Suicide and Unemployment

Suicide is an intentional act of killing oneself. It has been an inherent part of almost every society and continues being so. Around three-quarters of a million people give their lives every year. Thus, suicide remains one of the major social concerns in today’s time and age. Death and Life are two inevitable notions of living creatures. They belong to each other and will cease to exist if either one of them fades away. Sometimes the forces surrounding life become unbearable to the extent of forcing an individual to kill oneself.

These forces vary in different surroundings, in different regions and in different environments. Depression, pain, financial status, social status, respect, marriage etc are to name a few. There have been different views on suicide but most have been juxtaposed with themes surrounding religion, meaning of life and honor. Religions like Abrahamic and Hinduisim have regarded it as a dishonorable act. On the contrary in the west it is considered as equivalent to rebelling against God. Japanese views with respect to suicides are quiet different and have actually advocated for it.

This is one reason why suicide rates in countries like Japan remain one of the highest in the world. Sati, is a Hindu practice, according to which a widow should kill or immolate herself following the death of her husband. In Asian countries like Pakistan, women will be often found committing suicide after being sexually harassed or raped. This is because the society here looks down on women who are raped. They are almost like shunned entities with no rights, none what so ever. In African nations, suicide rates are high where poverty is unbearable. Records in European nations date back to the late century.

The figures suggest that in southern Europe where Catholic countries hold sway, are lower compared to the countries in European Protestant Countries. This is associated with the notion that religion is strongly rooted in southern Catholic countries. It is generally not an easy task to draw conclusions between two countries on the basis of their suicide rates. There are practitioners who generally specify suicide in most countries. In England though, the act is confirmed by a coroner who does not announce and claim it to be a suicide unless he sees a positive proof. This could be anything, a suicide note, a letter, finger prints etc.

There also exist regional differences between suicide rates in most European countries. Hungary, as will be discussed later in the chapter has the highest suicide rate. Ironically, countries surrounded by Hungary, have high suicide rates where there are Hungarian minorities. Such regional difference have been observed in a lot of countries. The suicide rate in Hungary is around 60 per 100000 people per year. Countries like Finland and Denmark also top the charts with a suicide rate of around 30. Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Denmark and the former West Germany, have suicide rates of around 20-30 per 100000 per year.

Great Britain and Sweden foresee moderate suicide rates. Norway with a rate of around 16, remains as a country with low suicide rate. It has maintained this position for the past 100 years. However, the past 15-20 years have seen an increase in the suicide rates of Norway. Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Scotland are some other nations where suicide rates have been relatively low. Greenland is also assumed to have had one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. The cultural conflict between the western and Greenland cultural is largely to be blamed for this.

Much of this paper will focus on the correlation between suicide rates and unemployment. It will seek to prove the hypothesis that unemployment is inversely related to suicide rate true. For this reason, two European countries will be first taken into account. They would be Norway and Hungary. As discussed in the aforementioned paragraphs, the suicide rates of Hungary is the highest while that of Norway is one of the lowest in Europe. The unemployment rates in both these countries confirm our hypotheses as unemployment rates in Norway have been again one of the highest in Europe.

According to a survey conducted by OECD, suicide rates in Hungary stand at 22. 6 per 100,000 per year. Risk factors related to suicide are in essence divided into various categories. These include psychosocial factors for example divorce, cultural factors for example religious pressure and lack of commitment and socio-economic that is unemployment. On the first glance, it may be conceivable that socio-cultural factors stand as the pillars of suicide but this thesis fails to hold up under a critical analysis.

Most research and statistical have declared socio-economic and genetic causes as seemingly, one of the major reasons behind high suicide rates in Europe. Today around 5000 people end up committing suicide in Hungary per year. And in the words of Dr Buda, atleast 50000 people try. The Hungarians in general have a more affirmative attitude towards suicide. Bravery, self respect and alleviation from pain are considered as prize that comes in with suicide. Its considered a unique and an honorable thing over there.. Unemployment has persisted as one of the major reasons, giving way to suicide and death in the end.

A ‘second economy’’ was opened which promised extra earnings and in the process ended up making Hungarians frantic and fanatic to achieve standards more commonly found in the West. However, they soon realized that the effort required to plug in was atleast four times more than the normal labor force in the States. As Dr Schee Zompathy puts it, “Even earning for a small apartment here, takes no less than 7 or eight years”. This overwork followed unemployment and ultimately became one of the major reasons for which families would break up and suicides committed.

To add more fuel to the fire, inflation and economic stagnation mounted even more tension particularly on the aged, affecting their pensions in the process. Ironically, most of the suicide had been committed by people in the age bracket of 60s. The employment rate of Hungary remains low compared to the normal standards. It is well below the bench mark of countries which incorporate high labor. It has loitered between 57 percent to 62 percent and is the third lowest in terms of OECD ranking. A lot of people back out of jobs in Hungary, the youth in particular, thanks to the high income taxes.

Recently, it was proposed to reduce taxes to deal with the situation. Reduction in tax bills basically comes in the form certain allowances that imply zero taxes on low wages. However, even this approach has met severe resistance, because this works to increase marginal taxes steeply of incomes above the minimum levels. Another routine norm and practice, is early retirement or the act of exiting from the labor force to avail disability benefits. The reason, being, these schemes offer more money than the normal unemployment benefit.

‘ Hundred Steps program has been proposed to take care of these things. This involves boosting up the needfuls for job searching. However most efforts in this area have not met with a positive result. As per international evidence, a strategy surrounding “mutual obligations” that is incorporating, both placement services and efficient effective job services should do the trick for Hungary. Other than this early retirement prevails and most people retire atleast 2 years before the world standards of 60. These early retirement rates in Hungary stem for short life expectancies over there.

Additional reforms need to be considered to abolish this practice. Some reforms such as increasing the retirement age have received some nods but there is a lot that still needs to be done. Thus as discussed in the aforementioned paragraphs, Hungary’s high suicide rate is largely dependent on the prevalence concerns regarding employment over there. The government seeks for ways to eliminate it and to rehabilitate the lives of many under stress. There other factors such as alcoholism and genetic clauses that have given way to suicide as well but unemployment stands at the helm of affairs.

We now explore a country with low suicide rate and high employment rate to completely validate our hypothesis. Norway has a relatively low suicide rate in Europe compared to world and European standards. The suicide rates and employment rates in Norway stand inversely related supporting our hypothesis in the process. Atleast 75 percent of the working population remains employed. This is remarkable if compared with the average of 65 percent as researched by OECD. The employment rate amongst the aged is comparatively more against other European nations.

Norway holds the unique honor of being home to one of the most resilient and highest participation rates amongst old workers. (OECD, p85) The general rate of employment has remarkably increased since the 1970s. Female workers are found to be more active in the labor market while older workers are a little more resilient. Ironically over the past 5 years, the employment rates of men aged between 55 and 64 have gone down from 80 percent in 1985 to around 75 percent in 2007. Women on the other hand have shown marked improvement as far as employment patterns are concerned..

The sectoral structure of employment in Norway has witnessed a dramatic change since the 1980s. Employment in service sector soars high while that in agriculture is 4 percent. A 15 percent employment rate in the manufacturing sector, suggests that Norway rests at the heart of de-industrialization. However, this is no less compared to the countries with similar levels of development. Ever since the 70s, the share in the general government employment has climbed the ladders by as much as 10 percent. This is by far one of the highest amongst the OECD countries.

In the broader context, full time employment has increased by almost 8 percent , making it to a 31 percent from an initial 22 percent. OECD, p85-p86) If we peek into the trends, it will come as no surprise that during the 90s, education, health and social services took away most of the employment. The employment rate was as much as 50 percent during that time period. Various factors have contributed to the generally larger higher employment rates compared to Hungary, which suffers a major set back in the form of high suicide rates as a result of its low employment rates.

Even if compared to countries like Denmark, the trends pursued by public sector jobs have not turned tables. Thanks, to these public sector services that job recovery stands well above 31 percent with the exception of 2006 though when it was around 20 percent. In contrast, countries like Hungary have witnessed decline in public sector jobs, while private sector jobs have seen relatively little increase. This includes popular fields such as financial, hotel, and retail services. The rising preference levels of employment in the service sector have given way to some issues.

Not only is it detrimental to the growth of the private sector but there has been an average crowding out effect. The public sector has deserted the private sector, even though employment continues to increase. Thus, as discussed so far, employment in Norway continues to increase. The less suicide rate in the region may validate the argument. High employment fetches better living conditions and seek to relieve people morally and financially. The people in general over there, are more satisfied and are strong internally and externally. A general sense of satisfaction prevails that keeps them content and satiates happy.

This is essential to keep social crimes away from the society in hand. Credit also rests with the government for the taking up efforts to ensure that employment keeps increasing and growth is not impeded under any circumstances. Hungary on the other hand is home to a more dissatisfied and a little frustrated crowd. The employment rates don’t increase and have seen little or no improvement in the preceeding years. a positive attitude towards suicide prevails in general and it is treated with approval from the society at large. The labor force has to put in intense effort for the same amount of work, put in by Norwegians.

This mounts up their frustration and when it reaches its saturation point, they resort to social crimes such as suicide. In some cases, depression takes form. The guilt attack that dawn on a man for being unable to support his family becomes unbearable at times and he ends up killing himself. To add more fuel to the fire, the income tax rates in Hungary remain at an all time high, giving way to a lot of college drop outs. What is ironic are the exceedingly high literacy rates in Hungary. Hungary’s literacy rate is as high as 100 percent yet people continue committing suicide.

According to a recently proposed theory, the reason being the standards set strike up, when people become very literate and logically so. Once the standards, become inconceivable, frustration culminates in the form of suicide. The opportunities for them are slim out there and with the tax reductions, they end up stressing themselves out to the maxim. Thus, they are left with no other option but to leave following the norms. Moreover, suicide is treated as a solution to a problem. It is looked for as a convenient answer to financial problems and thought of as a state of bliss and happiness.

Our hypothesis can be further confirmed if we elaborate our statistical analysis on Slovenia and Italy. They are both European nations and follow the same trends as seen by Hungary and Norway. Suicide has been a consistent concern for the nation for as long as decades today. Factors such as shame and stigma have precluded any major discussions and taken away the limelight on what should have been given the preference. However conferences were conducted recently by Legal Information Center for Non-Governmental Agencies (PIC) and suicide rates and their association with genetics and poverty was discussed at great length.

We put forward here, a few findings discussed at great length in conference. Dr Andrej Maruai who is a Slovenian psychiatrist, very convincingly elaborated on the afflilaition between literacy, poverty and social factors. He did this through his paper “Suicide in Europe: Genetics, Literacy and Poverty”. His research goes on and elaborates on the notion that higher the literacy rates of a country, the lower its GNP and greater the suicide rates. The theory can be applied without a second thought to countruest like Hungary and Slovenia where literacy rates soar as high as 100 percent but where GNP remains low compared to world standards.

On the other hand, Western European and Mediterranean countries where literacy rates are comparatively lower, see more stable GNPs and lower suicide rates in comparison. According to Maruai, better-educated people are more likely to resort to suicide for they are a little more than normal, conscious of their social and economic postion. Moreover, being aware of the more effective and more efficient of taking their lives they end up committing suicide. The statistics by World Health Organization suggest that around 100000 people ended up committing suicide in 1998.

This moved suicide up to the twelfth place as one of the major leading causes of death across the globe. Slovenia’s annual suicide rate stands at 30 per 1000000 inhabitants. Thus, keeping the population in perspective around 600 people die annually. Almost one-third of these suicide rates are directly connected to unemployment and alcoholism. In a population of just 2 million people, this is a big problem. (Pozun, n. p) More specifically speaking, the rate of attempted suicide ranks high in females whereas the actual suicide rate is higher in males.

Variation within different regions of the country exists irrespective of its small size. Slovenia ranks sixth in the world amongst nations where suicide rates are high. Hungary on the other hand ranks fourth, while Latvia is the highest in terms of suicide as 43 people die every 100000 inhabitants. Within Slovenia, at Sentur pri Celju, the suicide rate is recorded to be 60 per 100,000 while that in Nova Gorica is the lowest at 16. 5 per 100000. Mediums sized cities, witness an average of 30 per 10000 while larger cities like Ljubljana ad Matibor have rates below 26 per 1000000.

Put in the light of Maruai’s theory, these two cities are home to two universities and have the greatest number of well educated people, therefore these two cities should also have highest suicide rates. However, there is a hitch. Since these cities are home to a lot of foreigners, the suicide rates are relatively lower. Spain is another one such nation in the lines of Norway where the suicide rates are low and employment rates soar high. Spain ranks amongst those nations which are home to lower suicide rates. The unemployment rate is only 8 percent and around two out of every 3 jobs continues being occupied.

The stats are particularly good in the female population. In 2004, of the 461300 jobs created, almost 45 percent were occupied by women. The construction sector followed by services and then industry employ the greatest number of people. The good thing is the continuous decline in unemployment rates, and a logical increase in employment rates. In 2003, the unemployment rate fell from 120000 to a little over two million. Today, it is 10. 38 percent less than what it was last year. Unemployment has rapidly declined in under-25s and those seeking jobs for the first time.

On the other hand suicide rates in Spain have remained relatively low. They have remained stagnant at 8. 4 per 100000, well below world standards. Amongst males, the suicide rates are 12. 9 per 100000 while amongst females they are 3. 9 per 100000. The highest suicide rates fall in the age bracket of 75 plus with 13. 4 per 1000000 while the lowest are seen in the age bracket of 5-14 years at 0. 3 per 100000. Thus our aforementioned examples and statistics confirm the notion that unemployment rates and suicide rates are inversely related, as seen in the case of Hungary and Slovenia and in the case of Spain and Norway.


Suicide rates by Gender in Spain. http://www. who. int/mental_health/media/spai. pdf Accessed April 11th, 2008 OECD. OECD Economic Survey 2007. Norway: 2007 Brian J Pozun. ‘Slovenia’s suicidal tendencies’. CER. http://www. ce-review. org/00/20/pozun20. html Accessed April 11th, 2008 Henry Camm ‘Hungary seeks ways to cut suicide rates”. New york Times http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=9B0DE0DF153CF933A05754C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all Accessed April 11th, 2008 Rettersal Nills Suicide, A European Perspective. Cambridge University Press 1993