The so-called shame of unemployment

Bizarre as it might sound, recent studies of unemployed people have shown that many feel humiliated by their unemployment.

They feel as if they've failed as providers, or as parents, or as people.

This is partly because of the old idiom of employment. In times past, the job was some sort of proof of social status, respectability, and workers thought their jobs reflected their value as people. The job was an ID, a personal achievement, something to be proud of as a member of society.

Being unemployed was unusual, in the boom eras. It was relatively uncommon, in Western societies, to even meet anyone who'd ever been unemployed for years on end. From the 1950s to the 1990s, employment was something that happened to ethnic minorities.

It never happened in suburbia on any large scale. People could change jobs, and many did, but there was no social stigma attached to that. Quite a lot of people spent their entire working lives with the same employer. You could join a company as a junior clerk and wind up running that company.

In those days, the whole idea of being long term unemployed was actually more incomprehensible than any sort of perceived social failure. Getting fired was a mistake, but you'd get the benefit of the doubt with other employers. It was a much less bureaucratic process, too, and hiring was done by managers, not panels, so it was basically a yes/no interview.

That world, however, is long gone. The employment culture has changed, and the pressures have increased on the unemployed. That pressure is doing a lot of damage to people who lost jobs through no actual fault of their own.

Since downsizing, outsourcing, social and economic irresponsibility became so popular, being unemployed is more likely to be a result of the latest fad in cheap labor, or trying to make a budget look workable.

Many job losses have little or nothing to do with the employees themselves. Some people are sentenced to decades of unemployment, purely on the basis of the current way of doing business. In the USA, whole cities were quite literally gutted by outsourcing. The city of Flint, Michigan, has the dubious distinction of being one of the most thoroughly downsized and outsourced places in America.

Millions of people were made unemployed on principle, rather than on the basis of any rational assessment of their work or value as employees. Nor was their potential to continue working in other parts of the business usually given much consideration. Redeployment was rare. Employees had no chance of keeping their jobs. It's reasonable to assume that selective sackings and redundancies could have been malicious, in some cases, too.

Yet, people still seemed to feel ashamed of their unemployment, even when they knew perfectly well that it wasn't their fault.

Now, thousands of people are being put out of work around the world, every day, and it's not even really the employers' fault, this time.

The financial sector is in serious crisis. Credit is very tight. Business can't borrow money. Businesses are being sent to the wall. Whole economic sectors, like finance and housing, are cutting staff just to stay solvent.

Job losses are a very good indicator of how tough business is these days. The social view of unemployment has had to change to something more realistic.

A new generation will grow up in which their parents spent more time wishing they had jobs, than actually having them.

There's no shame in unemployment, and never has been.

A job is a necessity of human life.

Many would say the ability to earn an income is a right, not a privilege, and the unemployed have been deprived of a basic human right.

Nobody should be deprived of their livelihood.