Social Aspects of Industry: A Survey of Labor Problems and Causes of Industrial Unrest

By S. Howard Patterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
THE PROBLEM OF UNEMPLOYMENT AND ITS REDUCTION

ECONOMIC SECURITY THROUGH THE RATIONALIZATION OF INDUSTRY

1. Nature of Unemployment. -- Unemployment may be defined as idleness on the part of the worker which is not due to his own physical, mental, or moral incapacity.

It is important at the very outset that a distinction be drawn between the unemployed and the unemployable. The latter is a problem of sociology, but the former is one of economics. The unemployed, as contrasted with the unemployable members of society, are those workers who are capable and desirous of employment, but who are unable to secure work because of some maladjustment in the economic order over which they have little control. The unemployed are potential economic producers who belong in neither the leisure class nor in the social debtor groups of defectives, delinquents, or dependents.

Unemployment is enforced idleness, due to some friction in our modern, complex, industrial organization. A vacation, on the other hand, is a voluntary cessation of work for the purpose of mental or physical recreation.

Irregular employment and underemployment are special phases of unemployment. Irregular employment is represented by the lack of steady work and by the existence of only intermittent employment. Underemployment is an irregularity of employment or an actual lack of employment to the extent that the worker is unable to earn wages sufficient to maintain a minimum standard of living. The irregularly employed workers tend to be underemployed, because the wages of many workers are not large enough to protect their standards of living against the inroads of unemployment or even of irregular employment.

Although the unemployed must be distinguished from the unemployable, there is a tendency of the unemployed or the irregularly employed workers to drift into the ranks of the unemployable, as habits of thrift and industry are gradually broken down. Thus, the unemployed worker may be reduced to the level of poverty, or, if he becomes a recipient of charity, to the level of pauperism.

2. Types of Unemployment. -- Although it is impossible to classify unemployment into various categories, several general types may be suggested. These have been referred to as casual, seasonal, cyclical, and secular or technological unemployment. Although related to each other, the problem of unemployment is somewhat different in each case.

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