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How unemployment affects relationships

29 Aug 2019 FINANCE

By Nomali Cele

When a person loses their job, it fundamentally changes their relationships. Even those with the most supportive family, friends and romantic partners will experience a certain shift in their relationships. When the frustration of job seeking, which rarely yields results fast when the unemployment rate is high, sets in, it’s likely going to be the relationships that take a knock. Even for those people who’ve been unemployed for years and have stopped looking for work because of the hopelessness they experience in the job market, the fact of unemployment still affects their relationships. These are some of the ways unemployment affects relationships.


How unemployment affects relationships: The unshared burden

For a lucky few, the loss of work will not automatically mean being financially unstable. Some will have savings to offset the loss of income, but most tend to rely on their relationships to keep them afloat. The latter scenario is the most prevalent in a poor country like ours and its one that creates tensions in relationships because one person could be financially responsible for numerous other people and several households until another adult in the extended family find work.


How unemployment affects relationships: Societal expectations

Societal pressures and expectations come into play, usually, in romantic relationships. When someone who’s expected to be the “provider” is suddenly without work, unemployment affects relationships. It’s emotionally and mentally taxing for both parties involved but the one who has to work and make the budgets balance experiences even more unnecessary labour if they have to spend even more time reassuring their significant other all because of some societal expectation.

Those in relationships with men have to do additional labour when the man goes through the unfortunate experience of losing one’s job. The way socialisation has it set up, it’s almost predictable that his ego will take a knock when he isn’t the one bringing the proverbial bacon home.


How unemployment affects relationships: Quality of life

We mustn’t romanticise the ability of certain individuals and families to survive on a small salary. If one person is left working and taking care of many others, this significantly diminishes the quality of life of everyone involved. While they do survive and make do with the very little there is to go around, it’s not okay.

The compromised quality of life and barely getting by can also lead to resentment. This is how we see phenomenon such as “black tax” growing. The idea of black taxi is the economic disadvantage faced by many young black people who carry the responsibility of entire families with their first salary. I understood black tax to mean the financial and career disadvantages these young people face compared to their peers who are not expected to help the family. But with time, it’s come to denote a burden that black families place on their young people.


How unemployment affects relationships: Mental health

Both sides, the person working and supporting and those who are out of work can experience serious mental health drawbacks.  Back to societal expectations, which we touched on earlier: People who are out of work could feel like they are not contributing, aren’t good enough and, worst of all, are “useless. Those who are not working despite their dependency on others and this leads to lowered self-esteem and may end up triggering depression. For those on whom the financial expectations now rest, the results will be stress and heightened anxiety.


Recently, Dr Sindi spoke with guests and Afropolitans about how unemployment affects relationships. This shone a light on the impact of unemployment of relationships.

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