Got a college degree and work waiting tables? Know a doctor who’s driving a taxicab? Heard about a plumber that’s prevented from working more than part-time due to some crazy local law? How about a child psychologist with twenty years experience running daycare out of her home? Those are examples of being underemployed.
Underemployment is underutilization of labor due to underutilization of skills or education, or underuse of potential labor capacity. Most government statistics do not examine underemployment, but it’s a real situation for many Americans. Of course, many people deliberately chose underemployment as a lifestyle decision-the brilliant and once-successful computer programmer who makes his living as a retail clerk in a computer gaming store, for example.
But for others, underemployment is simply making do with a crummy situation. That is, they consider themselves unemployed in their profession but are still working at the local hobby shop stocking shelves with yarn. This is not to infer that such jobs are unimportant, but only that the employee doing the job could make a whole lot more money doing another job. They’re underemployed.