Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Working Man

May 17, 2011

It is hard to know exactly where we are as a parish with regard to unemployment and underemployment. I still see a steady stream of parishioners for whom the wolf is knocking at the door and who need meaningful, or at least remunerative, work. We are blessed to be in a parish n which I have rarely had a request for an ‘informational interview’ or employment conversation turned down by a fellow traveler. My anecdotal impression is that in our community unemployment is returning to pre 2008 levels with the notable exception of the real estate and related sectors.

I am one of those people who must be annoying to the struggling print magazine industry in some ways. On the up side, I do like to read magazines and have not yet made a full transition to reading online. On the downside, the publishers generally want me to think I have ‘purchased a relationship’ and ‘become part of a readership community’ where I believe that I have bought six or twelve or twenty four issues with a subscription. If I don’t renew, it is because I want to read something else for a while. Those who ‘as a courtesy’ renew automatically without asking me don’t get any more money from me. This is all to say that I have returned to reading a magazine that I last enjoyed regularly in high school, namely The Economist. There was a fascinating article in the April 30-May 6, 2011 edition under the heading Decline of the Working Man. The article looks at the particular challenges of men without industry specific skills and a series of government policies designed to address them. It is pretty clear that we have not yet discovered either policy or stimulus that is going to change this reality.

I was surprised and pleased to learn that one innovative policy is at work here in Georgia in which unemployed people are allowed to work up to 24 hours a week for six weeks with a new employer, even as they continue to draw jobless benefits. The employer is able to take a look at a potential employee and the employee gets some work experience and on –the- job training even if that position does not become permanent.

The conclusion of the article does not offer a rosy outlook for unskilled men however. “Both Democrats and Republicans seem convinced that as the economy strengthens the labor market will heal itself. But although unemployment will continue to fall as the economy recovers, millions of American men will be left behind.”

We are gong to have to help these men learn skills, and preferably industry-specific, employer requested skills, if they are to survivie.

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