How can government protect society from the trauma of unemployment?

Unemployment hurts, and it’s not just about the money.

“Whichever data you look at, especially in the Western world, unemployed people are extremely dissatisfied with their lives—really, really dissatisfied with their lives,” said Nattavudh Powdthavee, professor of behavioral science at Warwick Business School. “It’s one of the biggest negative things that can happen in someone’s life.”

Powdthavee says the loss of income only explains about 20% of the decline in well being. The hit to social status, self-esteem, and the fear about losing future income pack a bigger emotional punch than the financial damage itself. And the psychological fallout tends to drag on even after the person is making money again, according to research by Jennie Brand, a professor of sociology and statistics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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