Unemployment or job shortage?

It might seem obvious to take on a job that doesn’t suit you all that well if you’re unemployed, but in that situation there will often be discouraging practical issues, or we could be dealing with a legal economist calculating to so-and-so-many decimals that working a job for four days a week is less lucrative than being unemployed and spending that time with the Wii.

It’s true that there’s more and more unemployed people in the Netherlands these days. Unemployment is on the rise. My mother thinks it’s because there aren’t enough jobs. If only the jobs would get going again, everything would be all right again, or at least everyone would have a job again.

But unemployment is not the same thing as a job shortage. The real problem isn’t all the people looking for jobs; the real problem is a consistent mismatch between supply and demand on the Dutch job market. Yes, there are a lot of people without jobs, but talking about unemployment in a society that isn’t short on paid jobs distracts us from the problem we should be looking at. There are thousands of open vacancies, so where are the applicants?

This type of unemployment is due to the younger generation that is just getting started with college and their careers. The ones who are currently looking for jobs are people with unsuitable educations and people who entered the job market with the wrong expectations, for example because there isn’t even any demand for employees with a degree in a certain subject.

But can you blame them? Right before college they’re faced with the most gigantic decision of their lives: thousands of different subjects to choose from, and your choice will determine the rest of your life. Just the vocational subjects number over 750, and then they’d also need to anticipate their long term chances of finding employment, or lack thereof — before they’ve even started looking for a place to live in their college city?

No, this is definitely something for the government to grapple with, who is responsible for education and the job market and the interaction between the two. It’s about time we addressed the real problem: the mismatch between subject choice and available jobs. That’s why I propose inventing an energy label for college subjects; not to show how energy efficient they are, but to offer a clear indication of the probability that they’ll get you a job in the future. That way students can know what they’re getting themselves into, and roughly how much energy it’ll take to find employment.

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