The numbers of unemployed people around the world today is unprecedented in modern Western society. Official joblessness rates are just part of the real statistics. In the US since the 2008 Great Recession, many tens of thousands who lost jobs due to workforce downsizing and outsourcing have never recovered the jobs they were in and they have either had to go back to school for new jobs, often less desirable ones or part-time work, or they have left the workforce altogether so that they no longer show up on the unemployment records.
In 2009-2010, I formed a team of anthropology students to conduct an interview study in Colorado Springs, Colorado that we called the Tell Your Story project. We talked with people at the local workforce center and other people we knew, about their life experiences dealing with unemployment. We were not surprised to hear of much of their frustration and, for too many, despair. We were somewhat surprised to learn, though, that about a third of the people we talked with who had been out of work or underemployed for over a year and a half already had been finding new sources of support and what we came to call ‘New Hope’ even apart from the workplace. Many of these people were reinventing themselves in some very adaptive, meaningful ways. At the same time there were at least an equal number of people who had fallen into hopelessness, and for some of these persons, foreclosure or even homelessness.
This week, Better Endings is dedicated to those who are still or have been jobless or underemployed. I will post some of what people shared in the Tell Your Story project which they were hoping would be heard by others. Certainly, many unemployed persons would not claim “better endings” as they are struggling day to day to survive and to adapt. Our hearts go out to those who might feel invisible. When we asked people how they felt people in society overall think about those who are unemployed, almost to a person the answer we received was: “That We Are Lazy”. Yet that was far from the truth. Most people we talked with were investing more than full-time hours seeking new jobs, retraining, or working part-time jobs while retooling to re-enter the workplace. And some were developing entrepreneurial approaches, or returning to arts and hobbies.
If you have a story you would like to share on the topic of unemployment or underemployment this week, please do! You can send your insights and stories via the Comments box below or submit your stories to me directly and I will certainly share them. (See the Better Endings Quotes below (bottom panel) all week for some Tell Your Story voices.)
Better Endings to You! – Linda