One aspect of our Western, democratic and free market societies that has always infuriated me is the demeaning manner in which our unemployed are reported. As a meaningless percentage. As I write this, US unemployment is reported at 10%. Spain? 50% of people under 27, and in my country, Switzerland’, it is a mere 3%.
But how many real, breathing, struggling and worried people do these patronising and sanitising percentages represent?
This is something that is very difficult to calculate as governments all around the world manipulate these statistics to minimise the shocking reality. In my own country, the very low percentage is quite easily exposed as a lie as the rights to be unemployed last less that 18 months. So if after this time you have not found a new job, you are no longer unemployed. Just forgotten and of course, no longer included in the unemployment statistics. So easy just to forget those who can’t feed their kids.
In the US, 10% of what number? 307 million people? Try this for size.
As of July 2011 the U6 unemployment rate is 16.1 percent. The U6 unemployment rate counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work. The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over.
As of July 2011 the U.S. unemployment rate was 9.1 (U3 Rate) percent. Source
So from reading this source, we have U1, U2 up to U6 types of unemployed. Nice to know that when you are down and out and living in the streets that government statisticians can still have fun with you while you suffer and hunt for a comfortable cardboard box to live in.
The EU is on the verge of financial and economic catastrophe, but one would be excused for thinking that everything will be rosy from the way politicians speak. As the world hears about Greek debt, Italian stupidity and French arrogance, Spain is dying. 50% of people under 27 do not have a job. But how many real people are represented in this horrid yet sanitised percentage. Out of a population of nearly 50 million, one could guess at a number. 2 million, 4 million, 7 million.
But it doesn’t matter. No government or statistician will tell you. Real numbers just upset people.