“Nobody wants to work anymore!” One of the many unfortunate things COVID-19 has left us with is this inaccurate and demeaning phrase. In the last decade we’ve seen this general attitude or perception that younger people don’t “want to work”. This got a lot worse after the pandemic when we saw a huge spike in unemployment, which we continue to see even when the pandemic appears to be recovering. But the problem isn’t that people are getting lazier, it’s that people are getting smarter.
There seems to be this general notion that the post-pandemic labor shortage is entirely the fault of people, particularly younger people, who are “too lazy” to work, when in reality many people are dying to work or want to get back to work. What they don’t like doing is working in exploitative environments for unaffordable wages, and it’s about time that happened.
Recent inflation has pushed up prices across the country for everything from petrol to groceries to all other everyday purchases. However, workers still don’t earn enough to keep up. If America’s minimum wage increased with productivity and domestic inflation, it would be nearly $21.50 an hour, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
How can we expect young people to enter the workforce at the federal and Idaho minimum wage of $7.25 an hour when the numbers clearly show that a living wage in the current economy is nearly three times that?
But in a person’s first job, it’s almost a cultural norm to be underpaid and exploited in some way. Which leads to this constant attitude that we all deserve this treatment and we need to soak it up and stick with it for your tiny, priceless check.
For most people, this is their only choice. As the cost of everything increases, including higher education, college students are really being forced into these menial jobs to pay off the overwhelming debt they are accumulating just trying to get an education so they can underpay about it , exploitative people can raise jobs. This only perpetuates the cycle of exploitation and inevitably compels the average college student to participate.
How do we break this cycle? Unfortunately no clear answer. Raising the minimum wage would most likely face opposition from large corporations, who benefit from underpaying their workers, and even if they were raised, they would only raise prices further, negating the benefit of a higher wage. An unconditional basic income sounds great in theory, but it would never stand a chance in this country, at least not for a while.
But the situation is certainly not hopeless. A small step towards improvement would be to give up the horrible idea that people don’t want to work. Self worth is not laziness and must not be treated as such if we are to improve our country for the next generation. Isn’t that our responsibility?
Tracy Mullinax can be reached at[email protected]