Unemployment as a Social Problem: Essay

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Employment (the number, quality, and security of jobs available) is an important social concept. The fact that income is directly correlated to employment creates the societal notion of class. As such, lack of employment is, consequently, also an important economic aspect that has a direct connotation with the make-up of the society. This literature review aims at effectively analyzing the extent to which unemployment negatively impacts society (unemployment as a social problem) through the eyes of 5 credible sources that explore the same.


The conventional perceptions regarding employment (or lack thereof) involve the economic perceptions of the same. The number of job opportunities available is normally directly associated with complex economic factors and concepts such as GDP, GNP and the like. However, in-depth analysis into countries, regions and even societies in the world with varied and different employment rates reveals an obvious disparity between the social and cultural framework of these societies.

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Social elements and factors such as race, crime, drug, and alcohol abuse have a direct connotation with the rates of unemployment. Economists and social scientists alike continuously strive to establish the various causes and effect relationship between unemployment levels and the general make-up of the society. The same will be further explored in this paper.

Literature Review

Ben Casselman’s article ‘With 8 Years of Job Gains, Unemployment Is Lowest Since 1969’ is an exploration of the state of employment (and unemployment) of America as in 2018. Casselman explores the changes in unemployment rates since 1969 through descriptive statistics. According to the article, unemployment in America fell to a record level over the past 50 years (3.7%). Consequently, more Americans (more than 50%) fall in the middle-class income category. As such, more Americans live comfortably, they have access to healthcare services, save, and can afford holidays and vacations among other perks of living in this income category. As such, more American are receiving treatment for mental problems, recovering from drug abuse. Also, less American is engaging in crime and other social evils. Indeed, America has almost fully recovered from the effects of the 2008 recession, with average income growing by 3% since 2008. However, what does this growth and expansion of income mean for society?

Further developing on the casual inferences made by Casselman on unemployment, it is imperative to investigate the relationships between societies with significant levels of employment with one that is considered the opposite. According to ‘Addressing Individual and Community Impact of Mass Unemployment: A Public Health Response Framework’ (2017), the work of Homolova, Grey, Bellis, and Davies, there is a subtle relationship between rates of employment and certain health-based factors affecting the society. For example, the authors identify a positive relationship between mortality rates and unemployment. They suggest societies with higher rates of employment have higher mortality rates. Unemployed people are more likely to be depressed, engage in drug and alcohol abuse as well as commit suicide, more so if the unemployed individual(s) has dependents. Unemployed people are 30% more likely to engage in these practices that potentially decrease their chances of survival.

According to Fallahi, Pourtaghi and Rodríguez's ‘The Unemployment Rate, Unemployment Volatility, and Crime’, deviating from the scary correlations of unemployment and death, another obvious implication and impact of unemployment is a crime. Indeed, areas and societies such as Honduras, Ecuador, South Africa, and other low-income and high employment countries face the problems of subsequent high crime rates. Indeed, the authors of the above-stated article tried to explore the exact relationships between unemployment and the frequency (and type) of crimes associated with the same in contemporary American society. Although all forms of crime generally increase as a result of unemployment, as stated by the authors, there are underlying relationships between certain crimes and unemployment (both short term and long-term unemployment). For example, the authors discovered significant direct correlations between theft, grand theft auto, and burglaries with short term unemployment. Indeed, the need for income creates a sense of desperation among the recently unemployed, leading them to engage in these forms of crime.

Brand in his ‘The Far-Reaching Impact of Job Loss and Unemployment’ (2015) tries to deviate from the transcending impacts of job loss and unemployment on the society in general (the socioeconomic impacts) and tries to focus on the subtle impact of the same on the individual. In this regard, he tries to explore the socio-economic implications of job loss and employment. He cites the most prevalent impacts of unemployment and job loss is the deteriorating psychological well-being of the individual. He cites the disruption of an individual’s status and structure of their relationships, which normally includes societal stigma faced by the person, anxiety, insecurity, and shame as transcending impacts of unemployment on the individual. A person’s societal role is disrupted once unemployed, which further disrupts their position and respect in the society. The overall effect of the same as already discussed, in the increased probability of engaging in crime, drugs or even suicide to escape from the psycho-social effects of unemployment cited by Band.

Boland and Griffin’s book ‘The Sociology of Unemployment’ is a conventional exploration of the sociological impacts of unemployment. Instead of describing and exploring unemployment as the lack of employment, it seeks to describe unemployment as an experience, a social ailment affecting all members of the society: children, the homeless, politicians and, ironically, the employed. The book’s exploration of employment is as enlightening as it is interesting. It seeks to explain the impact of unemployment on the society, the changes of class and societal role associated with unemployment, the prevalence of divorce and deteriorating relationships as a result of unemployment. It also tries to explore the contemporary view of unemployment, and the view of the same being the consequence of poor policies by politicians and the government that does not necessarily promote social welfare. Indeed, the key focus of the book is the exploration of the society’s perception of organizations and authorities that are tasked with creating employment opportunities and the social dissatisfaction in these institutions, as well as the role these institutions play in promoting social welfare through employment.

Theory/Discussion Section

Indeed, the problem of unemployment directly affects the unemployed individual. However, the indirect impacts of unemployment affect almost all people in direct social relationship with this individual: spouses, siblings, children, and dependents like the elderly (parents). Unemployment halts income flow in households. As a result, the direct dependents of the unemployed experience difficulty and lack in meeting their needs. Healthcare, education housing and other need become difficult to meet. However, unemployment benefits the higher ups in the class structure of the society (the rich and business owners) because they tend to spend less on labor, thus increasing their profits and earnings. Also, politicians get incentives to politicize the same for their gain.

The history of unemployment dates back to the industrial revolution. As the American society shifted from a predominantly agrarian society to an industrialized society, industries and companies were set up in soon-to-be buzzing urban centers. They attracted millions of people from all over the world who were fond of the idea of getting regular pay with little input and investment. However, class culture and marginalization of the labor force created social divisions between the business owners and the workers. Lay-offs became an aspect of American society, hence the concept of unemployment. The same transformation was felt and experienced in other parts of the world. The dynamics of employment faced during that time, still affect the society till this day.

The prevalent social institutions concerned with unemployment include the government, business organizations, and workers. The government strives to regulate the largely bad relationship between the labor force and business organizations (each front their interest at the expense of the other). These stakeholders can either interact (at least, as far as unemployment is concerned) at individual, organizational, national and sometimes even international level. Labor unions generally represent workers in such engagements. They try to advocate for fair treatment of workers (prevent unfair and unwarranted layoffs as well as promoting increased employment rates). In terms of possible solutions, the solution to the unemployment problem largely lies with government institutions. If policymakers create environments that improve and stimulate business growth, as well as advocating for fair treatment of workers, more people will be employed and satisfied with their work.


Indeed, unemployment is largely considered an economic problem. However, there is a direct connotation between unemployment and society. Essentially, these social connotations of unemployment either befall the individual or those in close social proximity with the individual. The unemployed are more likely to engage in crime, drugs and are more susceptible to depression and other psychological effects of the same that hinders their ability for positive and proactive sociological interaction. They are unable to fulfill their roles and face stigma and deteriorating relationships. However, the ability and responsibility of dealing with unemployment rest with the governments since its main role are to use its authority to promote social welfare.


  1. Boland, T., & Griffin, R. (2012). The Sociology of Unemployment. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
  2. Brand, J. (2015). The Far-Reaching Impact of Job Loss and Unemployment. Annual Review of Sociology. 41(1), 359-375. doi: 10.1146/annurev-soc-071913-043237
  3. Casselman, B. (2018). With 8 Years of Job Gains, Unemployment Is Lowest Since 1969. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/05/business/economy/jobs-report.html
  4. Fallahi, F., Pourtaghi, H., & Rodríguez, G. (2012). The Unemployment Rate, Unemployment Volatility, and Crime. International Journal of Social Economics, 39(6), 440-448. doi: 10.1108/03068291211224937.
  5. Homolova, L., Grey, C., Bellis, M., & Davies, A. (2017). Addressing Individual and Community Impact of Mass Unemployment: A Public Health Response Framework. European Journal of Public Health, 27(suppl_3). doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckx187.347.
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Unemployment as a Social Problem: Essay. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/unemployment-as-a-social-problem-essay/
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