Five years ago most journalists ended up at the Employment service because of dismissal for business reasons. Today, dismissal for business reasons is the third most frequent answer among journalists when asked why they are registering at the Employment service. Above it is expiration of the employment contract while most journalists now come to the Employment service direct after they graduated. These points to two key problems: there are no jobs for young journalists, and the experienced ones are working in insecure and fluctuating working arrangements. Both have a negative impact on journalism and civil society.
The Croatian government, with more or less success, uses different methods to stop the negative trends. One of the active measures that the Employment service uses is Professional training for work without employment. As the name says, with this measure an unemployed person doesn’t get employed, instead, he or she signs a contract for professional training. This way young expert gets a chance to attain some practical experience under mentorship in their field of expertise. To use it an unemployed person can have no more than one year of working experience and has to be registered at the Employment service for at least 30 days in continuity. The Employment service pays 1600 HRK (a little bit more than 200€) monthly fee to the user of the measure and refunds the costs of healthcare and pension insurance to the employer.
One of the users of the Professional training measure is Ana, a journalism graduate who finished the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb in February this year. She has ambivalent feelings about working for 1600 HRK a month: “(The measure) actually helps however difficult it is to admit. There are little jobs in general, especially for journalists because a lot of them work part-time, from contract to contract, and the professional training measure gives you a feeling of security because you know that you have a job for a year. Although the money is insufficient for independent living, it is more than zero.”
Something is more than nothing, but since 2012, when the professional training measure was introduced, the number of unemployed journalists aged 25 to 29 has increased, as well as the total
However, working in “information and communication” doesn’t means working in journalism. The number of journalists that get employed every year is higher than the number of available jobs for them. That points to the fact that, in the shortage of open jobs in journalism, journalists decide to work in some other more or less related profession. There are no records that keeps track on the number of journalists working in other profession because journalism and similar occupations are all categorized under “Information and communication”. “We have PR, marketing and human resources. Then, there is administration, public administration, education and commerce. By commerce we mean sectors in retail chains”, they explain at the Employment service when asked where journalists can work.
Ana experienced the same approach when she had a meeting with her personal counsellor at the Croatian employment service. Since she had a master’s degree in journalism and there was little work in her profession she was advised to look for work in administration as well as journalism. “Of course that’s not beneath me or anything similar, but it is a bit degrading because you struggle and study for five years and specialise for a certain profession. Other than that, the most useful and weirdest advice I got was to call everybody I knew to get me a job, because the chances of finding one through the employment office are minimal. Most jobs that journalists can do are in PR agencies, and that is a defeat for our profession if you ask me. That points to a trend of degradation of journalism and focusing on PR, which every journalist despises because PR implies selling smokes and mirrors for the client”, comments Ana.
It is a fact that journalism and public relations are often two similar courses on the same faculty, but the differences between the two are big. Experts in public relations are responsible to those they work for and they protect the interests of their employers. Journalists should, on the other hand, be responsible to the public and protect public interest. Journalism is, before all, a craft that is honed with experience, work and good mentorship. It should be one of the foundations of a free and democratic society. Given that young educated journalists don’t get a chance to work in their profession, it is questionable what kind of future is in store for journalism, as well as society itself.