I’ve personally felt discouraged from time to time as I’ve looked for work, but “discouraged worker” is, of course, an official category of people out of work, otherwise known as the “not-collecting-unemployment unemployed.”
From NPR’s Jobless Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story, by Sonari Glinton:
“The number of people who are long-term unemployed remains unchanged — more than 6 million people. The number of ‘discouraged workers’ also remains the same. Those are people who are not looking for work because they believe there are no jobs.
“(Linda) Barrington (a labor economist with the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University) says the long-term unemployed have to be asking whether or not the search is hopeless.
“‘I think for some people, there is a ratcheting-down that’s going to have to take place. That may mean taking a pay cut; it may mean going back to school, and these are really difficult decisions,’ she says.”
That’s why it hurts when those in power talk about cutting unemployment, or other social programs, at a time when so many are suffering and struggling.
Paul Krugman of the NY Times: “Check out the opinion page of any major newspaper, or listen to any news-discussion program, and you’re likely to encounter some self-proclaimed centrist declaring that there are no short-run fixes for our economic difficulties, that the responsible thing is to focus on long-run solutions and, in particular, on “entitlement reform” — that is, cuts in Social Security and Medicare. And when you do encounter such a person, you should be aware that people like that are a major reason we’re in so much trouble.”
Apparently, that “entitlement reform” includes unemployment, which Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is suggesting the government stop paying for and make workers pay for themselves. He said the government should “give” out-of-work Americans “responsibility for their own employment opportunities.”
Romney: “Unemployment benefits – I think they’ve gone on a long, long time. We have to find ways to reduce our spending on a lot of the anti-poverty programs and unemployment programs, but I would far rather see a reform of our unemployment system to allow people to have a personal account, which they’re able to draw from, as opposed to having endless unemployment benefits.”
The phrase “responsibility for their own employment opportunities” just sets my teeth on edge. You’re laid off suddenly, you can’t find a job in your field, you get rejected over and over (sometimes because of age discrimination), but you need to be more “responsible.”
Unemployment benefits aren’t endless, and they are little more than a cushion for survival between jobs. More importantly, they aren’t charity, and they are only available to people who have worked recently. No, it may not be “fair” to an employer whose employee quits or does a bad job — but it’s certainly fair to employees who have worked for years and are suddenly laid off due to no fault of their own. Beyond that, it is a benefit I get when I work. I produce something for a company, I work my butt off to help them earn profits, and when I’m let go, that safety net should be there.
Here’s the thing. I could probably find a job very quickly in retail or food service–that’s certainly not a given, since I haven’t worked in those fields in years–but those jobs pay a fraction of what I was earning at my last job. Unemployment is slightly more than minimum wage, and allows me the time to search in my field, and perhaps find a new line of work if nothing in my field comes through.
I know my unemployment will run out soon. That’s why I’m starting this freelance business and hoping to get editing work. I don’t know if I’ll be successful. I’ll probably have to take a lower-paying job while I get established, and that’s OK. I don’t mind working. I’ve always been a hard worker.
But let me make it clear: I’m not taking from a system that I’ve never paid into. I’ve worked and I’ve paid for many, many years. And I’m sure most of the more than six million people out of work could say exactly the same thing.