Unemployment and Entrepreneurs

Sometimes I just don’t know what to make of the numbers or, really, the lack of them. I’ve been using the World Bank’s figures for a while now for several of my indicators but was very disappointed when I checked yesterday and found that the unemployment figures have yet to be updated from 2009. So, off to Wikipedia, and their page on global unemployment, which largely seem to come from the CIA (perhaps unsurprisingly a rather good source of data). One good thing about these numbers is that there are more of them for more countries. One bad thing is that they aren’t always reliable. Also, data on unemployment for most of the countries on the African continent seems to be almost non-existent and I’m pretty sure there are people working there. (C’mon, World Bank, get your act together! Why can’t you or anyone else provide this data?!)

Anyway, putting aside my on-going (and sorry, probably boring) frustration with available, accurate data, I was surprised to see how slightly the numbers actually moved. Despite the media’s consistent declaration of an impending economic apocalypse, this doesn’t seem to be happening. Yes, many countries are down, and many people are out of work, but there are lots of people still working and increasingly, at least in the U.S., if you can’t find a job working for someone else, you can always create your own. (I am noticing this not just in the broader economy but also with my friends, who are starting up micro-crafts businesses on Etsy, delving into network marketing, and just generally hustling and bustling!)

One of the least appreciated (as well as most difficult) ways to really make a difference in the world is to help create jobs and foster the entrepreneurial spirit, not just in the U.S. but all across the world. One of my favorite “charity” websites is Kiva which is firmly rooted in this philosophy of helping people help themselves.  (There are more and more of these kinds of organizations, termed “social businesses” by the founder of micro-finance, Muhammad Yunus.)  Kiva allows people all over the world to lend very small amounts of money to entrepreneurs all over the world, helping get small businesses started. The money is then paid back and can be re-circulated to the next entrepreneur.

With the media’s usual focus on huge corporations, I am increasingly impressed by the numbers of smaller businesses that manage to not only spring up, but keep going, and even thrive. Maybe the lack of unemployment data just shows that the powers that be haven’t figured out how to show that lots of people are working, but in new and unconventional ways.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

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