6, 7, 8
Keywords & Concepts: 

Students experience working and unemployment through a very simplified role play.

Print1 hour

Students will:

  • role-play working for an employer who continually cuts wages.
  • discuss the role-play experience.

“Working and Eating” Lesson 16 from Kempf, Stepahine. "Finding Solutions to Hunger." World Hunger Year, 1997. Web. (Handout)



  • notecards



  1. Tell the students they are going to go through a very simple role-play in order to spark conversation about unemployment.

    Tell them to imagine that you own the one factory in their town, the only source of jobs. Hand a note card to half the students, indicating that they are hired to work for you for $10.00 per day. Tell them that their pay will cover food and lodging for their family. For each person who works, the owner earns $2.00/per person/day profit. 

  2. The others do not have jobs, but as long as they don't have employment, they each earn $4 per day from the goverment social program. This isn't enough to pay for their housing and food for their family. Ask them how they will all feel after a few weeks (the employed, the unemployed, and the owner)? 

    Some students may calculate how much each person is making.

  3. Tell them that you are going to offer some of the unemployed people a job for $8.00 per day. This is a good deal for those who didn't have jobs because it is twice than the amount the government gave them, maybe just enough to feed their family. When you hire four new people, you decide you need to let some of the higher-wage workers go so you can continue to make a profit. Tell them they have a choice to either take the paycut to the lower wage or get the government payment. 

  4. Discuss how each of the workers and the owner would feel after a week of this. If anyone protests that they want to strike or protest, fire them by taking away their card. 


  5. Tell the students that after a couple weeks, the owner decides to hire more people at a reduced wage ($7.00) and let more higher-wage earners go. Discuss how this feels to all involved. 

  6. Discuss:

    • How difficult is it to come out of unemployment?
    • Who has the most power? How does it feel to have so little power?
    • What does it feel like for people to make different amounts? Or to have the wage lowered?
    • Do you think there are reasons to choose unemployment over the low wage? 
    • This is not a real situation, but what do you think in this role-play might be like a real-life situation?

Student answers to discussion questions.