Views on unemployment

© Sander van der Wel

A while ago I wrote a blog post on how unemployment had been a positive change for me. A year after having started the job hunt, I am still looking and have not yet found a job. Of course, the figures are not very encouraging, considering the number of applications sent, replies received and jobs got: none. But still, I am not yet ready to give up hope.

Since becoming unemployed, and over the past couple of months, I have come across a constant image of unemployment being utterly depressing. Not long ago, I chose to watch the film The Company Men. For those who don’t know, it’s a film about three men from the same company who lose their jobs (different ages, different jobs).

The portrayal of unemployment in the film, is about as dismal as it gets. Unemployment, is the worst possible thing that could ever happen to you. You lose your money, you lose your status, you feel embarrassed and you don’t know what to do. You don’t dare tell anybody, you pretend you go to work every day to keep up appearances, and are forced to do demeaning jobs to make ends meet. One of the men was so depressed, he ended up committing suicide.

As I watched the film unfold, I couldn’t help but thing “Wow! Who knew unemployment was so depressing?”. I also wondered why they were portraying it in such a negative light, though I am sure there were reasons for this. And as I watched the men lose everything, sell house and car, and give up on any small pleasure I was thinking “hang on, that’s not true. If you have unemployment benefits, and your spouse works, surely everything doesn’t go down the drain”. I know there are many different ways unemployment can go, but surely the one portrayed in the film is not the only one.

At the beginning of this year, I undertook a course about starting your own business, generously paid for by the Swiss Unemployment system. Everyone else on the course was also unemployed, and on the first day we all had to stand up and tell the rest of “class” our story. My impression that first day, was of a group of people so depressed, hurt, and scarred by unemployment, and I could hardly believe it. As I listened to them tell their stories, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was the only one who had managed to enjoy some of my time whilst unemployed.

I have to admit, I was the youngest in the group (hasn’t happened to me in a long time), and most people had really suffered from losing their jobs. They couldn’t understand why this had happened to them, they felt bitter and they felt wronged. They dreaded the “what do you do” question and felt judged by anyone they told they were unemployed. I was surprised to hear these peoples’ experiences and reactions, and by how hard they had been hit.

Finally just this afternoon, I happened upon this article on the BBC. Reading it, I couldn’t help but think once again “How depressing! Is this really what unemployment is like”? Don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means denying that unemployment is hard. Of course, the eternal job hunting is a pain, reading endless lists of similar job ads. Of course, the string of negative responses gets you down and you wonder when someone will finally give you the break you need.

I also understand that financially unemployment can be difficult for people, even when being allowed benefits. However, I do think that certain measures can be taken to avoid bitter financial difficulty. I also believe that if you have a partner or spouse who is employed, then perhaps things can be a little easier.

But unemployment doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of the world. I have met several people who have benefitted from their time and discovered ways in which it is a positive change. I enumerate a few of these myself in my previous blog post.

My point is, unemployment is not a disease, something that will slowly and painfully kill you. It’s not a disfiguration or an “embarrassing illness”. It happens to everyone at some point in time, even to the best of us. It’s unfortunate that the economic situation is bad and has resulted in higher rates of unemployment. But it’s not a condition for life.

Reading articles like the one on the BBC and watching movies like The Company Men is not going to help! Instead of circulating an utterly depressing image of unemployment, one that could very well push people over the edge (or make them feel that it’s their last resort), the media should focus more on helping people take a positive and pro-active attitude towards unemployment. Why not share people’s success stories of how they got out of unemployment? Why not get people to share tips on how to keep busy in a way that is good for your career?

Stop feeding people depression and help them get out of it instead!

I am very interested to hear people’s different experiences and opinions, so please share in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Views on unemployment

  1. AndrewSGinsburg says:

    You do make many good points, it would be helpful if the media, tv, newspapers etc spent more time talking about positive and healthy things people can do when they are unemployed. Some people are better at being self starters, using their time to do productive things like going to the gym, and like you said taking classes. I loved the first year of unemployment, went to Hawaii, Miami Beach, San Fran, Cape Cod; the second year is when it got much harder for me. Also, there are some clear cut facts to pay attention to; 25m people are unemployed or under employed; over 4m have been unemployed for over a year; thats the highest level since the great depression. So thats a lot of people out of work. You might have caught my blog on a particularly downer of a post; but I also think that sharing struggles helps people, making people know they are not alone in their feelings. I also think that we might actually be in another great depression right now and won’t know it for years. Anyway, thanks for your optimism and feel free to comment on any of my posts!

  2. emmacdo says:

    HI Andrew thanks for your comment and for coming to read my article. I do agree, unemployment is not always easy and everyone goes through hard times. I think that as you say, as time goes on, it gets harder to stay positive. However, I still think it’s very important to try and stay positive and not get caught in the spiral of negativity. If we keep on reading articles like we are seeing today, how are we to have any hope?

    I also agree with you about the facts and figures: unemployment is here, people are struggling to find jobs, and there is a lot of competition. It definitely isn’t an easy world to be in, and I do think we might be in a great depression even though no one is daring to say it.

    I like that you say it’s important to show people they’re not alone. That’s true. I suppose, daring to show that one is suffering, also shows people that they can feel bad too and that it’s ok.

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