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Date: 2024-05-27 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00004429

Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators

Employment Indicator


Peter Burgess

Employment Indicator

The Calvert-Henderson Employment Indicator condenses a broad body of literature familiar to a small group of professionals into a straightforward presenation of an important dimension of life: our jobs. Moverover, the indicator examines employment from a holistic perspective in that it pieces together various aspects of work that are normally examined in isolation, such as paid employment, reasons for unemployement, part-time versus full-time employment and workers with alternative work job arrangements. The indicator also looks at disparities in employment based on the race and gender of the worker. The indicator is based on information available from the official sources such as the US Department of Labor and the US Commerce Department.

Each month, the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases employment-related data. The basic information reveals the number and characteristics of people who are employed and unemployed in what is called the 'civilian, non-institutionalized adult population.' This includes all adults, aged 16 and over, who are not living in institutions such as penal facilities, mental facilities and homes for the aged. (Military personnel is grouped separately from the civilian population under the assumption that all members of the armed services are employed.) The civilian, non-institutionalized adult population is divided into two groups: those who are in the labor force and those who are not. Those in the labor force are further subdivided into those who are unemployed and several different categories of employed.

There are a number of problems with these data categorizations. These include:

  • The employment category does not differentiate between people who have jobs with benefits and those whose jobs do not include benefits.
  • The employment category does not show how many people are 'underemployed,' that is working at jobs that are below their education and skill level because they are not able to find better jobs
  • The unemployment category includes only those people who are actively searching for work. Not included are: discouraged workers, part-timers looking for full time jobs and structurally unemployed youth and minorities. If these were included in the official unemployment rate, that would increase to over 10% or more.
Another problem with traditional measures of unemployment is that there is no accounting for a large percentage of unpaid productive work including caring for elders, the sick, and children in home or volunteer organization settings. Many organizations in the nonprofit, civic sector of our society now call for full recognition of the value of this caring work. Some call for housework and parenting to be paid, through statutory pension benefits or in marriage contracts.Worldwide, the United Nations Human Development Index in 1995 estimated unpaid work by the world's women at $11 trillion and by men another $5 trillion. This $16 trillion was simply missing from the 1995 World GDP of $24 trillion. GDP still omits estimates of unpaid work, a focus of the TV show 'The Love Economy' now airing on PBS stations in the series 'Ethical Markets.'

While the Calvert-Henderson Employment Indicator is based on available official statistics about the labor market, we intend to keep gathering statistics on the overlooked aspects of employment mentioned above. As such data become available, the Employment Indicator will be expanded and updated to reflect the changing picture of work in our society. Meanwhile, when the government releases employment and unemployment statistics each month, ask yourself what the numbers mean. Think about what the trends suggest on the surface. Then loook deeper into the more subtle indicators and the implications for society. Relate the numbers to your community. Challenge economists to unbundle the aggregate statistics and connect the numbers to other aspects of the economy so that you get the information needed to assess your well-being and that of your family and community.

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