from Becki and John
An OpEd in today’s NY Times describes the magnitude of longterm unemployment resulting from our recent great recession and its impact on peoples’ lives – people who lose their jobs longterm and may never fully recover. Toward the end of this editorial the authors describe some approaches that could be taken to lessen the severity of longterm unemployment. While the data the authors present is compelling, the article falls short in addressing this latter issue, not that there is an easy answer.
The following statements were extracted from an OpEd by Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett in the NY Times:
• In 2007, before the Great Recession, people who were looking for work for more than six months (long-term unemployment) accounted for just 0.8 percent of the labor force.
• In 2010, the long-term unemployed accounted for 4.2 percent of the work force.
• If this is adjusted for people who gave up looking for work, long-term unemployed accounted for 6.3 percent of the work force.
• Older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers.
• But older workers are about half as likely to be rehired.
• Older workers (50-65 yrs old) have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn.
• Prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed.
• A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months.
• A worker who is 62 or older and in the same situation has only about a 6 percent chance.
• Millions of workers have been disconnected from the work force, and possibly even from society.
• Unemployment is almost always a traumatic event, especially for older workers.
• Estimates suggest a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss, after consistent employment.
• There are various reasons for this rise in mortality, including a rise in the rate of suicide.
• Joblessness is also associated with some serious illnesses, although the causal links are poorly understood.
• Studies have found strong links between unemployment and cancer, with unemployed men facing a 25 percent higher risk of dying of the disease.
• Similarly higher risks have been found for heart disease and psychiatric problems.
• There is an 18 percent increase in the probability of divorce following a husband’s job loss and 13 percent after a wife’s.
• Children whose fathers lose a job when they are kids have reduced earnings as adults — about 9 percent lower annually.
One commenter (yes, they have commenters at the NYTimes) said, “We are a Social Darwinist society hiding behind a facade of ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘freedom’” meaning hiding under the cloak of accountability – for example, if you are down on your luck or poor, you haven’t worked hard enough. This appears to be the governing platform of the Republican National Committee and the Connecticut Republican Central Committee.
A Social Darwinist may advocate the survival of the fittest as in natural selection. Darwin did not advocate this as a social policy for 19th century societies. He was for more compassion for those who were disadvantaged or sickly like his beloved daughter, Annie, who died at the age of eleven probably from tuberculosis as many did in those days. Instead, Darwin observed the cruelty of nature and species feeding on species as an argument against a higher power and for evolution by natural selection. How would Darwin feel today if he lived in our world and saw the dead squirrels and opossums on the road? He would likely be compassionate for the unemployed and downtrodened.
Another way of looking at Social Darwinism is the cause of the socially powerful in trying to maintain their position of power by minimalizing the less powerful groups. This is done economically, or by bullying and by ancient tribal methods such as shunning, banning, punishing, and exclusion. This is not Darwinism because the species evolve(d) under equal natural conditions. In our world this is accomplished by Manipulative Darwinism – e.g. manipulating prejudice and cultural preferences such as diminishing the roles and rights of African Americans, women, gays, and banning interacial and gay marriages.
In many ways, this is why Obama’s presidency is revolutionary in that it is breaking down some of these barriers.
I have to say that I (JL) have been very lucky in life to have found happiness and a productive way of making a living that will continue into the future for some time; however, I do consider this somewhat serendipidous. The best advice I can give to others, especially the young, is to strive to prevail over luck, or lack of it, and serendipity by embracing responsibility for your own lot in life. The best advice I ever got came from one of three Professors and mentors, Dai Nakada, when I was working to earn my Ph.D. in Biochemistry. He advised me to capture my niche as a Molecular Biologist, a discovery or concept, that I could develop to purpetuate my career. I found it in 1976 and this niche is still paying off for us today. But this does not apply to just scientists. Instead, this niche in life applies to anything that you like to do and can embrace.
I was prepared when opportunity presented itself, but I have to confess that I was very fortunate to have the mentors in life who made a difference in mine.