Unemployment: How many prime-age men are unemployed? | opinion

In the middle of a widespread shortage of workers and historic wage growth, why so many prime age men remain in the workforce? One reason is our government’s declining value on jobs.

Even before the pandemic hit, the development of public assistance programs undermined employment by offering open assistance to men who could work. It’s no wonder that so many men of any age take the message that work can work.

We need the government to send a new message – that men of all ages and their jobs matter.

Labor force participation among men of all ages in the US continues to decline rejected decades. Nicholas Eberstadt, a top demographer and political economist at the American Enterprise Institute, highlighted the problem in his 2016 book “Men Without Work.” He recently published the updated version documents the persistence of the problem and diagnoses the situation in 2022 as bleak as that time in history.

According to Eberstadt, the unemployment rate – down to 3.5% from a peak of nearly 15% during the pandemic – severely underreporting unemployment among prime-age men. If all those who have dropped out of the labor force are included in this calculus, the rate of non-working men swells to Depression-era levels. Fourteen percent of prime-age men did not work in 2019.

Although some of these men have health problems that prevent them from working, most – in their 20s, 30s and 40s – simply do not look for work, instead spending time in front of the screen and relying on the family mix. and government benefits to get by.

Economists debate the reason why the declining share of men of prime working age. One explanation has to do with the labor market itself – technological change and globalization have reduced the demand for traditional “male” labor. Another explanation is the increasing share of men with a criminal background and unwillingness to hire them.

But government programs also clearly play a role. The availability of assistance for able-bodied men undermines the importance of employment. In our current system, food and housing assistance from the federal government largely comes with no expectation to work, and disability assistance ignores the possibility that treatment and rehabilitation can ultimately lead to meaningful employment.

Without work, many of these men return to unproductive activities. Eberstadt reported that prime-age men who were not in the labor force spent nearly eight hours per day on average in 2014 socializing, relaxing and otherwise in leisure, including five hours per day watching television and movies. Even when compared with working women, This man spends less time caring for family members and spends about as much time doing household chores.

Without income to support themselves, the use of government benefits among these men is common. According to a 2018 analysis by the Joint Economic Committee, 64% of nonworking prime-age men receive some form of government assistance, while 4 in 10 receive disability assistance and 38% receive food stamps. Without question, government benefits help finance non-working lifestyles, sending the message that idleness is acceptable.

But men of prime age are the most important contributors to our society, and their loneliness is harmful, both to themselves and to society at large. For starters, businesses need workers, and prime-age men on the sidelines mean more workers and less economic growth. As an economist at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve published in 2017, “The impact of (workforce) nonparticipation in society is potentially severe: slower economic growth and an increased dependency ratio.”

Perhaps more importantly, work offers men purpose and meaning, promoting dignity in ways that other activities do not. This is why work correlation with many positive life outcomes such as better health, marriage and greater life satisfaction. If government assistance undermines the importance of work, it downplays both the financial and nonfinancial benefits of work for men of prime age.

We need men of productive and fulfilled ages for other reasons as well. Birth and marriage rates are approaching historic Plows in the US, undoubtedly burnt by the idleness of prime-age men. Declining marriage rates and birth rates will contribute to demographic and economic challenges that threaten prosperity for future generations.

The newly elected Congress has the opportunity to move away from policy proposals designed to expand the government, such as universal basic income, expanded food stamps and more Medicaid coverage, which will only make the problem of male idleness prime age worse.

Instead, policy makers must recognize the value that it brings to men of all ages, their families and communities. This involves reforming existing government programs with an eye towards employment, while reinforcing values ​​and norms around work and government assistance for men of prime age.

Angela Rachidi is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the editor with former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of the forthcoming book “Renewing America: A Conservative Plan to Strengthen the Social Contract and Save the State’s Finances.”

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