Sunday, 20 November 2011

Karma yoga and unemployment

In the week that the papers have been full of stories about the million-plus 18-24-year-olds who are currently out of work, I have been riled by a story in the local paper that an 87-year-old is still working at our local B&Q. Yes, it's amazing that he's still going strong, and perhaps I should applaud his determination to keep working until he reaches his century.
But hang on a minute: if he were to step down, wouldn't that leave a vacancy for some youngster to take his or her place in employment? The article says that he was already past retirement age when B&Q took him on. Is that strictly fair? I'm all for taking a stand against discrimination of any sort, and I know that some employers look askance at anyone over 40. But still…

Put down your tools...
This man has had his turn. He says in the article that he loves retail and speaking to shoppers. Well, why not volunteer in the Oxfam shop? That would surely satisfy his need to keep busy and interact with the public, but would, potentially, decrease the unemployment statistics by one. And how many other such folk are still in work when they should be enjoying their retirement?

OK, so I have a vested interest here. Older son Sam is 22, in possession of a degree, but not in work, despite having applied for over a dozen jobs in the last fortnight. 

The school of karma yoga teaches the value of work for its own sake. There is an emphasis on selfless service and the idea that our nature is not only reflected in our actions and behaviour, but is also formed by them. So perhaps we should work not only for financial reward, but also for the greater spiritual benefits. Karma yoga teaches that we should perform all action without thought for oneself and warns against inaction. So I completely see why B&Q man wants to keep involved – but why not apply this ethos elsewhere and step aside from paid employment now? 

But before anyone points it out, I am also aware that my indignation at this state of affairs is at odds with that other yoga keystone: non-attachment.


  1. Julia - I sympathise with your thoughts. I have a daughter at uni and am worried about employment prospects. We all now have to work longer before getting our pension - I wonder if it will turn out to be a false economy as the number of young unemployed rise?

  2. Hi Julia,
    Found your blog from Sally. I agree that a young person could be doing the job of the elderly man. Some are frightened to give up aren't they? Trouble is, when young people have gone so long without work, they could begin to loose confidence. Out of the two, it would be better for a younger person to be at B & Q than the older one. I love yoga too, though I spend more time on the computer these days than yogi'ing.

  3. Thanks, Sally and Susan, for your support. I fully intended to keep my blog a moan-free zone, but this issue has really got my goat...