Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Friday, September 04, 2009

Wanna Job? Then Go To Work.

Today is THE day is financial markets. It's NFP day, or when the US releases data on non-farm payrolls. This is THE measure of employment and unemployment in the US economy. Right now, focus is on whether jobs are still being lost and at what rate--total and rates of unemployment are important. A debate is also bubbling about whether unemployment is a leading or lagging indicator. Most people say lagging because they see the economy moving out of recession. But it may be leading if the economy is heading into a new downtown. Holy guacamole! I thought we had a hope.

But let's take a quick look at some aspects of all of the woe about joblessness. As some said when you lose your job you do not go into the category 'discouraged'.

A certain amount of time is spent adjusting to not having a job and not needing to do the job routine--dressing, commuting, deadlines, water cooler chat, pay day, being berated by bosses, sharing pay with spouse, giving money to kids, splurging on Jelly Bellies, and so on.

Next comes realisation that this may go on and that the thing to do is search for a new job. Reality sets in when the 'skills set' does not fit: you are not female/male, gay/straight, black/white, old enough/young enough and any other range of possibilities that can filter people out of job slots. You strike out and you have a dwindling amount of funds from when you last worked.

So, you try other things. The very anally retentive wont try anything that is not in keeping with the 'skills' that they have honed over days/weeks/years/decades/had handed down from parents/always been in the family. Then, clunk. No one gives a tick. So, loosen that sphincter and try your hand at anything and it may not even have pay because you are realizing that a toe in the doorway is worth a lot. So, you remember things you did as a boy or student or because you were too stingy to pay: you mop, you cut grass--take jobs from youths, you volunteer, you take a dollar or you take much more. But you are back on a pony. Hope is alive. Someone wants you!

Then the big penny drops. All those times when you needed a job done and someone said "Sure, but pay cash, OK," start to twinkle.This is perhaps a part of the underground economy at work. You have not become a pimp or a prostitute or a tax dodger (in that you do not earn enough to be taxed). So, those snide remarks that used to come out at cocktail parties now start to bite your weeny. You are now a part of the problem. Look at your self! You low life. But, no life you. You have a little more swagger in your step. Cutting your own hair is no longer needed. A double cheeseburger can work.

Big shot economists write a lot about the hidden economy, the black economy, the grey economy. But we are the ones who make it and sustain it. It is there to sustain us. You may not ever work in the same kind of place and position that you did before, but you will work. You may work longer and for less money. Or you may work less for more money. If someone can use you they will pay for that benefit. If you make it more worth their while they will want you more.

Once an economy and society gets very developed the opportunities for loose work practices get fewer. Those of us who live in less developed places are happy that we 'know a man' who can do a work, or 'have a lady' who can help with the house, etc. That is all of life for some people. I go back to my Latino cleaner: 15 hours work a day to make ends meet. The man looked well and healthy. I could not see his life and his family. But he was not discouraged. I do not know if a young man was not working because of this elderly man. I thought back to 'boys on the block' in Barbados, who do not seem encouraged to work. If there is a service economy of size, then finding work is easier: any one can provide a service, far fewer can make things.

So, deep bottom line. Should any one be without a job?

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