Are You Underemployed?

We get it. The economy is deteriorating and nailing at least a corporation job pretty much suffices the momentary financial need. But do you get what you deserve?


It has become ubiquitous—the news where unemployment rate goes up, the news where new business can generate more vacancies, thus lowering the unemployment rate. In reality, college graduates are rubbing shoulders in the industry for an entry-level position. Once they are in, the whole inconvenient truth about the working world is revealed freshly on the table and the newly recruited will complain about the jobs they are in. Some might be enjoying where they are at, but a lot feel like this is not what they deserve to have. Then, who is wrong here: the ungrateful fresh graduate or the injustice system of corporation?

During crisis, people are running amok in the midst of financial chaos. People are losing jobs, even homes. Government is kept busy (are they really busy helping the society?) to keep the number of unemployment low and the economy stable. Probably the Minister of Economy and the likes feel like they have restored the condition upon looking at the decreasing number of unemployment. They do not realise that the problem is actually more serious than that. Well, the employed tribes are not entirely worried themselves—maybe a bit disgruntled, unaware that the problems at work can compile into a giant ball of snow that hit them hard and fast.

Then, who is wrong here: the ungrateful fresh graduate or the injustice system of corporation?

The categorisation of employment and unemployment is pretty straightforward, albeit a bit misleading at times; how you will really quantify the people who are in the grey area of 9 to 5 job? What about freelancers? What about unlisted entrepreneurs? In developing countries especially, such separation is unclear. Although a handful of people are categorised in the workforce already, there comes a term underemployment—you guess it, another grey area indeed, in which someone is working in a job that requires less ability, knowledge, or experience in comparison with what the person is really capable of doing.

Underemployment happens not strictly to the fresh graduates or young adults, it could happen to just anyone. This is not necessarily something ultimately new in the human resources field, however a lot of people are ignoring it and some slowly lose their hope on getting a better job. Say a university graduate who has no other choice but to work as a janitor, or a person with “director” as his/her background title but forced by the economic condition to be an assistant. And supposedly the universe is always in a balanced condition, there are also people who occupy certain position in the company, but as a matter of fact, they do not fulfil the requirement of the job description.

Underemployment happens not strictly to the fresh graduates or young adults, it could happen to just anyone.

The cause of underemployment is mainly because of the financial limitation and lack of opportunity one has, not to mention that the number of underemployment can increase as economy is getting worse (or assumed to be worse). Another interesting trend is going on in the human resources office, that they rather have someone who is recently resigned or unemployed, rather than another candidate who is more qualified but has been on the job hunt for a longer period. This can potentially hurt people who have been looking for a job in a longer period of time as such recruitment method can trick them into settling for less.

What will happen then when people positioned at certain job have less ability? They may produce low quality work, but actually the skills and knowledge are two unconstraint variables. That means less qualified employees can learn the skills necessary, although they have their own limitation to it. More tragic is most likely the high quality candidates having to settle on low quality jobs that pay on low quality salary. The talents of the future are repressed, which can affect the quality of life he or she is leading. The balance of talents and the society’s quality of life will undoubtedly deteriorate. People may start questioning the real value of higher education, although in fact, the university should be regarded as an institution who teaches point of view and pattern of living, instead of giving free tickets to the so-called high quality employment.

To the question “are you underemployed?” it is probably best to answer it with what Reilly thinks of work:

“When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob?”

And that is quite a mental awakening to aspiring workers, who wish to hinder themselves from work. By the end of the day, you will not go anywhere when relying on the government to help reducing the number of underemployed. Let the financial hardship not stand in your way of becoming who you want, of achieving the career path you wish to have. Meanwhile for the dissatisfied crowd, try promoting yourself and inspecting how much you actually worth. The hardcore individuals may initiate what young adults in Madrid have bravely started during the European crisis: to open a new business that also revitalises the neighbourhood. How about you?

Text: Gabriela Yosefina.
Image: work of Jörg Schellmann.

One Comment

  1. Orangorangan wrote:

    Very well spoken indeed!