Unemployment in an African Country: A Psychological Perspective

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Webster Gonzo and lise Elisabeth Plattner. Unemployment in an African Country: A Psychological Perspective. Windhoek: University of Namibia Press, 2003. Distributed by Michigan State University Press. 110 pp. References. $24.95. Paper.

This is an interesting study of unemployment, using a perspective not generally favored by economists: the psychological aspects of unemployment. The authors, two professors at the University of Namibia, clearly understand how important a problem unemployment is for Namibia-probably affecting over 30 percent of the population, at least. They view the problem from that macro level down to the micro by looking at those they characterize as "street unemployed": those who are willing and able to work at the prevailing wage and seek casual employment by waiting on the street (their "waiting spot") for an employer to come by. The study tries to answer a number of questions: "How do individual people deal with unemployment? How does unemployment affect their family life? What kind of coping strategies do they engage in?" (5). In the main, it does an excellent job providing answers.

The first chapter offers background information about unemployment in general and "what it means to be unemployed in a world that values work so much." (8). The next few chapters deal with the effects of unemployment on an individual's self-esteem, with youth unemployment, with the affects of income loss, and with the role of social networks, especially in the Namibian environment. The authors present some models to help explain some of their conclusions. The book ends (and this, unfortunately, is its weakest section) with eight rather vague and unrealistic policy recommendations. …