Work, Unemployment, Leisure, and Retirement
The Significance of Work
A. Types of Work
Subsistence Work – uses physical and mental energy as a way to survive by providing food, shelter,
and other goods and services. Adults can expect to spend 40-50 years working outside the home. The
poverty level is defined as existing below the expected subsistence level (shelter, clothing, food,
bathroom facilities, medical treatment, education, income).
Supportive Work – obligations related to supporting subsistence work (sleeping, grooming,
Enhancing Work – work to improve and maintain our quality of living (hygiene, cleaning,
shopping, decorating). Includes activities to maintain our level in society as well as work which
results in advancement to a higher level of existence.
Divisions of Labor
Traditional vs. Modern – historically most men have worked outside the home in subsistence
activities while women have worked in the home in maintenance activities. More than half of all
women are now in the work force though, a stark contrast to only 30% in 1960.
Modern Subsistence – to meet the current defined subsistence level, more married women and
mothers are having to work to survive at the ever increasing highly materialistic level of today’s
culture. Many luxuries of the past are now considered today’s necessities. As more women work,
improvements in home appliances have made home maintenance work easier and faster.
Changing Faces of Work – subsistence work can both be a source of great satisfaction and a
major source of stress.
B. Why We Work
Physically – in the past, subsistence work was only economic significant (slaves, indentured
servants, war prisoners, debt repayment), done only for money.
Evolution of Work Meaning – historically working was almost only done for money in order to
survive, motivation of the person as a machine. This was a view during the Industrial Revolution
where workers were limited to repetitive and monotonous jobs in factories. The current view of
workers has shifted to the person as god, where people have much more personal control over their
own life. Persons voluntarily choose to work and can develop goals and action plans. In no case have
most persons reached this level though, the majority are somewhere in between.
Psychosocial Reasons for Work
Personal Identity – to a large extent, people become what they do. A vast amount of time and
energy is devoted to working, so it is unsurprising that work has become one of the primary
means of identifying oneself in society (identity vs. identity confusion – Erik Erickson)
Self Esteem – work can assure us that we are good at something, also confirming the fact that we
are valued by society. Depending on the pride we take in the quality and significance of our
work, our self esteem may increase. Workers viewing themselves as person as a machine can
have negative self esteem.