We’re about to enter the Labor Day weekend and I’ve been thinking about labor. This weekend traditionally marks the end of summer—when most kids are on vacation from school and many folks take their family vacations. But for some people, the “vacation” doesn’t end—because they don’t have jobs. They find themselves on an unwelcome, uncomfortable “vacation,” one they did not choose.
I have several friends who have been looking for work for months now. A few have been on a job search for more than a year. It’s a tough time—and very scary. The other day when I was visiting Chicago’s aquarium, I ran into a former colleague from the Lutheran Center. She was laid off last year and she’s been struggling to find work for months. She said that she felt like her family was sliding down, out of the middle class. I could see the stress on her face.
Last week I spoke to a friend whose husband has been out of work for two years. They’ve been paying an enormous sum every month to hold onto their health insurance. She said they’re getting behind on their bills. She sounded kind of depressed. Money worries really wear a person down, especially as they drag on and on.
Several of these friends and ex-colleagues are, like me, middle-aged. Too young to retire, but too old to be attractive to many employers–lots of employers think that a young person is more likely to be around longer (and will take a lower salary). And even for young people, there are tough challenges: too few jobs, too much competition, and in many cases, the crushing burden of student loans.
It seems like every few days I read a story in the newspaper about another company laying off workers. In July the official unemployment rate was 9.1%, but that only measures the number of people who are looking for a job. I’ve read that when you add the people who are underemployed or discouraged (and who have quit looking), the figure is more like 16% (according to MSN Money). That’s a lot of folks who are not able to contribute their labor to society.
I don’t know what the political solution is, although I read a lot of pundits’ conflicting opinions about it. It doesn’t seem to me that corporations are putting money into their labor forces, regardless of what tax breaks they get. That money appears to go to their CEOs and upper management—and the rest to the shareholders, I guess.
What about you? Are you struggling to find work? Is someone in your family? Do you know someone who has been searching for a job so long that he or she has become discouraged and afraid? This weekend, in our prayers let’s remember all those who don’t have jobs and offer to help them as we are able.