top of page

How Redundancy Can Impact Your Sense of Identity

Employment status can often significantly impact people’s levels of self-esteem, determining social status, confidence, and day-to-day happiness. The current state of the labour market has caused widespread uncertainty, threatening the careers of many individuals with the latest tech layoffs frequently headlining the news. With Covid-19 leading to historically high unemployment rates, it's a good time to reconsider the connection between our jobs and our self-worth…

Increasing Uncertainty in the Labour Market

For several decades, companies have been moving away from the belief that bigger is better and instead embracing the idea that smaller is more desirable. As a result, layoffs, downsizing, and rightsizing have become standard practices in many organisations. The Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 was a pivotal moment that solidified the trend of labour market uncertainty, affecting everyone including highly skilled workers.

While the economic consequences for individuals and families will undoubtedly be significant, the human impact of such costs cannot be overlooked. It goes without saying that many people suffer financially from redundancies, but it is important to remember that many experience a loss of social status and can feel a profound sense of shame. Ultimately, the human toll of the labour market can be devastating, affecting one's sense of self-worth, purpose, and overall well-being.

Employment status, or lack thereof, has become a fundamental measure of people’s moral value. Erving Goffman, a sociologist from several decades ago, characterized unemployment as a "spoiled identity," signifying that the jobless are excluded from full participation in social life due to the suspicion others have towards them.

Scholars who have examined economic crises such as the Great Depression and the Iowa Farm Crisis of the 1980s, have highlighted the crucial role employment plays in our lives. Beyond just providing income, it serves as the foundation for our social status and identity, and offers structure, purpose, and an avenue for expanding our social connections. Viewed through this lens, unemployment not only results in financial losses but also undermines a critical element that shapes our daily existence.

How Employers Can Help As employment becomes increasingly unstable worldwide, it is essential to reflect on the notion of placing significant importance on employment to establish our value as social beings.

As a society, we need to detach the idea of moral worth from employment and to do so, a cultural transformation is necessary. There is often a stigma around receiving unemployment benefits, as they are seen as equating morality with employment. Universal Basic Income, on the other hand, which provides a living income regardless of employment status, could be a significant step towards reducing the connection between job and moral worth.

Government policies have the potential to address gender inequalities and enable individuals to fulfil a variety of social roles beyond that of workers, such as parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, friends, and mentors. To achieve this, policies could recognize caregiving as a form of work, as Nordic countries have done. For instance, Sweden offers approximately 15 months of paid leave to parents, with up to 80% of their salary covered by the government (capped at a certain amount). Additionally, public childcare is available once the child turns one year old. By investing in social policies that acknowledge caregiving responsibilities, both men and women can take pride in and find purpose in their non-work roles.

To promote the decoupling of moral worth from employment, it is essential for employers to adopt a more flexible work culture. They can start by relaxing the expectation of constant availability, face-to-face time, and unwavering dedication to work. Genuine implementation of flexibility policies such as working from home or flexi-time will normalise making use of these options and won't harm an employee's career. By acknowledging employees' non-work responsibilities, employers can contribute to transforming the entire work culture.

By implementing these steps, it could become more common and accepted for fathers to take an active role in caregiving and parenting, which would help to dismantle the gendered expectations around caregiving and work.

This would be a significant step towards creating a more inclusive society, where individuals are valued not just for their employment status but for the variety of roles they play in their personal and family lives.

- Has the uncertainty in the Labour market impacted you?

- Are there any other ways you think employers could help with the issues parents face?

We would love to know your thoughts on the topics mentioned in the comments below! ⬇️


bottom of page