Underemployment is an often misunderstood part of the economy. Unemployment is a term that refers to the number of people who want a job and do not have one. Underemployment represents people who are working but are not working in a job that matches their skills or abilities, often leading to earning less than what he or she should earn. When a person cannot find a job that matches their availability, skills, and experience, that is called underemployment. When considering who has a job and how many people are without one, it’s critical to understand the full picture.
A person who is underemployed is working, but they are not working or earning as much as they would like to or to their full abilities. This may be related to their experience in a field, abilities, or other skills. Consider a few examples of underemployed individuals:
Underemployment is sometimes desirable for the individual. It may be that they do not want the responsibilities of a more advanced position or that they need to work part time hours to meet needs or other obligations.
Unemployment, by contrast, is simply not having a job but wanting to work. This is a person that may be having a hard time finding a position he or she qualifies for. They may be looking for opportunities, but failing to land a job.
There are two types of underemployment. Visible underemployment occurs when a person is working fewer hours or earning a lower wage in their chosen field. Invisible underemployment occurs when a person is unable to find a job within their chosen field at all, and they take a job that does not fit their skills.
While there may be advantages to being underemployed, there are some restrictions and limitations on it as well. Even if you want to be working part time, being underemployed can lead to challenges later. For example, you may want to change jobs later, but now you may not see as many opportunities available to you. That’s because your more recent job experience is in a lower field. Prospective employers may question that.
As a worker in general, high underemployment is worrisome. If you want to change jobs later, you are now competing with both people who are unemployed and those who are willing to accept underemployment. As a result, prospective employers may see a person who has far more skills than you earning less. That may become a problem over time across the industry if more people decide to take jobs that undercut their abilities.
More so, when any worker wants a raise, he or she must show that they are qualified to earn more for the work they do. If there are underemployed individuals working for the company, you have less ability to bargain for your salary increase.
For those who are working as an underemployed individual, there are some disadvantages to consider beyond this. For example, the wages earned or the number of hours available may not be enough to support the needs of your family. You may struggle with balancing your budget. It may also make going to college less beneficial in the long run. Some workers have trouble overcoming the stresses of underemployment. They may find it hard to get out of these positions over time because they lack newer, recent skills.
A working person who wishes to find a job that fits their skills but struggles to do so may be tempted to take a job that’s under them. This can happen for various reasons including the following:
There are various other reasons underemployment can occur. As noted, sometimes people do not want to take positions that are at their skill level or experience range. While that may be okay from a personal standpoint, for most people it does not offer the same advantages.
The big question for those who are in this situation is what to do about their situation. There are multiple potential outcomes here. In some situations, gaining additional training may help to support the lack of a specific skill or having a job that is no longer in demand. For example, for those who may have skills that are outdated as a result of a change in technology or innovation in the industry, gaining new skills may be helpful.
In other cases, it can be hard to move beyond underemployment unless there is one-on-one help and support in finding a better fitting job. That may mean networking in the field or working to find resources that can help.
The best ways to avoid underemployment include:
At Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona, our team works closely with individuals who need those extra skills to find the job they desire. We also offer a full network of companies that are looking for people with core skills. If you are finding it difficult to find a position that fits your needs, our team is ready to help you to explore new opportunities.
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