Low-Wage Workers: A Look at Underpaid Americans

News & Politics

The Washington Post is beginning a series on low-wage workers, a demographic I happen to occupy. The first article in the series covers the basics of who low-wage workers are (most likely to be young, female, and/or Hispanic), how much they earn (less than $27,000 for single people, or $42,000 for a family of four), and what it means when jobs are scarce, pay poorly with little to no perks or benefits, and the anxiety one feels when she realizes she's without a safety net should she stumble. Some of the information in this first article are things we hear repeated daily in newspapers and nightly news -- low confidence in the market, growing anxiety, trying to find expenses to cut once you've already tightened the belt -- but I think these are things we need to keep hearing.

About half said they would only be able to survive a month before landing in financial trouble if they suddenly lost their jobs, while a third said they would last two weeks or less. A third of those polled said that someone in their families has been laid off or lost a job in the past year, while many others said their own or a family member's work hours had been reduced ...
... With inflation up 5 percent in the past year, the vast majority of those surveyed are having trouble paying for gas, saving for retirement or for their children's educations. Most find it difficult to afford health care and housing, and nearly half struggle to pay for food.
For many, their jobs contribute to the stress. Three in 10 work for companies that do not offer them health insurance or paid vacations. About 4 in 10 get no sick days or retirement benefits.
Anxiety, loss, worry, difficulty, helplessness, failure. Most people in low-wage jobs blame themselves, not their employers, for their circumstances, no matter the skill level of the job at hand.

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