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Article

Employment and Unemployment: Macro Social Work Perspectives  

Michael Anthony Lewis

Social workers are concerned with the well-being of all members of a given society. In order to be well, people need access to certain goods and services. In a society with a capitalist economy, most people gain access to necessary goods and services either by working themselves or being connected to someone else who works. This means that not being able to find a job can be a serious threat to people’s social welfare. For this reason, unemployment should be of interest to social workers. Therefore, what follows is a discussion of employment, unemployment, and their relevance to the concerns of social workers.

Article

Punishment, Marxism, and Political Economy  

Alessandro De Giorgi

The political economy of punishment is a critical approach within the sociology of punishment that hypothesizes the existence of a structural relationship between transformations of the economy and changes in the penal field. Inspired by a neo-Marxist framework, this materialist critique of punishment explores—from both a historical and a contemporary perspective—the connections between the reorganization of a society’s system of production and the emergence, persistence, or decline of specific penal practices. Thus, materialist criminologists have investigated the parallel historical emergence of factories as the main sites of capitalist production and of prisons as the main institutions of punishment in modern societies. Scholars in the field have also explored the correlations between incarceration rates and socioeconomic indicators, such as unemployment rates, poverty levels, welfare regimes, and labor markets. This materialist framework has been criticized in mainstream criminological literature for its alleged economic determinism. In particular, critiques have focused on the theory’s tendency to overlook the cultural significance of punishment and the politico-institutional dimensions of penality, as well as on its exclusive emphasis on the instrumental side of penal practices as opposed to their symbolic dimensions. In response to these critiques, some recent works have tried to integrate the old political economy of punishment with epistemological tools from different disciplinary fields in order to overcome some of the limitations of the materialist approach. This broadening of the structural paradigm in criminology could point toward the envisioning of a “cultural political economy of punishment.” Particularly in its more recent iterations, the materialist critique of punishment provides a powerful lens for investigating current transformations in the penal field, such as the advent of mass incarceration and the ongoing prison crisis in the United States.

Article

Unemployment and Work Subjectivities in Argentina  

Mariano D. Perelman

Whether one is employed or unemployed depends on both a series of sociopolitical processes and individual career paths. Work subjectivities—both as a way of thinking about access to resources and as the pursuit of a life with dignity—allows understanding how people give meaning to the tasks they perform in order to earn a living. In Argentina, since the 1970s, full-time employment and access to salaried work, as well as social benefits through employment, have been central components of the work subjectivities of thousands of people. Salaried work and benefits continue to be the way one accesses a dignified life, even as the labor force deteriorates. At the same time, there are thousands of people who have never earned a living through employment or a “job” and who embody different work subjectivities. The work subjectivities of people who are not “formal” employees allow us to reconstruct the lines between employment and unemployment, between work and nonwork, and between lives controlled by salaried work and those that are not.

Article

Housing and the Labor Market  

Robert R. Reed III

Since the experiences of the housing boom and bust in the first decade of the 21st century, there has been growing interest in studying the connections between housing markets and labor market activity. Notably, a number of theoretical works have attempted to understand how housing tenure affects labor market outcomes. Interestingly, despite the inherent appeal of the logic that homeownership reduces worker mobility, much of this research does not predict that homeownership is associated with inferior outcomes when compared to renting. Thus, it is important to also examine the implications of homeownership empirically. Although initially focused on macroeconomic studies looking at owner-occupation rates and unemployment across countries, the empirical literature expanded by introducing microeconometric research that examines an individual’s tenure status and labor market results. To begin, it appears that unemployed homeowners may not necessarily suffer from longer unemployment durations than other workers. Further, they may also be less likely to become unemployed; however, homeownership might be associated with lower wages because homeowners are limited in their job searches. In particular, homeowners suffering from negative equity seem to approach search efforts and job acceptance rates differently from other workers. Yet, such individuals are unlikely to default on their mortgages unless they experience adverse labor market shocks.

Article

Employment and Unemployment  

Michelle Livermore

Different types of employment and unemployment are defined and the measurement of these concepts is illustrated. Unemployment trends among different groups in the United States are described and competing theories of the causes of unemployment are explained. Finally, policies relating to employment, including those focusing on labor supply, labor demand, and labor regulation, are discussed.

Article

Rubinow, Isaac Max  

Larraine M. Edwards

Isaac Max Rubinow (1875–1936) was a consultant to the President's Committee on Economic Security and director of the Jewish Welfare Society of Philadelphia. He led the American social insurance movement and contributed to Jewish American welfare programs.

Article

Migrants and Refugees in Africa  

Aderanti Adepoju

Intraregional migration of cross-border workers, unskilled and temporary contract workers, undocumented migrants, highly skilled professionals, and refugees characterize the migration landscape in Africa and is reflected in distinctive and changing configurations in the different subregions: labor migration in the west and central areas, movement of refugees in the eastern and southern areas, and migration of skilled professionals from west and east to southern Africa. Migrants and refugees in Africa share a number of common features: both are caused in large part by a set of interrelated factors—conflicts, underdevelopment, poor governance, and economic and social deprivation—and movements are confined largely to the continent. Youth unemployment, a major trigger for irregular migration, together with emigration of skilled professionals, pose serious challenges for many countries; remittances from the diaspora, though a lifeline for poor families left behind, do not compensate for the loss of skills. The refugee situation is highly dynamic and fluid. The sheer numbers of refugees in Africa, their composition, and the challenges they face and the limited success obtained thus far in the search for a permanent solution require sustained efforts in what is regarded an African problem requiring essentially an African solution.

Article

The State of DSGE Modeling  

Paul Levine

Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) modeling can be structured around six key criticisms leveled at the approach. The first is fundamental and common to macroeconomics and microeconomics alike—namely, problems with rationality and expected utility maximization (EUM). The second is that DSGE models examine fluctuations about an exogenous balanced growth path and there is no role for endogenous growth. The third consists of a number of concerns associated with estimation. The fourth is another fundamental problem with any micro-founded macro-model—that of heterogeneity and aggregation. The fifth and sixth concern focus on the rudimentary nature of earlier models that lacked unemployment and a banking sector. A widely used and referenced example of DSGE modeling is the Smets-Wouters (SW) medium-sized NK model. The model features rational expectations and, in an environment of uncertainty, EUM by households and firms. Preferences are consistent with a nonstochastic exogenous balanced growth path about which the model is solved. The model can be estimated by a Bayesian systems estimation method that involves four types of representative agents (households, final goods producers, trade unions, and intermediate good producers). The latter two produce differentiated labor and goods, respectively, and, in each period of time, consist of a proportion locked into existing contracts and the rest that can reoptimize. There is underemployment but no unemployment. Finally, an arbitrage condition imposed on the return on capital and bonds rules out financial frictions. Thus the model, which has become the gold standard for DSGE macro-modeling, features all six areas of concern. The model can be used as a platform to examine how the current generation of DSGE models has developed in these six dimensions. This modeling framework has also used for macro-economic policy design.

Article

International Trade, Wages, and Unemployment  

Priyaranjan Jha

Traditional trade theory has focused on the allocation of resources between various sectors of the economy and how it changes in response to trade liberalization while maintaining the assumption of free mobility of resources across sectors within an economy. This simplifying assumption is at odds with empirical evidence which shows considerable frictions in the movement of resources between sectors, at least in the short to medium run. Workers who lose their jobs in the import competing sector may find it hard to find a job immediately in the export sector. This has given rise to a growing literature that incorporates frictions in the mobility of factors of production in general, and labor in particular, in trade models. This article surveys the literature on trade and unemployment where unemployment is caused by search frictions or wage rigidity of some kind such as minimum wage, efficiency wage, or implicit contracts. While the focus is on unemployment, any model studying the impact of trade on labor markets features wage effects, too, and a brief discussion of wage effects is also provided. Trade affects unemployment in these multi-sector models through two main channels: sectoral unemployment rates and intersectoral reallocation of resources. In newer trade models with heterogeneous firms, trade can change unemployment by affecting the allocation of resources within a sector. While the theoretical models in this literature identify various channels through which trade liberalization affects unemployment, many of these channels have opposing implications for unemployment, rendering the net effect of trade liberalization on unemployment ambiguous in many settings. This has also given rise to an empirical literature studying the implications of trade liberalization on unemployment.

Article

The State of Higher Education in the Arab World  

Islam Qasem

The mid-20th century marked the birth of higher education systems in the majority of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries. Driven by post-independence nationalism, ruling elites deemed education, including higher education, as a crucial part of nation-state building, next to the development of the army, bureaucracy, and economy. With government funding, new public universities were established throughout the region. Enrollment steadily increased as governments expanded access to higher education through lax admission and free or highly subsidized admission, and often guaranteeing employment for university graduates in the public sector. By the end of the 20th century, higher education became widely accessible in most Arab countries, but decades of neglect have led to a crisis in quality and research. Academic quality has deteriorated under the weight of decades of neglect from overcrowded classrooms, outdated curriculum, poor pedagogy, underpaid faculty, lack of quality mechanisms, strapped budget to limited autonomy. No more encouraging is the universities’ role as a center of knowledge discovery and innovation, given their lack of adequate qualified human and necessary physical resources. The low performance of public universities on the global ranking systems and the high unemployment rate among university graduates sums up the Arab higher education system’s inauspicious condition. During the last two decades, governments enacted various reform measures. To relieve overcrowded public universities and reduce public finance burden, countries in the region authorized private higher education. Consequently, the number of private universities has mushroomed, many of which are for-profit and exclusively focused on teaching. However, a shortage of cash and limited freedom to manage academic and administrative affairs continue to beset most public institutions. Some countries have made incremental changes, such as introduced measures to increase equity, endorsed new admission policies, and established accreditation and quality assurance bodies. The Gulf countries undertook far-reaching measures to transform the system. Cushioned by oil and gas revenues and a relatively small population, the six Gulf countries have invested considerably in upgrading public universities’ infrastructure, hiring faculty and administrative staff from abroad, and developing a research infrastructure including establishing new research-oriented universities. Consequently, the Arab higher education landscape has become increasingly diversified and with growing differences among countries. To compare the Arab countries on their current state of their higher education system, the countries are ranked on an index composed of three key aspects: access to higher education (gross enrollment ratio), equity (gross enrollment ratio for female), and publication intensity (citable documents per million inhabitants). The ranking shows the Gulf countries vying for the top spots. At the low end of the rank are countries which have been conflict-ridden or poverty-stricken.

Article

Stock-Flow Models of Market Frictions and Search  

Eric Smith

Stock-flow matching is a simple and elegant framework of dynamic trade in differentiated goods. Flows of entering traders match and exchange with the stocks of previously unsuccessful traders on the other side of the market. A buyer or seller who enters a market for a single, indivisible good such as a job or a home does not experience impediments to trade. All traders are fully informed about the available trading options; however, each of the available options in the stock on the other side of the market may or may not be suitable. If fortunate, this entering trader immediately finds a viable option in the stock of available opportunities and trade occurs straightaway. If unfortunate, none of the available opportunities suit the entrant. This buyer or seller now joins the stocks of unfulfilled traders who must wait for a new, suitable partner to enter. Three striking empirical regularities emerge from this microstructure. First, as the stock of buyers does not match with the stock of sellers, but with the flow of new sellers, the flow of new entrants becomes an important explanatory variable for aggregate trading rates. Second, the traders’ exit rates from the market are initially high, but if they fail to match quickly the exit rates become substantially slower. Third, these exit rates depend on different variables at different phases of an agent’s stay in the market. The probability that a new buyer will trade successfully depends only on the stock of sellers in the market. In contrast, the exit rate of an old buyer depends positively on the flow of new sellers, negatively on the stock of old buyers, and is independent of the stock of sellers. These three empirical relationships not only differ from those found in the familiar search literature but also conform to empirical evidence observed from unemployment outflows. Moreover, adopting the stock-flow approach enriches our understanding of output dynamics, employment flows, and aggregate economic performance. These trading mechanics generate endogenous price dispersion and price dynamics—prices depend on whether the buyer or the seller is the recent entrant, and on how many viable traders were waiting for the entrant, which varies over time. The stock-flow structure has provided insights about housing, temporary employment, and taxicab markets.

Article

Economic Conditions and Public Opinion on Climate Change  

Salil Benegal and Lyle Scruggs

How do economic conditions affect public opinion about climate change? Since the early days of the modern environmental movement, people have debated three main perspectives on how economic conditions impact environmental attitudes. The post-materialism perspective suggests that social and individual affluence leads to increasing concern and demands for action on climate change through long-run cultural change. A second view suggests that attitudes about climate change are shaped largely independently of economic conditions and reflect the emergence of a new environmental paradigm. A third view, associated with ecological modernization theory, suggests that attitudes about climate change are shaped in important ways by short-term economic factors, such as economic self-interest, and are likely to vary among citizens over time. While all of these perspectives have merit, we emphasize the impact of macroeconomic risk and business cycle fluctuations in shaping public attitudes toward climate change and more general aspects of environmental policy. Rising unemployment rates, for example, tend to be associated with declines in concern about environmental problems. This is a trend that is repeated across more than four decades and multiple recessions and recoveries dating back to the 1970s. Although it is obviously a more recently recognized environmental problem, public attitudes about climate change are also affected considerably by short-run economic conditions. This fact can influence the possibilities for policy reform. Through a process of motivated reasoning, in which immediate concerns and preferences to address economic risk lead individuals to adjust other attitudes about the environment, public concerns about climate change have ebbed and flowed with the business cycle. Other economic factors—such as societal affluence, personal employment status, or income—have more limited effects on attitudes about climate change, at least in most developed countries. The impact of economic risk on public attitudes about climate change has important implications for policy reform in democratic societies, because public support matters. While partisanship and ideology are frequently cited as explanations for fluctuating public opinion about climate change, macroeconomic risk offers a complementary explanation, which suggests that the framing and timing of environmental policy initiatives is as important as ideological acceptability. Positioning environmental actions or initiatives in better economic conditions, emphasizing immediate economic benefits, and countering unwarranted beliefs about personal costs, especially during challenging economic circumstances, should improve the prospects for efforts to address climate change.

Article

Van Kleeck, Mary Ann  

Lynne M. Healy

Mary Ann van Kleeck (1883–1972) was director of the Department of Industrial Studies at the Russell Sage Foundation. She studied the effect of technology on employment and her labor research led to legislation protecting women workers.

Article

Unemployment Insurance  

Larry Nackerud and Lauren Ricciardelli

This entry addresses unemployment insurance as the cornerstone of the Social Security Act of 1935 and, accordingly, as a cornerstone of the modern U.S. social welfare system. After providing a brief historical background of the Unemployment Insurance program, including key ties to the social work profession, this entry provides information about underlying ideological perspectives, and about program design and implementation. Key considerations are discussed with regard to the impact of the economic downturn and the global COVID-19 pandemic on unemployment insurance using a Keynesian framework. Finally, a discussion is offered pertaining to the legacy and possible reform of the Unemployment Insurance program.

Article

Workers' Compensation  

Paul Terrell

Workers' Compensation is a form of social insurance financed and administered by each of the 50 states, the federal government (for federal workers), and the District of Columbia that protects workers and their families from some of the economic consequences of workplace-related accidents and illnesses.

Article

Poverty and Inequality in South Africa: A History  

Colin Bundy

Contemporary South Africa exhibits widespread and persistent poverty and an extraordinarily high level of inequality. Historically, poverty and inequality were forged by forms of racial subordination and discrimination shaped successively by slavery, by colonial settlement and conquest, and by a mining-based industrial revolution in the last quarter of the 19th century. The explosive growth of capitalism and urbanization in a colonial context shaped a set of institutions and social relations—the “native reserves,” migrant labor, pass laws, job reservation, urban segregation, and the like—which reached their most stringent form under apartheid legislation, from 1948 on. The political, social, and economic system of apartheid entrenched white wealth and privilege and intensified the poverty of black South Africans, particularly in rural areas. By the 1970s, the apartheid project began to flounder and the National Party government launched a series of concessions intended to stimulate the economy and to win the support of black South Africans. A historic transition during the late apartheid years saw a shift from labor shortages to a labor surplus, generating structural unemployment on a massive scale. This was a problem that the African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994, has been unable to solve and which has been a major factor in the levels of poverty and inequality during the democratic era. The ANC has made some advances in combating poverty, especially through the rapid expansion of welfare in the form of pensions and social grants. This has reduced ultra-poverty or destitution. In addition, the provision of housing, water, sanitation, and electricity to black townships has seen significant growth in assets and services to the poor. Yet since 1994, inequality has increased. South Africa has become a more unequal society and not a more equal one. Two factors have caused inequality to deepen: increasingly concentrated income and wealth, and a sharp rise of inequality within the African population. The ANC continues to commit itself to “pro-poor” policies; yet its ability to reduce poverty, and especially to achieve greater equality, appears to be substantially compromised by its failure to reverse or reform the structure, characteristics, and growth path of the economy.

Article

Youth Activism in 21st-Century North Africa  

Christoph Schwarz

In the 21st century, North African societies have been counting with the largest cohorts of young people worldwide. These demographics, in combination with the highest youth unemployment rates worldwide, have been a cause for concern since the turn of the millenium. But in the respective debates in social research and among policy makers, the political subjectivities of young people themselves were rather overlooked. Instead, the situation of young people was often discussed either as a question of deficit—they were regarded as lethargic and apolitical and in need of help—or security—they were discussed as potential adherents of radical interpretations of Islam, as prone to political violence and as a threat to “stability.” However, in 2010 and 2011, mass protests initiated mostly by young people, starting in Tunisia and soon spreading to Egypt, Morocco, Libya, and, to a lesser extent, Algeria and Sudan, very quickly and effectively mobilized large swaths of the population and thus illustrated young people’s social agency, political relevance, and capacity for inclusive solidarity. To many observers, the events that were soon dubbed the “Arab Spring” came out of the blue and appeared as a sudden “generational awakening.” But the region-wide protests, and in particular the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011, not only mobilized people from all walks of life, they were also the result of at least a decade of persistent experimentation by young and not-so-young activists with different forms of collective action under extremely unfavorable conditions. Youth activism in 21st-century North Africa has been operating and strategizing under the constraints of authoritarianism, surveillance, and violent repression. Young people, particularly young women, have long been excluded from most institutional forms of politics. Against this backdrop, many political activists eschew the terms politics or the political, which they associate with corruption, manipulation, and illegitimate rule. Many other young people who appear at first sight “apolitical” have nevertheless engaged in different meaningful endeavors to improve everyday lives in their communities. Following a critical youth studies and youth cultures perspective, as well as a feminist perspective, young people’s activism can thus be analyzed along a spectrum that ranges from rather innocuous forms of everyday quiet encroachment, to public, but “apolitical” forms of mobilization, to highly committed and exposed social movement activism, as well as digitally networked forms of engagement and explicitly political demands for new forms of citizenship. A decade after the Arab Spring, and despite a “Second Wave of the Arab Spring” in Sudan and Algeria from 2018 to 2020, authoritarian rule has gained the upper hand in the region, even in Tunisia, the country that, for a long time, was considered “transitioning” to a representative democracy. Despite these setbacks, the experience that young people, as part of an organized citizenry, were able to oust long-ruling authoritarian presidents within a matter of a few weeks has arguably had an impact on political culture in the region. In the mid-2020s, their example continues to inspire youth activists in North Africa and elsewhere and will likely continue to pose a challenge to authoritarianism.

Article

Work and Organizational Issues Affecting Young Workers  

Belgin Okay-Somerville, Eva Selenko, and Rosalind H. Searle

Young people (between ages 15 and 24 years) experience unique difficulties in access to work, compared to the rest of the working population. Young people are in the process of developing career competencies and therefore lack the necessary know-how, know-why and know-whom relevant for securing jobs and developing sustainable careers. Social disadvantage creates a major obstacle in the way of young people’s career competency development. Lifespan career development theories, with a focus on career competency development, explain young people’s struggle for access to work. When we are younger, we tend to have high growth needs relevant for achieving educational and occupational aspirations and becoming independent adults. These motives may be explained by lifespan theories of aging. Yet, there is a tendency to attribute young people’s work-related motives and behavior to generational differences. Generational perspectives are conceptually and operationally muddled and may serve to heighten age-related stereotypes at work. Psychological science can make further impactful contributions to improving youth employment, especially by taking the socioeconomic context into account.

Article

The Effects of Parental Job Loss on Children’s Outcomes  

Jenifer Ruiz-Valenzuela

Severe economic downturns are typically characterized by a high incidence of job losses. The available evidence suggests that job losers suffer short-run earning losses that persist in the long run, are more likely to remain unemployed, suffer negative health impacts, and experience an increased likelihood of divorce. Job losses have therefore the potential to generate spillover effects for other members of the household, including children. This comes about because most of the negative consequences of job loss have a direct effect on variables that enter both the production function of cognitive achievement and the health production function. Workers who lose their jobs are likely different from those who remain employed in ways that are unobserved to the researcher and that might, in turn, affect child outcomes. Omitted variable bias poses a challenge to obtaining causal estimates of parental job loss. The way the literature has tried to approximate the ideal experiment has mainly depended on whether the child outcome under analysis could be observed both before and after the shock (i.e., both before and after parental job loss), normally relying on job losses coming from plant closures or downsizes and/or individual fixed effects. A survey of the literature shows that father’s job losses seem to have a detrimental impact on outcomes measuring children’s health and school performance. The impact of mother’s job losses on these same outcomes is mixed (including negative, null, and positive impacts). The impact on more long-term outcomes is less clear, with very mixed findings when it comes to the effect of parental job loss on college enrollment, and small impacts on earnings. In many studies, though, average effects mask important differences across subgroups: the negative impact of parental job loss seems to be mostly concentrated on disadvantaged households.

Article

Davidson, George  

Allan Moscovitch

George Davidson’s (1909–1995) working life included four careers over a period of over 45 years. In his first two careers he was director of welfare in the government of British Columbia, executive director of the Canadian Welfare Council, and then the government of Canada’s first deputy minister of welfare. In his later careers he was president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and undersecretary general of the United Nations.