When we analyse the justifiability of different education policies as well as various governmental interventions in the job market, we typically do so on the assumption that there is something bad about unemployment – indeed, there are many things bad about unemployment. Whilst this assumption is no doubt correct, I suspect that it is often helpful to be more precise about what exactly is bad about unemployment. This is because each of these bads may admit of very different solutions.
It is common to begin by noting that unemployment can be stigmatising, such that individuals who are unemployed are subject to others’ negative attitudes. This can be experienced as disrespectful and damaging to one’s self-confidence. It is significant that proponents of these attitudes typically defend their views on moralistic grounds: “The unemployed should be stigmatised because they are sponging off of the state – off of others’ efforts!”