There’s a strange thing happening in the American economy right now — what we read in the newspaper or see on TV doesn’t match what we’re witnessing with our own eyes. Job numbers reported in the media seem wonderful. Amazingly low unemployment that hasn’t been witnessed in 50 years! Hundreds of thousands of new jobs created monthly. Yet for all these rosy numbers, when we look at the real world, we see critically understaffed businesses, long waits for repairs, and customer service in the gutter.
America’s young men are in crisis, and the answer to this problem is spiritual, not economic or political. While the media continues to trumpet good news about the economy, the reason your real-life experiences don’t match such optimism is because these reports typically only give you part of the picture. What corporate media doesn’t tell you is that about 11 million jobs remain unfilled right now.
That’s why service is lousy everywhere and you can’t get a plumber. Those jobs go unfilled because millions of young American men between the ages of 25 and 54 aren’t working. At all. As Bloomberg reports, they’ve been left behind, with a lower percentage of men between those ages working than in 1970 — a statistic that emerged before the economic disaster brought by coronavirus lockdowns.
Millions of Young Men Doing Nothing All Day
So, how can millions of men be out of work when unemployment is extremely low? Easy, if you don’t count them.
Yes, the unemployment rate hovers at a record low figure, but this number doesn’t count all unemployed people. It only includes those who don’t have a job and are actively seeking one. This cheery (and erroneous) unemployment rate doesn’t count the millions of young men who aren’t looking for a job. Young males fitting this description are often referred to as “NEETs,” an acronym originating in the U.K. that stands for “Not in Employment, Education or Training.” These fellows aren’t working and, worse, aren’t interested in work.
Of course, this was already a growing problem in the last decade. But unemployment went full supernova during the coronavirus lockdown — and finally smart people are paying attention to it. Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame recently hosted a podcast discussion on the crisis of young men not working.
To further understand the problem’s depth, Rowe interviewed economist Nicholas Eberstadt, who wrote “Men Without Work.” It explains the seriousness of this issue, documenting how the unemployment crisis goes far beyond simply not having a job. Too many men in their prime have fallen into a hollow existence. And their parents — and our tax dollars — subsidize such incredible waste.
What do such men do with their copious amounts of leisure? According to Eberstadt, they aren’t only not working. They aren’t going to church. They typically aren’t dating. They aren’t engaging in charity work or civic activities either, or even helping with housework.
Instead, they play video games, binge watch TV and movies, and, perhaps most concerningly, abuse drugs. So many young men are not only lost to our economy, but lost to their families as well. They are at risk of becoming another gloomy statistic in the opioid epidemic.
Social and Spiritual Solutions
So, what is the answer? Unsurprisingly, it depends on who you ask. Eberstadt, the expert on young men dropping out of the economy, believes in secular and market-driven solutions to this crisis. He explains to Rowe on the podcast that we could use shame as a powerful motivator , much like our nation has shamed smokers to give up the habit.
But a campaign to shame men is already widespread in America — and not particularly helpful. In recent years, so many expressions of traditional male values have been labeled “toxic masculinity.” Combine this message with readily available drugs ranging from prescription opioids and fentanyl to legal marijuana in many states, and it almost feels like society is encouraging young men to disconnect from the real world and play “Call of Duty” all day.
We therefore believe the real solution to this crisis is spiritual. And we don’t mean just dragging young men away from the TV and into church. When Eberstadt’s book was first published in 2016, The New York Times highlighted it with an op-ed that made an eye-opening point about the root cause of the problem.
In the article, the journalist explored the issue via an interview with a young man who lost his job in the oil industry. He told the interviewer he feels as if America doesn’t care about him. He says he feels as if he’s “considered nothing.” This is a tragedy that likely resonates with millions of other young men not working. No shaming campaign will solve this. It will only worsen things.
Instead, these men would do well to unite. We suggest they form small groups with other men to help each other and provide non-judgmental spaces to work through life’s problems.
Form a Small Band of Brothers
I did this with several brothers a couple of decades ago — and continue to do to this day. Recently, I recounted what drove me to create such fellowship and how it’s transformed my life and so many others in the new book “Power of 4: How Christian Men Create Purposeful Lives By Not Going It Alone.”
If young men feel isolated and valueless, the answer is to bring them together in brotherhood to help them understand their worth. “Power of 4” emphasizes how much more powerful men can be when they don’t try to go it alone. When a man has three brothers to meet with regularly to work through life’s challenges, he is much better off than trying to handle his problems on his own.
Consider a hypothetical Power of 4 group comprised of men not in the workforce. They could work together to build each other up, for instance, by engaging in charity work while also collaborating on resumes and professional networking. (Simply having regular face-to-face contact with other men who are not keen on blaming themselves for their station in life will do worlds of good for young men in crisis).
An even more powerful approach to a Power of 4 group might be to mix together men with established careers with those not in the workforce. Young men who feel lost and without purpose could get unimaginable benefits from spending time with men who are on solid footing in their profession. Such successful men might even assist their Power of 4 brother by arranging an internship or introductory position.
What’s more, men currently working know just how nearly every employer is screaming out for quality employees now. That means a resume with some gaps in it won’t necessarily hold back a man who wants to better his situation. Undoubtedly, our young men in crisis can transform their lives once they realize they do have value — and even the potential for greatness. All it takes is a determination to relinquish those behaviors holding them back — whether it be drugs and alcohol or Netflix and PlayStation (or all of the above!).
Ultimately, we are deeply concerned by the crisis of young men dropping out of society. Despite so much bad news, we see many positives in the future. If men come together to support each other, this problem can and will correct itself.
With the right support system, young men can achieve tremendous personal growth. Every human has value, a fact lost on so many men for far too long. With the help of three brothers, our blueprint for the Power of 4, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, American men will return to a society that so desperately needs them.