People are Unemployed because they Want to be

In a country characterized by job losses due to the recession, companies downsizing, and the ever changing climatic conditions we experience, how can we generalize and say that people choose not to be employed? The statement, “People are unemployed because they want to be”, while it has some merits it should not be used as a rationale for the overall unemployment level currently being experienced. Unemployment as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively looked for jobs or are looking for one.

There is nothing however, in this definition to suggest whether a person is unemployed voluntarily or involuntarily. There may be some persons who choose not to work; there may be some individuals who simply cannot work for reasons that otherwise prevent them from doing so. However, the majority of persons who are unemployed are at that stage involuntarily and for varying reasons, based on the current economic situation, and not by their choice. Why then, would one decide not to be employed?

In a scenario where voluntary unemployment takes place, many persons feel that their current wage is not high enough to justify them working. They may feel that what they have contributed to the company is not seen as value added. They may also have a poor relationship with management. Therefore, they will leave their current job in search of another, with better compensation and benefits, opportunities and challenges; often times not able to be find such a job, or going from job to job in an effort to find that specific job that they may have in mind.

It should not be confused with individuals who are unemployed involuntarily because they have been forced out of work. Involuntary unemployment is a failure of the economy to provide enough jobs for all those willing to work at existing money wages (Keynes, 1973). While Jamaica has not been hit by huge financial crises and housing foreclosures, it has suffered job losses due to the dwindling economy. Jobs have no doubt, been disappearing. According to economic theory, government spending is crucial to shortening economic downturn and stimulating its recovery (Keynes, 1973).

However, the present government’s promises of jobs, jobs, jobs, remain to an extent, unfulfilled. It is clear that there are not enough jobs in the labour market to employ all those individuals who are either unemployed voluntarily or involuntarily. Many people also become unemployed involuntarily because of their company downsizing the operation. The downsizing strategies of many firms for whatever reason, has led to increased unemployment levels whereby, the company can no longer afford to produce at the optimal level they once were able to, and would no longer require the services of some of their employees.

They simply would have to cut back to remain viable. People are thus made redundant. Some would argue that there are still companies that have not downsized their operations, but can they afford to take on more human resources? It is also evident that persons become unemployed because of alterations to the climatic conditions that we so often experience. For example, devastation caused by storms may lead to a decline in demand for certain goods and services as well as products which would cause employment to decrease.

Storms, and to an extent, drought, have ravaged many farm lands, where agricultural produce comes from, that are vital to areas such as the hospitality industry. With no food produce to sell, there will be no revenue earned and no money to pay workers. Supporters of voluntary unemployment argue that people are unemployed because they want to be, they do have a point. This type of unemployment will always be present in an economy.

However, it is not fair to jump to hasty generalizations about the overall amount of persons who are unemployed and to say that they choose to do so. After seeing the evidences put forward there is no way that we can be in full agreement with that notion. A huge chunk of the unemployed, though not evident in any research that has been carried out, are unemployed involuntarily for reasons mentioned before. The effects of the recession, downsizing of companies, and changing climatic conditions, while devastating, have also left dire effects on the economy.