DISCLAIMER: When you write a blog about unemployment, it’s really important to put a disclaimer that this is NOT about people who have experienced a short season of unemployment or even a longish season due to industry based economic conditions. This topic is about something entirely different from normal potential gaps in employment throughout one’s career trajectory.
With my disclaimer in place, I can now get to the topic at hand; the chronically unemployed/severally underemployed male.
In recent years I have noticed that there appears to be a growing number of men who are chronically unemployed or significantly underemployed. I have noticed this segment of the population primarily by counseling with the women who are partnered or parenting this type of man. Yes, parenting because often chronically unemployed men wind up living back at home. Wives grow weary of having to hold all the financial responsibilities and they often look for counseling.
After working with women who are in relationships with an unemployed/underemployed man, I have seen a pattern of common aspects that are present within most, if not all, of the men who are struggling in this area:
Chronically unemployed/underemployed men seem to have a high rate of depression, even if it doesn’t show itself in the traditional ways we would assume. Often when the depression is properly dealt with, the men find a renewed drive for gaining and maintaining employment. I think depression is one of the foundational issues that must be addressed before any real change can take place.
Men who struggle with maintaining steady employment do so because they are needing the job that they are willing to do to be an ideal situation from their perspective. Well, there are no perfect jobs or work environments and thus begins the cycle of gaining and losing employment. The men also may not even really begin a true job search because inevitably something arises that makes the potential job flawed and therefore not right for them.
A Big Ego
As ironic as it might seem, it appears that chronically unemployed/underemployed males see themselves with an elevated ego and therefore many jobs feel to be beneath them or demeaning to their own self image. An emotionally healthy male will be willing to accept employment because it pays the bills and he is able to realize that the job doesn’t define him as a man. Chronically unemployed men struggle with their identity being tied to a brag worthy job.
Ability To Stay in Denial
A man that continues to struggle with maintaining adequate employment has the ability to spin the situation in a manner that does not look as destitute as it might really be. Denial is a strong component to a man staying in the rut of unemployment/underemployment. I have seen men use commission based jobs such as real estate, sales, consulting, etc as a sort of smoke and mirrors to the fact they are not financially independent. They have the business cards to hand out to family and friends, but the actual earning of wages never seems to occur or the wages earned are a drop in the bucket of what is needed to sustain a household.
Comfortable With Dependency
All of the chronically unemployed/underemployed men I have come in contact with have someone, typically a female, who is holding down the fort financially. This might seem obvious since someone has to pay the bills. There are many ways that a couple or parent/adult child come to have this type of living arrangement. Almost a 100% of the time the men say they are looking for work, are working extremely part-time or have some other excuse. The rubber meets the road when it’s time for the bills to be paid and the man has contributed nothing or next to nothing.
If you find yourself identifying with some of these things, whether as a man or a partner/parent of a man that struggles with employment, I would highly recommend that you chat with someone who can help sort through all the layers of these types of living situations. It’s not hopeless and change can occur. It usually won’t though unless good boundaries are established and the underlying reasons for the chronic unemployment/underemployment are fully addressed.