Took For Granted, Yet Essential

Many people do thankless jobs that keep the economy going.

October 21, 2022 0 comments

The passive-aggressive sign about how difficult it is to be a business required to treat its employees with basic decency is becoming more frequent, or at least gaining a new audience thanks to social media.

After years of stagnant wages despite rising costs and prices for everything non-labor, several states are progressively raising the minimum wage every January.

In the case of Arizona, the voters enacted a referendum back in 2016 that automatically increased the minimum wage every year based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

The signs usually include notice of a surcharge along with an explanation such as, “to help support living wages for our dedicated staff” or “due to the mandatory minimum wage increase.”

It is not necessary to explain why prices are going up. Prices occasionally rise. People are aware of this. Especially now when the price of everything is going up.

The main motive for doing so is to get people angry about a minimum wage increase.

Restaurant owners and managers complaining about workers expecting to be paid a decent wage has been a major theme since voters demanded that states raise the minimum wage as the federal government was unwilling to do so.

It’s only gotten worse since the first half of 2021.

It appears that having to pay their workers continues to cause resentment for some in the service industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, child-care workers in the United States earn 59 cents less per hour than dog walkers.

For decades, the industry has relied on a flawed business model. Programs are labor-intensive and operationally expensive because infants and toddlers require more staffing than other age groups.

However, raising the fees to reflect such costs would make them unaffordable for many families.

As a result, centers run on razor-thin profit margins, paying low wages and providing few benefits for grueling work, and few people are prepared to take these positions, at least in exchange for the meager pay.

As a result, though U.S. economy has more than recovered the number of jobs lost during the pandemic in most industries, child care is not one of them. The field employs approximately 10% fewer people today than before the pandemic, a loss of nearly 100,000 individual providers.

This impacts the workers and the families who depend on them.

If families and workers cannot obtain child care, going to work becomes a major problem and our economy will never “return to normal.”

Except for the United States, every high-income country has a paid maternity leave program. Most also have a paternity leave policy and universal or subsidized child care for all families.

None of these policies exist in the United States.

The US did once have federally funded child care. Congress even passed a universal childcare policy in the ’70s; but nothing in more modern times.

The “American Rescue Plan,” which emphasizes a “caregiving crisis” caused by inadequate access to affordable care for children under the age of five, suggests that a significant increase in federal childcare spending is a top Biden administration priority—supporting young children’s development, advancing women’s careers, and boosting the economy all at the same time.

But Republicans have blocked it, as they do any public good they can call welfare, while only backing tax breaks, primarily for corporations and the wealthy.

The Internet’s communications layer is built on top of a physical layer of wires, routers, and servers, just as society’s laptop layer is built on top of a physical layer of material goods and the people who transport and maintain them.

Without drivers, there is no DoorDash. No electricity, no Internet.

All that stuff people took for granted turns out to be essential.

The 19th-century robber barons gave us railroads, steel mills, and ocean liners.

The 21st-century equivalents gave us Facebook and Netflix.

People who work in the material world, such as blue-collar employees, service workers, and farmers, did not fare as well.

When energy, goods, and food are cheap and plentiful, they appear to be in the background, barely noticeable.

The world is full of people whose hard and largely thankless work keeps the lights on, and the grocery shelves stocked, the toilets flushing, and even the Internet running.

For decades, they have been disregarded, denigrated, and even subjected to a form of economic warfare for the last several decades, but suddenly people are noticing that they matter.

Joel Kotkin calls it “the revenge of the material economy.”

And it’s why “the little guys” are now demanding decent wages, even as the political class blames them for inflation.

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