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Over 2.5 million people were unemployed in the UK as of February 2013, according to official government figures. While politicians and commentators use employment numbers as a political football, those suffering joblessness are faced with real struggles as a direct result of their inability to find work. Some sustain lasting damage that can affect them long after they've managed to fight their way back into employment.
A single working-age adult needed a budget of £193 per week after housing costs to maintain an "adequate" standard of living in April 2012, according to research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. People on basic out-of-work benefits receive nowhere near this amount, so are faced with severe financial pressure and debt problems from the moment they become unemployed. As of April 2013, a single unemployed adult aged over 25 claiming contribution-based jobseekers allowance received £71.70 a week. Those aged between 16 and 24 had to get by on £56.80. By way of comparison, Norwegian citizens who find themselves out of work receive close to 90 percent of their previous salary for the first 500 of unemployment.
Long-term unemployment can lead to a deterioration in mental and physical health. Nearly half of unemployed young people were "always" or "often" depressed as a consequence of their work status in January 2013, according research from the Prince's Youth Trust. Speaking to the London Evening Standard in September 2012, Tower Hamlets GP Jackie Applebee said: “We have many young unemployed people registered with us and the most overwhelming thing for them is a sense of worthlessness. They leave school with expectations but their dreams come to nothing. They get depressed and that leads to inertia. You see people with low mood and an inability to see a future.”
Prolonged worklessness can have an impact relationships and put marriages under strain. Partners can become frustrated with each other for failing to find work or cut spending, leading to arguments and a build up of resentment. Writing in Psychology Today, clinical and health psychologist Melanie Greenberg claims relationship issues stemming from unemployment can result in substance abuse, domestic violence and legal problems. Research from Ohio State University published in the American Journal of Sociology in July 2011 found unemployed men were more likely to go through a divorce.
The stigma of being out of work and relying on state benefits can make unemployed people feel ostracised from their social circles and society as a whole, particularly at times of economic woe. Certain sections of society seek to demonise the unemployed as workshy layabouts intent on milking hardworking taxpayers for all they can get, when in fact the majority of people who experience long-term unemployment remain committed to the value of work, according to a December 2012 study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
- BBC: Unemployment tracker
- Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Minimum income standards
- Gov.uk: Jobseeker's allowance
- Business & Economy: Unemployment benefits help in hard times, but are also likely to be misused
- Huffington Post: Nearly half of unemployed young people "depressed," says Prince's Youth Trust
- London Evening Standard: Hidden cost of youth unemployment is depression and poor physical health
- Psychology Today: Preserving mental health during unemployment
- The Telegraph: Unemployment increases risk of divorce for men
- The Guardian: Exposed: the myth of a "culture of worklessness"
- Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images