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The Unemployed

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THE UNEMPLOYED It is the usual thing, then, as well as the normal thing, for American men in the first half of their mature years to be employed—sufficiently, at any rate, to be counted among the workers by the cen sus enumerators. Not all of them, however, are employed steadily, or as much as they would like to be, and there are some abnormally situated in dividuals who either do not work at all or who are seriously underemployed.

Some of these are quite normal, after all. They are still "pursuing" that coy creature, an educa tion; or they are taking a year off for travel and recreation; or they are, here and there in rare in stances, deliberately leading the life of a scholar or an amateur of some art or devoting themselves to the service of the public in some way or other, the only difference between them and many others being that their useful activity is not brought into the market. It may be said in the same way that the great majority of the " unemployed " women are so only technically, being in fact economic pro ducers, or performing even more valuable economic functions than production in the strict sense, by their management of whatever income is brought into the home. Since the values which women in the home add to the goods we consume, and the services they render, do not pass through a market they do not receive a money valuation.

Among the abnormally unemployed are first the really idle rich : those who are not dependent on their own exertions, who would answer to one part of the definition of vagrancy—that they are with out regular employment—even if not to the other —that they are without visible means of support; who, in consequence of their natural tastes or the character of their education, prefer indolence or morbid pleasures to rational activity. Happily these are few, and the application of better methods of education to the children of the rich will gradu ally eliminate most of them.

More numerous, unhappily, are those who are not able to do anything for which the world is willing to pay, or who are not able to make con nections with an employer who could use their services. Those who are unemployed because they are unemployable, through physical or mental de fect or illness, or lack of training and guidance, we may hope to see reduced to a mere handful, and no social problem, after we have done even for one generation the things which we have seen to be essential to normal childhood and youth. Voluntary and compulsory industrial and farm colonies, with work in shops and work on the land, will be among the necessary means of bringing about a reduction in the number of unemployable. For the really degenerate, unteachable, and un responsive to discipline there is nothing for it ex cept segregation,—employment at public cost under direction,—but we must approach that solu tion with patience and minds open to the evidence which is slowly accumulating.

The unemployable are thus separable by careful scrutiny into two wholly distinct groups of (x) subnormal, unteachably inefficient, and (2) those who with opportunity and instruction can become employable.

But, besides all these, there is in almost all parts of our country, in good times as well as in periods of depression, a very considerable number of em ployable, capable persons in need of work who are not actually employed. Among the causes of this unsatisfactory failure to make use of usable labor force are immigration and migration from place to place within the country, fluctuations in the de mand for certain commodities and services, the seasonal character of certain occupations, the vari able fortunes of particular employers, especially of large employing corporations, the absence of ade quate agencies for diffusing reliable information about conditions in the labor market, and the lack of a satisfactory system for classifying workmen and work according to their essential abilities and re quirements, respectively, rather than according to superficial and accidental characteristics.

Whether or not the labor force of the entire country, viewed as an undifferentiated abstraction, is more or less than is needed, or exactly the amount that is needed, to perform the work which at a given moment is waiting to be done,—the work being viewed also as an undifferentiated abstrac tion,—is a question of pure academic speculation, such a problem as would have delighted the me diaeval schoolmen.

The labor force of the country cannot in reality be looked upon as one huge office staff or factory force or industrial army which can be assigned and distributed, according to the aptitudes of the work ers, on the one hand, and the demands of the work, on the other, by some competent directing genius. Nor is the work to be done one huge comprehensive enterprise, like the Panama Canal, which can be planned from a central office with no regard to any thing except efficiency and an economical applica tion of the labor force and plant.

An infinite number of influences takes the place of the directing genius, counteracting, compensat ing, supplementing, correcting, and limiting one another in an infinite variety of ways, with the result that the industry of the country, taken as a whole, seems more like an exceedingly sensitive living organism than like a department store or a canal contract.

These various influences, however, have not yet succeeded in bringing about as much of an adjust ment as is desirable. There are certain communi ties, especially the large cities, in which there is some surplus labor most of the time, while in other communities at the same time there may be an urgent demand for both skilled and unskilled labor. In periods of depression, such as the present win ter, the unemployed gather in the cities, swelling this surplus to serious proportions.