Today’s Huffington Post offers a fascinating and frightening analysis of youth unemployment. The overall loss to the nation is estimated at $18 billion, but behind that big number are millions of young people who will struggle to survive. Beyond the unemployed most of the new jobs created over the past few years have been low wage, which means that many other young people are starting their careers with little opportunity to save money.
While we need to pay attention to unemployment, we should also look to other factors that impact young people, such as student debt. Young people who attend college are less likely to be unemployed, but they are often leaving school with a debt equal to a small mortgage. If Congress does nothing (which is what it has done best over the last few years), interest on student loans will double later this summer.
Our political leaders need to start focusing on this problem. However, given their general failure to care about working people and the unemployed, it’s most likely that the problems described above will only get worse, and young people will suffer because their elders are acting like children.
A compromise bill has passed the New York City Council to require employers to give employees sick days. What’s surprising about this – or maybe not surprising – is that very few American workers receive sick days. Daily Kos has published a map of countries that require sick days. Once again, the U.S. does not follow the pattern of most developed countries. Workers in the U.S. are under attack. We need to look at other countries and look at our own history. It’s time to fight back.
I began working as a career coach and resume writer in 2000. In that year, the nonemployment rate* for young Americans (age 25-34) was 18.5%. In the most recent measure, which marks the year 2011, that rate has moved up to 26.6%, which puts the U.S. ahead of France, Japan, Britain, and Germany, all of which had higher rates in 2000.
According to an article in Common Dreams, the news gets worse when we look behind the numbers. The age group 25-35 is the only group to have a lower average wage in 2013 than it had in 2000. Part of the reason for this change could be that 40% of new college graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree. As I’ve written in previous posts,7 of 10 jobs created in the past few years have been low wage jobs that pay $30,000 or less. What can young people do when low wage jobs are the only option?
We need to do more than just talk about a monthly employment statistic (30+ months of meaningless job growth) and the unemployment rate. Yes, the economy has generated private sector jobs. However, many are part-time, low paid, or benefit free. We need to talk about what jobs pay. We need good jobs.
* This rate included unemployment and those who have given up looking.
Laura Clawson, writing in Daily Kos, outlines the story of income winners and losers between 2009-2011. As usual, the top wins. In this case, it’s all of 7%. However this story is told, the end is the same: Working people lose.
We fret about unemployment in the U.S., but we seldom consider the problem in other countries. Huffington Post linked to an article at 247wallst.com that lists European countries with the highest unemployment. Japan and the U.K. have slight higher unemployment. Countries like Greece (26.4%) and Spain (26.3%) face much higher, rates which are similar to estimates for the U.S. in the Depression of 1930s.
What if the U.S. had 25% unemployment? We would have a major problem. Even at the current rate, many job seekers are having problems finding jobs. Worse still, wages have flat and in some cases declined. Like Paul Krugman, I believe the government should play some role as an employer of last resort. It’s not a matter of the clichéd attack on Keynes that one worker fills a hole and another fills it. There is work to be done: infrastructure, public safety, education, and healthcare. We need to invest to build good country where everyone has opportunity. We have the wealth. We need the will.
Paul Krugman offers a great chart and equally wise commentary about the growth of corporate profits at a time of minimal salary increase. I’ll let Krugman and his chart speak for itself.
According to Think Progress, Starbucks CEO has announced his support for an increased minimum wage. Howard Schultz does concede that some employers might cut back on hiring. However, if corporate leaders like Schultz advocate for a higher minimum wage, it will break down the resistance. This is a small big of good news on the wage front.
We hear all the time about greedy unions. Do workers want more money? Sure. So do CEOs. The corporate media ignores other issues that unions and working people care about. For example, class size and school closing were a major concern for striking teachers in Chicago. Similarly, SEIU is taking action against Providence Health & Services, which is changing healthcare coverage and transferring more cost to workers.
According to Greg Kaufmann writing in The Nation (Common Dreams), family coverage has increased from $750 to $3,000. This isn’t just a salary issue. If a large (5 state) not-for-profit like Providence can make this decision, what sane for-profit company will not follow suit? SEIU is standing up for a social good. That’s not greed. It’s a commitment to justice.
Ralph Nader has been trying to keep Americans safe for over 50 years. He has written an essay for Common Dreams that considers the gap between CEO compensation and pay for working people. Today CEOs make 340 times average worker pay. In 1980, that figure was only 42 times average worker pay. Nader suggests that this difference is a good reason to increase the minimum wage. As Nader says, that’s a good “first step.” However, we need to look beyond the minimum wage. Whether we change the income tax structure or add a wealth tax, those who have the most – including very profitable corporations – need to contribute more to the common good. We need to move beyond the greed ethic and think more about how to preserve our common culture.
Not much time for a post today, but I found a very interesting article by Laura Clawson in Daily Kos Labor. The graph again shows how people are producing more while they are earning less. This is a message that working people need to get soon.