten a PPS [tax and government I.D.] number in 2001. That had been a fluke, and the beginning of my long strange experience within the Irish bureaucratic system.

In February of 2005 I began to get social-welfare payments not because I asked for that, but because I had followed the advice of people in the offices I had visited, starting at the national employment agency where they told me that they could only help me if I went and applied for the dole.

There's one thing I've learned about the Irish governmental offices: when I get advice, I follow it. Within reason, I mean, of course. But, for example, when the lady from FAS who's helping me to look for a job tells me to go up to the social welfare office, I will do it. It is the way it's done.

And you go up there, and you be nice, and you play the fool. "Being nice" is a vague term, but in this case it just means that you act with a bit of cordiality and show a basic respect for the person on the other side of the desk. A lot of Irish might not know this as well as I do, having observed it as a foreigner. It's notable, here in Ireland. You'll go far.

Well, anyhow, I got the dole.

I was unemployed or underemployed in Ireland for the next five years. My "underemployment" consisted of working with a friend for a company based in Waterford that did industrial cleaning. Not bad work, and working with a good friend, and ... not working much.

And when I didn't work, I checked an "X" in the box for that day. For that day, I got a social-welfare payment. [Notably, on these weekly "dockets," the "X" means "didn't work," while the "O" means "worked."] If I didn't work at all, I was able still to live okay.