[FOUNTAIN] Tough job to sustain hopeWhen the job market grows tight because of a slumping economy, the unemployed react in three ways. First, they remain unemployed as they look for work in the same field. Second, they look for work in other fields. Third, they give up hope of finding a new job.
The first two cases factor into employment statistics. The unemployed refer to people who are job hunting but have been unable to secure a job. However, employment statistics leave out the third case because these people have given up and fail to enter the job market. They are unemployed, but they are unaccounted for in the unemployment rate.
Able-bodied people do not work for two reasons. One reason points to people who decide not to work. Instead of working for measly wages, they opt not to work at all. These people have either inherited money or they live off the income of family members. They are freeloaders in the truest sense, able to survive without working. Although far from being an advisable condition, they do not cause society any major grief.
The serious case refers to earnest job seekers who see no hope in landing a job and have given up hope. In 1958, Professor Clarence Long of Princeton University pointed to the fact that unemployment rates fell in times of severe economic depression. His research indicated that as economic slumps continued to drag on, the number of people relinquishing their search for occupations increased. Employment rates dropped because people entering society for the first time shied away from the job market, sensing the possibility for landing a job to be slim. Professor Long referred to this as the “discouraged worker effect.” The economic pain and frustration of discouraged workers and their families might be considerable, but the national economic loss of burying a viable workforce is great, as well.
Up to November of this year, statistics indicating the monthly average of the economically non-active population - people showing no desire to work among the potential labor force older than 15 - has hit a record high of 14,750,000 an average each month.
Excluding homemakers and students, the number of people who are not presently economically active has risen by 370,000 people, jumping from 890,000 in 2003 to 1,260,000; the number of job seekers has increased by 180,000, rising from 350,000 to 530,000. The chances are that the majority of these people are discouraged workers, not voluntary freeloaders. It is worrisome that disappointment has turned into utter hopelessness for these resigned job seekers.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo
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