Who Are the Unemployed?

  • Andy Beharrell
Part of the Economics Today book series (ET)


Why do people become unemployed? The reasons are many and various. Though it may sound an obvious statement most people are unemployed because they have lost their job. Relatively few people leave a job out of choice, unless they have another job lined up to go to. The higher the level of unemployment, the truer this will be. This distinction is quite an important one. As we will see in later chapters much of the theoretical debate about unemployment hinges upon whether it is ‘voluntary’ or ‘involuntary’. Of course it is possible for somebody to have lost their job involuntarily and then not to look for another. This would mean that person had then become voluntarily unemployed. They may choose to remain unemployed because it is not worth their while financially, or for personal reasons, to return to work.There is an important distinction to be made here, though. A person who is voluntarily unemployed may nevertheless be actively looking for work. He may simply not be able to find a job that suits him at a wage that suits him. Voluntary unemployment may therefore occur because somebody does not wish to work or because they do not consider that there is work available for them.


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© Andy Beharrell 1992

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  • Andy Beharrell

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