You Like Work

Remember my post about liking work?

If so, you can figure why an essay by Arthur C. Brooks in The New York Times on December 14, 2013, didn’t surprise me.

In the post, Brooks posits that of the 12 percent of our happiness that we can control, our pursuit of family, faith, community, and work determine whether we can tip the scales in our favor. And by “work,” he means effort that provides a sense of accomplishment.

Forward movement. The addition and creation of value.

A survey Brooks cites by the General Social Survey found that over 80 percent of Americans report fair satisfaction with their work. Nearly three-quarters of Americans wouldn’t quit working if they won the lottery or received a huge sum of cash in some other fashion, the same survey showed.

If we all need work for happiness, the level of unemployment across the globe should cause us all serious concern. As of this post, 6.7 percent of the United States labor force sought work. In Europe, between 10 and 12 percent of the workforce have no jobs.

Yet if work helps people feel happy and increases their overall wellbeing, extensive, long-term unemployment becomes a serious problem far beyond the issues regularly raised in today’s media: hampered economic growth and spending power, an inability for older people to retire resulting in fewer opportunities for younger workers, increased poverty rates, higher rates of illness due to stress and the lack of regular health care, and educational challenges—whether in paying for it, completing it, or finding jobs with it.

Bad enough? It gets worse.

In part, drastic poverty strangling peasants and the middle classes helped bring about the French Revolution. High taxes on financially strapped colonies helped spur the American Revolution. Today, terrorists and revolutionaries the world over recruit the young, impoverished, uneducated, and unemployed. The United Nations has already indicated that current global unemployment levels will trigger further social unrest.

If you have a job, rejoice. Yet don’t relax. The unemployment rate isn’t someone else’s misfortune or the government’s problem. Unemployment is everyone’s problem. A safe, secure, stable society requires work for its labor force. We need to find ways to give everyone an opportunity to find purpose, gain structure, and contribute.

The alternative should frighten us all.