Jun 26 2009

The Unemployment ‘Depression and Anxiety Epidemic’ in the UK

Category: News,Online PublicationBob Hanke @ 10:41 am

Why unemployment is no longer a political issue

By Brendan O’Neil (excerpted from Spiked, June 24, 2009)

This week I received an email from a group called ‘Redundancy Survival’, offering me the opportunity to buy an e-book that will help me cope if I am made redundant. The e-book is for ‘the average individual who is told their job no longer exists’ and who might be ‘in shock and suffering depression because of a lack of support’. The email quoted one worker who had been made redundant – ‘I didn’t know what to do at first and was like a rabbit in headlights’ – and encouraged the rest of us to try to avoid suffering a similar fate by coughing up some of our redundancy cash for its therapeutic e-book.

The email perfectly summed up today’s strange, muted response to the prospect of job losses and mass unemployment as a result of the recession. Unemployment in the UK rose to a 12-year high of 2.261million in April, and it is predicted to reach three million soon. The unemployment rate increased by 30 per cent in the first 12 months of the current downturn, compared with 22 per cent in the first year of recession in the 1990s and 29 per cent in the first year of the 1980s downturn (1). Yet there are no mass uprisings, no marches for jobs; instead there are atomised individuals apparently feeling like ‘rabbits in headlights’ and being offered advice on how to cope by the usual suspects of the therapy industry.

In the past, individuals thrown out of work or forced to take pay cuts might have had face-to-face meetings to organise some kind of resistance; today they receive advice on how to cope through that most individuated form of communication: the email. During earlier economic downturns, people were less interested in finding out how to ‘survive redundancy’ than in devising ways to overcome it – either by demanding their jobs back or marching for the right to work. Things have clearly changed, enormously. As Janet Street-Porter asked in typical shrieky fashion: ‘Why don’t we take to the streets over job losses?’ (2)

The truth is, unemployment is no longer a political issue. It is still a very severe problem for individuals and families, many of whom will have to find new ways to make ends meet and rein in their hopes and expectations. But it is no longer a politically galvanising issue, one that draws people together into a collective, conscious expression of anger. Having been perhaps the defining concerns of twentieth-century politics, today gainful employment, wage levels and living standards do not provoke political action or mass protest in anything like the same way. There are a number of reasons for this new, peculiar state of affairs.

To read the rest of this article, click here.