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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 10:44 GMT
'I've had one interview in five years'
A man doing a computer job search
After five years unemployed a former art director is now retraining
The government has unveiled proposals that could see the long-term unemployed have their benefits cut.

Here, a 46-year-old former advertising director, from Hampstead, north London, explains how he has been unemployed for five years. He asked not to be named.

I did a degree at Wolverhampton College of Art and Design and worked my way up to become art director at a large American advertising agency.

But in 2001 I suffered a divorce and redundancy in the space of two months.

I had been made redundant before - advertising is not the most stable of industries - and I was confident I would be able to get another job.

I was left at square one though, with no home and no job.

Since then I have found it extremely difficult to get work. I've had freelance work with people I still know in the industry, but nothing regular.

Perhaps my age is a factor. But these days employers can get two college leavers for the salary I was on.

There's an awful lot of eastern European and South African workers who come here and work for a lot less than what I was on.

I've grown more and more disillusioned. It's like knocking on a friend's door and never getting an answer

Executives in my industry are starting to see the skills required to do my job as being installed with the software.

The skills I've learned have been devalued to the point where they think anyone who can use a Mac computer can do the job.

People are coming in and being instantly installed as art directors on low salaries and with little experience.

They can stay for a couple of years, save up, then go home and buy a house.

I've applied for several jobs a week in the five years I've been out of work and in that time I've had one interview.

I've grown more and more disillusioned. It's like knocking on a friend's door and never getting an answer.

Now I'm trying to do something else. I've been doing evening classes and am trying to scrape some money together to start a small business.

'Constant battle'

I have got married again since 2001 and my wife is a fashion designer who is also unemployed. Our Jobseeker's Allowance combined is 90-a-week.

It is a real struggle. It is a constant battle. I work harder while unemployed than when I was employed. There is endless form filling for little reward.

I have told the Jobcentre I'm not afraid of hard work. I can push boxes around in a factory but they've sent me for interviews for jobs I've no chance of getting.

These days you need experience even to push boxes around, it seems.

The government proposals are ridiculous. Only a very small number of those unemployed fit the stereotype of the work-shy chav driving around in a BMW.

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