Unemployment & Happiness

Life satisfaction and happiness

Why is the well-being of the two groups during the day quite similar whereas the life-satisfaction differs so distinctly? The power of adaptation ensures that people who experience either positive or negative events are able to return quickly on a stable happiness-level. That means, either he who wins the lottery or he who loses his job reaches after a certain time the same happiness level as before. In contrast, the social norms do not change. The social psychologist Marie Jahoda presents five points which differentiate the daily life of an employed and of an unemployed person. There is in detail the time structure, the social contacts beyond the family, the experience to work for a social purpose, regular activities and finally the status and the identity. It is here that the key factor seems to lie.
People thus also unemployed people orientate themselves on social norms. One claims e.g. those members of a society work as long as the society determines. If they deviate from this guideline, they consequently violate this norm that leads to the exclusion of this social group. This leads to a missing appreciation from this social group and thus the self-image of the unemployed person changes negatively. Quickly the feeling arises of being worth less when unemployed than when with job. Consequently, unemployment threatens the identity. Being unemployed reduces the self-worth, because the unemployed person does not seem to be able to fulfil his own as well as the societal requirements. One can conclude that unemployed people seem to be unhappier because they deviate from the norm. Therefore, it is reasonable why unemployed people are happier in regions with high unemployment. There they do not count as an exception from the norm since many other people feel the same. A feeling of solidarity arises thus a single unemployed person does not feel isolated.

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Speakers

  • Prof. Dr. Andrew Oswald Professor of Economics, University of Warwick
  • Prof. Dr. Ronnie Schöb Professor for International Public Economics, Free University Berlin
  • Prof. Dr. Ruut Veenhoven Emeritus Professor Social Conditions of Human Happiness, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Prof. Dr. Carmelo Vazquez President of the International Positive Psychology association
  • Prof. Dr. Marc Hassenzahl Folkwang University Essen
  • Dr. Martijn Burger Academic Director Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organisation
  • Dr. Adam Okulicz Kozaryn Researcher Rutgers University
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