How does “free” money affect job-seeking?

One of the most common criticisms of the universal basic income (and welfare payments in general) is that “free” money might remove the incentive to seek work. Having recently written a little about my experiences in seeking work, and having had cause to repeat similar remarks in response to a Conversation article urging students to study mathematics in part due to the supposed need for such skills in the employment market, I felt it an appropriate time to reflect on how my present position has affected my job-seeking.

Since being offered the part-time position that I have, and knowing that I can live for a very long time off this together with my savings if I want to, I’ve applied only for very few other jobs. None of these applications have gone further than me submitting a cover letter and curriculum vitae.

The most immediate reason for making few applications is that, already having a part-time job that I want to keep doing indefinitely and having specifically decided to work a reduced number of hours compared to what I was working in full-time positions, I’m only interested in other part-time jobs that can be done in parallel with my existing position. I see very few part-time positions advertised—there is some sessional academic work but virtually no one advertises for part-time software engineers—and I’m yet to receive any reply to enquiries I’ve made to employers about whether they’d consider a part-time role. Furthermore, a full-time job would be largely incompatible with operating A Little Research. Of course I could do some small research jobs in my spare time alongside a full-time position but this would neither be in the spirit of the foregoing nor be making a serious attempt at establishing a new business.

Another reason—and here’s where I might be accused of being a “job snob“—is that few of the job ads that I see motivate me very much. There are several aspects to this: most advertisements for software engineering work are tedious jumbles of technologies compiled by recruitment firms on behalf of mysterious companies whose purposes are left unclear (and therefore unmotivating); recruiters in my experience rarely return e-mails and never return phone calls; and applying for such jobs never got me anywhere anyway. I’ve been treated better and had greater success with universities and other research organisations whose work is much less common but much more motivating, so why bother with the former sort of work given that I need neither the money nor the occupation to keep myself busy?

Perhaps having spare money has reduced my motivation to seek and do (more) paid work; on the other hand it’s put me in a position to take a chance on trying something different and I’d like to think I’m wasting less time writing speculative job applications unlikely to lead anywhere. Probably I’m yet to master the arts of working part-time and managing a business, and maybe the world isn’t ready for part-time professionals other than sessional academics. Perhaps in six months or a year I’ll be able to say whether taking the chance paid off; until then I suppose anyone who thinks I’m being lazy is welcome to send a proposal to hire me.

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