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Unemployment is here

An overview of this social problem

Although economic indicators are thriving in modern societies, at the same time the unemployment rate is increasing rapidly, posing great pressure to most governments around the world. Despite the various summit meetings organized by the powerful of the world and sonorous announcements of preventive measures, the problem remains unsolved threatening everyone and especially young people who first enter the job market and try to find a good work position. Moreover, I would dare to suggest that unemployment is one of the greatest of the world's problems having an impact on both the developed and developing countries, and it is the root of many other problems and situations.

The social groups mostly affected by unemployment are the young, the elderly, the handicapped, unskilled workers, the minorities and those who live in downgraded areas of modern cities.

It is a hard task to identify the causes of unemployment as the roots of the problem date since the Industrial Revolution which lead to the massive moving of people from the countryside to the then-small cities; these people quit their traditional occupation and looked for work in the urban areas. Of course, cities could not absorb all this workforce.

Gradually, the problem was magnified due to the appearance of many other factors, some of which are:

  1. The technological revolution brought about many changes in the economic and productive structure. A large part of the production process was done automatically and machines replaced manpower. Additionally, large multinational companies replaced tradesmen who then became unemployed.

  2. Many countries lack a long term and well-organized career advising programme which results in the "overcrowding" of many fields since those interested in them are far more than the available work positions. This is also the result of mentality and prejudice: families try to persuade their children to follow a certain career which is thought to be "sure", but since many people think the same way, there is a considerable amount of people who follow this thought-to-be "sure" route. This brings about "overcrowding" in a profession since there aren't enough positions for everyone while other professions have many vacant posts.

  3. Sometimes there are people who hold two or more posts and this way they deprive others of having just one. This reason is often related to the lack of meritocracy in the selection procedure.

  4. In some countries, no money is invested to the creation of new businesses, and this makes new work positions few and far between.

  5. Illegal immigrants are a cheap workforce due to lower salaries, increased working hours and many times the lack of health insurance costs. This makes them attractive to employers who need to get more profit and this way they deprive the native population of precious work positions.

  6. The lack of flexibility in the educational system is another main cause. Society changes rapidly, and job qualifications are becoming more and more strict requiring much expert knowledge and university and post graduate degrees as well as excellent command of one or more foreign languages, computer literacy and communication skills. The current educational system, in many countries, dates from decades, and it is no longer up-to-date with the modern scenery in the job market. Young people leave school at their eighteen and they don't have the necessary skills in order to get a job such as knowledge of foreign languages and computer literacy.

The consequences of unemployment are dramatic, and they affect the sufferers on a personal level as well as their families and the economy and society of their country generally.

On a personal level the main consequences are:

  1. Living conditions and standards are lowering (diseases, bad family relations, deaths)

  2. Unemployed people live in constant anguish and uncertainty. They feel disappointed and pressed as they lack their livelihood. So some of them are turned to violent actions or are addicted to drugs and live on the fringes of the society. This has great impacts on a social level, and it often results to the increase of crime rate.

  3. The unemployed are obliged to accept any kind of job they are able to find, and employers many times exploit their need for a job by forcing them to work under extremely bad conditions, often without health insurance and other benefits. They don't care if the person quits; they know that the people who struggle for a position are so many that they can easily find somebody. This results in the denigration of many people's skills since they are forced to perform menial tasks for a living and their advanced knowledge or other qualifications are wasted.

Moreover consequences on the social level are: There are conflicts among the social strata, social upheavals, strikes, and uprising; the social structure is undermined and the crime rate increases as mentioned above.

Perhaps the problem of unemployment is much more complex than this, but what I strongly believe is that if a state cannot ensure the citizens' substantial right to have a job and live with dignity, this state has no reason to exist.

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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