Want a Better Job? Degrees Won’t Help You, But Organizing Will

UMass professor Jeannette Wicks-Lim has written a paper called “The Working Poor: A Booming Demographic,” and spoke with Paul Jay of the Real News Network about the future workers of America. Three major points:

1. The jobs expected to add the most numberof jobs over the next ten years—2/3 of all new jobs—are low-wage jobs. “I think what we’ve been seeing in the recent decades is a large growth in jobs that pay very low wages, and then some growth in jobs that pay very high wages, and those sort of middle-income jobs that pay decent wages, [for example] the auto manufacturing jobs, their pay is either decreasing, or their jobs are going overseas.”

2. It’s already happening. It used to be that 25% of workers who were in low-paying jobs had college experience, according to Wicks-Lim. Now it’s 40%. These low-paying jobs do not require a college degree, and having one isn’t necessarily be an asset at all—it’ll mean entering the labor force later, having less experience, and in many cases, having school debt.

3. It can get better. Childcare, home healthcare, and other service jobs “are jobs that need to be done by people within the U.S. border … so these jobs actually have the potential to be improved because they can’t be easily replaced with machines. So these are jobs that have potential to become better-quality jobs. But … what I argue in the piece is you need a stronger labor movement.”

Video and transcript of the interview available here, and Wicks-Lim’s full paper is available here.


4 Comments / Post A Comment

brokebutnotcheap (#2,768)

Ok. Every time I hear or read something about “low wage jobs” I always wonder what they mean by low wage. 20K/year? 30k? I currently make less than 27,000 per year, have been graduated from college for 2 years, work in the industry I studied, AND LIVE WITH MY PARENTS BECAUSE I CAN’T AFFORD RENT. I have a sick feeling in my stomach that my salary is not considered “low wage” but I sure feel low wage!

@brokebutnotcheap I’m pretty sure they mean LOOOOOOOW wage jobs, as in, maybe $7.25/hr or so, no benefits. AKA, never being able to afford rent unless you shack up 12 people to a room, Jacob Riis photo style. Which is pretty much where I sense this country is headed at this rate.

It depends on who you ask, or what study you read. Most agree that they’re jobs where you can work full-time, all year, and not make enough to be above the poverty line. But that’s incredibly low (about $12,000 for a single person) and not regionally adjusted. It was calculated decades ago by taking the FDA’s cost for a barely nutritionally adequate diet and multiplying it by three. Because back then, people spent 30% of their income on food. Not anymore.

The self-sufficiency standard is a thing I like instead, because it takes into account the real cost of housing, transportation and health and child care for families of different compositions and in different areas: http://www.insightcced.org/communities/cfess/ca-sss.html

So in my county, the poverty level for a single person is $12,000 or so, but the self-sufficiency standard is #27,000!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

So basically all these low-wage workers should embrace careers in cleaning up other peoples’ poop because that’s the only thing we haven’t developed a machine to do yet?

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