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Perception of the causes of unemployment

Job loss is less distressing if everyone in the place of work has lost their job, or if the general level of unemployment is high. Warr (1984) found greater selfesteem among the unemployed in Britain under such conditions, and Turner (1995) found more ill-health and more depression among the unemployed if there was low unemployment, due to the loss of self-esteem and financial stress. We shall see shortly that the retired are much happier than the unemployed, and this may well be because of the different ways they see their situation: the unemployed may feel that they have failed and been rejected while the retired (who are also unemployed) may feel that they are enjoying a well-deserved rest. Self-esteem and social comparisons are important here: Clark (1998b) found that there was more distress when other members of the family had jobs-an effect of comparison, which goes against rational or common sense expectations.