Almost a month ago (April 17, 2015), CNN published an article discussing one country’s plan to fine its unemployed. As the terms “social parasites” and “welfare queens” are thrown around globally, I’m reminded of the way in which people look down on the unemployed.
Criticizing the Unemployed . . .
Everywhere you turn, there’s an attack – things to knock down this group. I don’t understand this.
Recently, the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ News Release reported 8.5 million Americans are experiencing unemployment.
Here’s where it gets interesting: 2.5 million of these Americans are experiencing long-term unemployment (i.e., unemployed 27 weeks +).
No change whatsoever in this number. This means a lot of people remain financially challenged – and not all are corrupt, illiterate, and lazy losers.
Still, many criticize this “out group.” A certain level of disgust and hardheartedness exist.
Why is this?
Amid all of the statistics regarding unemployment, people still don’t understand the plight of the unemployed. People still view it from the WRONG perspective.
Please know this: unemployment – a life changing event – doesn’t come with ease. If you’re among the jobless, you understand the challenge of unemployment as an adult. You understand the dismal job prospects and the difficulty of securing a job.
Many outside of the jobless world, however, lack empathy.
How often do you hear others empathizing with the unemployed?
Think about it!
If you can’t respond with an answer, then it’s because you don’t hear it often.
Instead, you hear regularly the following negativity and criticism in line with the blame the victim approach: the unemployed don’t want to work, and the unemployed just want to live off of unemployment insurance benefits.
Such harsh attitudes.
People don’t understand the complexity of the unemployment problem. No two situations are alike.
While some people among the unemployed group may indeed be lazy and uninterested in challenging their comfort zones for something better, others are experiencing long-term unemployment for reasons out of their control – despite their best efforts.
Like the employed, majority of the unemployed want to work and enjoy a “decent life.”
Yet, critics believe it’s fine to bash and tear down the unemployed. After all, the assumption is this: the unemployed are lazy and brought this problem on themselves.
Why do people hold on to this stereotype?
Empathizing with the Unemployed . . .
I’m tired of seeing these myths assuming every unemployed person is lazy and don’t want to work hard. I’m tired of seeing others suggest the hardworking, bright people are those with paying jobs.
The opposite is true.
This group is made up of bright, experienced, and hardworking people. For most, prolonged unemployment hasn’t been a choice.
The desire is there. The effort is there. The opportunities are NOT.
I wonder, though: how would the employed feel if they become unemployed – long-term? Would they look down on themselves the way they do others when unemployment unexpectedly meets them?
If you’re among the employed group, imagine yourself unemployed and submitting countless job applications and resumes/cover letters (for jobs you know you can do) and attending job interviews – only to receive constant rejections.
Imagine yourself unemployed and reading a news article titled, “…Unemployed Workers Are Lazy Welfare Queens.”
How would you feel?
In any case, the issue is this: unemployed workers are navigating a new economy in which it’s not easy to get a job. Remember, there’s 2 (1.7 to be exact) job seekers for every job opening.
For the long-term unemployed, landing a job is so tough hiring professionals advise the long-term unemployed against putting “unemployed” or “seeking opportunities” on their social media profiles and resumes.
So . . .
Why isn’t anybody questioning employers’ decisions NOT to hire the long-term unemployed because of the presumptions something’s wrong with this group?
Why isn’t anybody questioning the negative terms targeted at the unemployed: “social parasites” and “welfare bum/queens?”
These negative criticisms and stereotypes are the basis of the assumptions surrounding the long-term unemployed. These assumptions cause others to look down upon and criticize the unemployed – without rationalization.
Constant reporting of an improving work force doesn’t help with the judgments either.
Unemployment Can Happen to Anyone
I wish people would empathize with the unemployed.
How can people empathize? Stop criticizing persons experiencing unemployment. Instead, relate to them. Dispel/challenge the unemployment stereotypes and don’t allow them to influence your actions and attitudes.
Recognize majority of the persons experiencing unemployment genuinely seek employment opportunities. A character flaw is not the problem here. Navigating this job market in one’s field of expertise (and outside of it) and location is challenging.
One more piece of advice for those looking down on the unemployed: if you’ve never experienced unemployment, then be grateful. However remember this: there are two sides to the labor market’s fence – employed and unemployed.
At this point economically, nobody has job security. No one is exempt from unemployment.
Unemployment is one of those life challenges with no limits and can happen to anyone.
I don’t wish unemployment on anybody, but I say don’t trick yourself into believing “it can’t/won’t happen you” because you’re hardworking, educated, experienced, and bright. Don’t let this belief cultivate your negative attitudes toward the unemployed.
I’m just saying.
From Me to You (fellow unemployed): I suggest empathy over criticism in this article, but I want you to understand something. People can’t understand the reality of unemployment without a personal experience, so some will always be critical of the unemployed.
Keep looking up regardless and don’t let the negative attacks prey on you!
Disclaimer: This post contains outgoing links to the works of others on the following websites: CNN, U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Crooks and Liars, Business Insider, and the Economic Policy Institute.
P. S. Do you criticize or empathize with the unemployed? Please share your thoughts below.