All around me people are losing their jobs, and it’s impacting me far more than I expected it would. Breaking news last night reported that my last employer has announced 500 full time staff will lose their jobs, with potentially more to come. I was a casual employee there until April, and had I not managed to secure a contract position elsewhere until the end of the year I have no doubt I would have become an unemployment statistic myself.
Many wonderful people – some of whom I know, others I don’t – now find themselves in uncertain financial times amidst an ongoing crisis of global public health. It is difficult to see an optimistic way forward at the moment, which adds even more insult to injury. I worry there are simply not enough jobs available to soak up the impact to these unfortunate souls. And when my contract is up in December, I may still yet join their ranks.
The higher education sector has taken an absolute beating this year, as have many others, with many institutions having to make difficult decisions to stay afloat. I’ve heard rumours of other institutions folding completely.
We’re seeing arguments spill out into social media about who to blame, and I’m half expecting to see a string of industrial action events following the wake of the redundancies. In the end though, I worry they won’t do much to help the people who suddenly find themselves without work. When a university finds itself facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, the cost cuts have to come from somewhere. There just isn’t that much fat in an institution to avoid impacting staff.
There was a time when a job in higher education equated to security for life. I no longer believe that; my experience has shown as much. The times are different now, and we must adjust to this new reality – unfortunate as it may be.
This has to begin with prioritising our mental health. If we cannot roll with adversity and still find moments of joy and peace we will truly struggle. I have known the darkness that comes from self-doubt, depression, frustration, anger, and despair. Even in employment they still arise sometimes. Resilience and perseverence are crucial qualities to cultivate, and they must be honed and kept strong. This requires constant action, meditation, and attention.
Part of this comes from helping others, particularly those who find themselves unceremoniously jettisoned from organisations and institutions. When I was first made redundant in 2018 I felt invisible, forgotten, and unimportant. It’s critical that we show people in similiar positions that this isn’t the case, and that they still matter to us. The dark times will pass, but until they do it’s crucial that we look out for each other.