Unemployment And Its Effect On Society

Unemployment is defined as being without any work to support one’s livelihood.

It can either be as a result of failure to get a job or losing a job or various factors such as economic stagnation and technological advancements (Sinha, 2018). From Office for National Statistics (2019), the current unemployment rate in the UK is 4%. Studies have drawn links between long-term unemployment and depression, low self-esteem and anxiety (Kidwai & Sarwar, 2015). However, the impact of unemployment varies from person to person depending on other contributing factors such as financial circumstances, responsibilities, gender, age, and social class.

An ageing population influences unemployment by changing the demand structure. Older workers, over 55 years of age, are more likely to remain unemployed for a longer period of time and are less likely to find a new job. Technological advances from last decade have led to structural changes by eliminating traditional manual-jobs and creating more internet-based and IT jobs. Older workers have outdated qualifications, some may lack IT skills and therefore are unappealing to employers. They may experience a long-term unemployment period as the previous skills are no longer required in current demand of labour market. Research shows this can have far reaching social-psychological impacts for older people such as feeling isolated, hopelessness and depression (Lassus et al., 2015). They also experience an increased risk of smoking relapse (Falba et al., 2005), heart attack and stroke within the subsequent decade (Gallo et al., 2006).

Rising unemployment among the youth has become a major social issue for many nations globally (Yoon, 2018). Young people in Europe are more vulnerable to unemployment than older age groups (Lorentzen et al., 2014). This is because they are more susceptible to substantial layoffs in times of severe recession and therefore serve as buffer stock (Dietrich & Möller, 2016). Research highlights higher prevalence of risk behaviours in unemployed youth workers, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and less-healthy lifestyles (Lee et al., 2015).

Youth workers with high-skills level and postsecondary education are pushed towards temporary and part-time jobs due to lack of specific human-capital and work experience (Bell & Blanchflower, 2011). Part-time jobs are least protected, offer lower payments, with no job security and may affect their future employment opportunities (Ayhan, 2016). The idea of underemployment involves young workers with skills that are much more advanced than their temporary jobs requires, leading to same devastating experience as being unemployed. Being underemployed can affect the quality of life of young people as well as increasing the likelihood of occupational injury risks, mental health disorders and other physical health problems (Ciairano et al., 2010).

One of the most influential theory by Jahoda on ideal mental health states that employment provides both income as well as time structure, social contact and sharing of common goals benefits to the individual whereas the unemployment does not provide access to these benefits and consequently leads to poor psychological health (Wanberg, 2012). Losing involuntarily jobs has far-reaching effects on the well-being of individuals and families resulting in psychological anxiety, and stress. However, men and women tend to cope differently when faced with unemployment.

Being unemployed has a higher impact on men’s mental health than on women’s (Paul & Moser, 2009).

This is because men’s role in society is more strongly linked as being a family provider, whereas women may adopt alternative roles of housemakers and mothers (Artazcoz et al., 2004). Men therefore may experience more stigma related after job loss than women and this results in more physical aggression, verbal aggression, alcohol use and suicide rate. Research shows men have higher suicide death rate, due to job loss, compared to women (Garcy & Vågerö, 2013). Men also have higher alcohol-related excess mortality (Eliason, 2014) and rates of externalized distress responses, such as aggression and antisocial behaviours (Giancola et al., 2009).

Whereas, women have greater rates of internalized distress responses, such as anxiety, depression and generally seek emotion-focused and social support strategies to overcome this (Hobfoll et al., 1994). Jahoda’s theory states that women seem more resilient to the impact of job loss as they may derive a sense of self-worth from alternative roles of being a housewife or mother (Jahoda, 1982).

Although men and women experience different degrees of impact from unemployment, for a family, there may be negative effects on the children, increasing family conflicts and instability as a result of lower psychological well-being of the parents (Mendolia, 2014).

Different social classes may experience different changes in their well-being from unemployment. Higher-educated individuals are better able to deal with the stress of job loss because they have a stronger internal locus of control (Schieman and Plickert, 2008), a higher level of social support and socio-economic resources (Ross, & Wu,1995). They are more easily reemployed as they have advanced job skills such as information knowledge, creativity and problem-solving which are in high demand.

Whereas less-educated individuals face higher psychological distress associated with a low-skill job (Barrachina et al., 2011). The research shows workers with lower education have an unemployment rate which is 2.5 times higher than worker with post-secondary education (Snower & Dehesa, 1997). This is because advancement in technology has made computers an easy replacement for low-skilled personnel daily cognitive and manual tasks (Oesch, 2010). Such individuals have fewer resources to control the environment and therefore experience uncertainty and helplessness (Ezeh et al., 2017) which contributes to increasing depression, suicide attempts and crime rates.

To conclude, unemployment can have a devastating effect upon society resulting in negative effects on both physical and mental health. Some are more vulnerable than others such as old people, the youth and low-educated individuals who may experience longer unemployment periods resulting in deteriorating personal opportunities and capacities, not just mental health. In order to reduce the level of unemployment, government should enhance education and training facilities for people to learn new skills relating IT to meet the current demand in labour market. Firms could also be given tax-breaks or subsidies for taking on long-term unemployed people and train them.