Unemployment DOESN’T Tell The FULL Economic Story – Underemployment Does

If you reside in a democratic country, chances are you are subject to elections filled with candidates who spew nothing but positive half-truths, along with hyperbolic negativity about their candidates positions. If there is ONE topic that is SURE to elicit both kinds of BS, it’s when politicians begin rambling on about the economy and start to correlate unemployment numbers as a TRUE reflection of society either being on a GLORIOUS up swing or a massively depressing spiral. The problem with this thinking is that the unemployment rate is studied so acutely, it leaves no room to talk about a fast-growing yet largely ignored sector of our society: The Working Poor.

The quick and easy association we make about people living in poverty is joblessness, but in countries like Canada, America, Italy, Spain & Ireland, a large part of the people in poverty actually ARE employed, and therefore count towards the employment rate. This means when members of a poverty-stricken household get a minimum wage job at Burger King, the party in office can boast and brag that they have cut the unemployment rate [which is technically true], but the REAL LIFE problem those people face is the fact that minimum wage at BK isn’t providing them with a sufficient working wage or even enough money to save or invest in anything other than their daily survival.

Many first world nations are experiencing a SHARP-decline in middle-class jobs, but an increased demand of low-paying jobs. Couple that with the fact that we are now currently in an “Employers market” where it’s harder to find fair and equal pay commensurate with your education and experience, and you have a whole nation of people WITH jobs, who are not being compensated nearly as much as they NEED to be in order to be considered ACTUAL economic-success stories. There are young lawyers, architects, and MBA-having young business professionals who are entering the workforce with one of two scary-ass options: 1) Be unemployed and unable to pay down your student debt while you search for a proper paying job which may never come anytime soon, or 2) Take the job that underpays you just to keep the lights onand it would SHOCK many of you to learn how many people choose option 2.

I understand that there are various ways at measuring WHO belongs in the working poor, but if there’s one thing we ALL should be able to agree on, it’s that the job market is NOT nearly as robust as it NEEDS to be in order to provide more stability for families a missed-check away from abject poverty.

This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.


  1. lincolnanthonyblades

    09/24/2012 at 6:19 AM

    Ladies & Gentlemen, Do You Believe That Underemployment Is A HUGE Problem In YOUR Society? Would You Consider Yourself Underemployed?

  2. petersburgh

    09/24/2012 at 6:34 AM

    Of course it is. Being employed in that field has given me access to that kind of information and all I can say on it is that underemployment is earth shattering. A lot of people look the part but they are totally underutilized and grossly underpaid it's traumatic. To some extent I think I am as I believe most middle management and lower income jobs are

  3. Smilez_920

    09/24/2012 at 7:29 AM

    When I think of the underemployed , I think of all the people who are 55,000 plus in undergrad/graduate school debt only making 20 ,000 -30,000 a yr. college graduates are being bit the hardest with underemployment, atleast the ones who have worked hard in college , got good grades and had internships/ other work experience.

  4. Paul B.

    09/24/2012 at 9:33 AM

    Basically. Employers are looking for the most qualified to pay the least. It's sad to see somebody work their butt off to pay for an education that doesn't finance a good quality of life.

  5. GrandCentral

    09/24/2012 at 12:14 PM

    Get out of my head Lincoln. I just talked about this on our show yesterday.

    Delve into the factual context of Mitt Romney’s 47% comment last week, he actually told the truth to a certain extent – 47% of US citizens don’t pay income taxes because their incomes are so low that they can’t afford to do so. I don’t know the exact statistics but I am pretty sure that a large percentage of the overall percentage of the underemployed fall into the 47% that Romney referenced. So a big part of this problem that is not sinking into our minds as deeply as it should, is the nation’s gradual decline in properly educating our nation. It used to be ok to just graduate from high school and maybe go on to a technical school and learn a trade or just go straight to work and get on the job training. Our economy and demands have changed and we need to adequately adjust. Look at manufacturing for example, many of the underemployed were from that sector or sectors like it, that have out grown our economy and demands, and no longer exist. Granted manufacturing is increasing in the US, it’s not an industry to depend on. According to the labor department there are about 3M jobs that are unfilled because we don’t have a workforce that is adequately trained to take these jobs. Many of these jobs involve science and math, two subject areas that the US is failing to educate students in.

    Sadly it’s all a game that the higher powers intentionally use to keep certain demographics stagnant. In 2009 when the President was fighting to pass the stimulus there were discussions around this issue, where they actually anticipated high underemployment from the recession. The original stimulus package with the higher price tag sought to add educational funding to retrain employees who had spent decades in those dying industries. Funding was included in the final package, but not enough.

    Education and the strength of our economy go hand and hand, and until we acknowledge this and rectify the problem, we will continue to see declines in growth and the continuing eclipse of the middle class.

  6. Adonis

    09/24/2012 at 1:10 PM

    Great Topic

  7. MistaHarsh

    09/24/2012 at 3:22 PM

    topic rarely spoken about. kudos to shedding light. Another point: all the parents working 3,4,5 jobs just to bring in the income of one good paying job. This has an affect on children ie lack of parenting direction/guidance leading to higher drop out rates crime, gang activity etc not to mention infidelity and higher divorce rates. Underemployment can have a crippling effect on every aspect of our lives.

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