nO bOdY wAnTs tO WoRk
I swear if I hear this one more time, the earrings are coming out.
At my local Fred Meyer, it’s a relatively quiet day. I scramble to pack my own grocery bags — it appears that there are no courtesy clerks on shift—and the middle-aged cashier, who wears a button touting his 15 years of service, looks at me with an apologetic smile and says “yeah, no one wants to work anymore!”
I don’t hate loading up my bags. It was my first job, many years ago, and I’m still pretty quick at the Tetris game of balancing cans, boxes, and produce. But what he says, the reason he gives me? That is something that I hate.
Because I know it’s not true. And what’s more, he should know it’s not true. But somewhere, at some point, he heard that “no one wants to work” and he decided that that’s why there’s no 16-year-old standing at the end of his register, on a July afternoon, delicately putting organic apples into paper sacks.
What you mean when you say people “don’t want to work”
When I wrote about this subject — the labor force, unemployment, and why people aren’t taking low-wage jobs—last year, I ascribed a lot of it to COVID-19. And while that’s definitely still a factor (you may have decided that you’re done with the pandemic , but the pandemic is not done with you) and many lower-wage jobs remain both unreliable and unsafe due to the potential spread of disease, the challenges we’re facing now are a little different.
It’s Not Wages That Are Keeping People Out Of The Workplace — It’s Consistency
Most people are earning less on unemployment, but at least they’re earning it regularly.
Last year, the consistency was the issue; if your restaurant or store closed unexpectedly due to COVID exposure of a positive test, there was no hope for compensation. You just didn’t get paid. And for that reason, a lot of people were more likely to jump through the ample hoops and accept the even lower wages that unemployment provides.
Now, there are new issues facing the lower-wage workforce. Specifically, the opportunity cost of even having a job and the math required to decide what’s right for…