The financial crisis happened in 2008, but six years later, we are still seeing the impact of this devastating economic recession. One area that has been severely highlighted is the issue of long term unemployment. Even though the federal government continue to post declining unemployment numbers, there is another side of the story that is not being told. And that is people who have spent so much time looking for a job (in some cases a year or two) that they’ve given up on the job search. They then drop off the government tracking list since the unemployment data only surveys people who are able and willing to work. Therefore, if you are just looking at the numbers that are officially announced by the government, then you are missing a very big part of the picture. So, how should we look at these people who clearly want to work but are exhausted by the job search process that they’ve given up?
Is it entirely their fault that they now feel discouraged to go back there and search again? Let’s look at it from their perspective. You have been working at a company for a long time, and say you are in your mid 50s, about 10 years away from retirement. Then you are laid off during the financial crisis. Now you have to go out there and compete with all these young people who perhaps have more computer and technology skills like you have. Also, they are probably more attractive to the employer because they can pay them less than the salary you think you deserve for the same job, based on your experience. But there are so many people out there in a similar situation that the companies are willing to drag out the process and find the best talent for very little money. That’s the situation many of these people who are close to retirement face. In a job market that pits them against young talent willing to work more for less, they don’t stand a chance. Some of them have also run out of the unemployment benefits money and no longer qualify for additional benefits from the government.
While we may pretend that the system will sort this issue out, we are leaving millions of Americans who through no fault of theirs find themselves with no money and no prospects for employment any time soon, mostly because of their age. Most have exhausted all the balance on their eppicard debit card and don’t qualify for any more money. The federal government, together with local government should step in and help these people either re-train for other industries or find jobs in their areas of expertise. It is a very tragic situation to have worked all your life, played by the rules, and then be left out by yourself when you are so close to the finish line of retirement. We as a society can do better and we should. No one should be left behind, especially when the economy is recovering and dreams are being reborn again.
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