There was a time, about a year ago, when many people I knew were unemployed. Since then, some have found jobs, a few have become self-employed and others went back to school.
But there are still some out there whose frustration builds as their joblessness persists. They had hoped to be working by now.
Being unemployed isn’t easy. Not knowing what you’re going to do when your unemployment benefits run out is even worse. And sitting at home hearing about the magnitude of global employment doesn’t make it any better.
According to some estimates there are 44 million unemployed people in the so-called western countries. These would be those nations considered affluent such as Canada, the United States and Western Europe.
This 44 million is about equal to the population of Spain, which has one of the highest unemployment rates, sitting at 21 per cent.
Of this 44 million, 14 million make up the North American unemployed population. This number is about equal to the population of Texas.
On an individual level, some countries are doing much better than others.
Canada, for example, is reporting 7.3 per cent currently—in July the unemployment rate was 6.2 per cent. This change can be attributed to employment status of many young adults as they moved from the labour market to either college or university.
Other countries with low rates in July of this year were Germany at 6.6 per cent, Japan 4.4 per cent, the Netherlands at 4.4 per cent and Australia at 5.1 per cent.
Countries with higher rates were the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece.
What’s interesting about this unemployment is that those with higher rates, (such as the United States at 9.1 per cent) are finding that there are now many individuals who have been unemployed for at least 40 weeks. This is different from 2007 when the average was 17 weeks.
This kind of chronic unemployment comes with a series of other associated risks where ultimately workers no longer have the skills, motivation or even the desire to continue to look for work. Some lose a tremendous amount of self-esteem where they consider themselves unemployable because they lack the confidence to re-enter the work force.
This type of condition is extremely unfortunate when it plagues young adults who have not had the opportunity to work for a considerable amount of time and are already struggling with transitioning into employment.
So how do governments get people back to work? Governments can only throw so much stimulus money into the economy to create jobs especially in areas where new technology and globalization has reduced the demand for an unskilled labour force. This is especially true in Canada.
Workers today need to be prepared to meet the demands of Canadian employers. These demands include more education, training and job skills that give workers something to offer.
Those who look after our colleges and universities need to ensure that programming meets the needs of employers who will find job-ready students upon graduation.
Governments need to look into their own labour policies and find ways – job sharing, onsite training opportunities, and other programs—to help workers either stay in or re-enter the workforce.
Education, training, reskilling and innovative programs are the means to ensure we bring together two groups who need to be united: Those who need workers and those looking for work.
Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.