Friday, August 18, 2006

Unemployed, by choice

According to NYT, about 13 percent of American men between the age of 30 and 55 -- the so-called "engine" of the American economic machine -- are out of work. This is up from 5 percent a generation ago. More shocking still, for many of these able-bodied men, they are choosing to remain unemployed rather than work in a demeaning, under-paying job.

How is this possible, in a land that we were taught values the work ethic and supports only those who punch a clock every day? Turns out, the US has a surprisingly efficient public welfare system, the Times reports, in the form of disability insurance paid for by Social Security.

But let's put the U.S.'s newfound freeloading ways on a global perspective. The number of out-of-work (to an economist, there's a giant distinction between "unemployed" and "no longer looking") American men in this age bracket is rapidly closing in on those layabout Europeans. Yep, it's 13 percent for the Yanks. 14 percent for the let's-take-August-off Europeans.

I'll ponder this while I'm on holiday next week.

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