Thursday, 23 January 2014
The Terrible Hidden Toll of Being Old and Unemployed
Remember when Congress went home for the year-end holidays without extending unemployment benefits to 1.3 million long-term unemployed? Those people and their families are still without benefits.
It gets worse. Did you see the news yesterday?
”...last July, North Carolina sharply cut its unemployment program, reducing the maximum number of weeks of benefits to 20 from 73 and reducing the maximum weekly benefit as well.
“The rest of the country is now following North Carolina’s lead...
“Starting on Jan. 1, the maximum period of unemployment payments dropped to 26 weeks in most states, down from as much as 73 weeks.”
As bad as this is at any age, for older workers, it is disaster; statistics show that it takes 50- and 60-year-olds about twice as long to find work (if they ever do) as people 40 and younger.
Canada's government may not be as cruel as in the U.S., but the difficulty of finding work while old exists there too.
Earlier this week doctafil, who blogs at Jive Chalkin', sent me a link to a painful letter to the editor at the Montreal Gazette from a highly qualified worker who has not been able to find a job in 18 months of looking:
”The problem? I am 62 years old. Despite the fact that I am in the prime of my career and in perfect health, it would appear employers do not wish to consider the many years of experience associated with my age group.
“Retirement is not in my immediate plans and won’t be for many years. I know I am not the only job seeker in this predicament, based on the age demographic I see in waiting rooms.
“Full-time employment is my only option, in order to be in a position to sign a lease. I am currently boarding with a family member, which is not a viable long-term solution.”
What does she do, I wonder, when her welcome runs out.
Hardly anyone uses the phrase anymore but we are talking about age discrimination in the workplace.
Even though there are laws against it, few hiring people pay attention, no one prosecutes and so it is the reason older workers (is 50 all that old?) have such a terrible time trying to find a job.
As horrible as they are, however, hunger and homeless are not the worst things that can happen as a result of unemployment. Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett, writing in The New York Times in 2012, are among the few in the mainstream media to discuss suicide among the unemployed:
”A paper by the economists Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter estimates a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss, if they previously had been consistently employed.
“There are various reasons for this rise in mortality. One is suicide. A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate (say from 8 to 8.8 percent) would increase the suicide rate for males by 1.47 percent.
“This is not a small effect. Assuming a link of that scale, the increase in unemployment would lead to an additional 128 suicides per month in the United States.
“The picture for the long-term unemployed is especially disturbing. The duration of unemployment is the dominant force in the relationship between joblessness and the risk of suicide.”
Unemployed older women commit suicide too and earlier this week, the estimable Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars told the terrible, sad story of one:
”My dear friend killed herself Saturday, an hour or two after she left my house...
“When the unemployment ran out, she was living off her 401K, which depressed her deeply. The job she finally found a year or so later was working for an elected official's local office.
“She answered the phone, she occasionally got to help people. But mostly, she hated it. She didn't feel useful and she spent most of the day on Facebook.
“She was afraid to look for another job. 'I'm 60 years old, I haven't done this work in five years,' she said. 'I don't think I can do it. If I got laid off again, I think it would kill me. At least with this job, I don't have to worry about losing it'"...
“I found out she was dead when I called her cell phone and her sister-in-law answered. She's taken a handful of pills and climbed into the bath.
“I know she had severe problems. I know she was fragile. But when she had a real job, and a real paycheck, she was functional, damn it. And I can't help but see her as yet another victim of this goddamned recession.”
“Another victim of this goddamned recession” and as far as I can tell, no one with the power and authority to take the steps necessary to alleviate so much suffering will do anything.
You know who they are. Everyone does, even if no one will say their names.
ANNOUNCEMENT: In keeping with letting myself off the hook for too many responsibilities while sick, I have not prepared stories for The Elder Storytelling Place this week. They will return next Monday 27 January.