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No one wants to work anymore? Is it true?

By Lee Cleveland - January 6, 2023

I’m sure most of us have recently heard people complain about ‘people who don’t want to work,’ especially as it relates to teens, 20-somethings, and others in the lower-wage workforce.

In her Medium.com article nO bOdY wAnTs tO WoRk, Hanna Brooks Olsen dispels the notion about people not wanting to work with common sense logic and powerful truths.

So, who are these people who (presumably) don’t want to work?

Olsen insists we think of a young, lazy, happy-go-lucky individual smoking a joint and gazing into space while living high of the hog thanks to the government. But, Olsen challenges that stereotype exists and is right to do so.



Remember the “Welfare Queen” scare that was popular during the 1980sand is still occasionally used by right-wing campaigns today? In the end, it was one woman, an obvious outlier, who managed to trick the system – And she was caught by authorities not long after. Nevertheless, people thought, and some still believe, the government is all too happy to give away heaps of free money to people who aren’t working.

They are living in Fantasy Land.

FACT: The vast majority of unemployed people who are of working age, want to work. They want a reliable income in order to attain stability in their lives and a sense of pride and self worth.



So, who is regurgitating the ‘no one wants to work anymore’ nonsense?

Olsen describes them as “Old Economy Steves who have not had to look for a job in decades, have not had to fight with the Byzantine debacle that is our unemployment system, and has probably received somewhat regular raises. These are people who haven’t had to pay more than a copay at the doctor in ages and never miss a dental cleaning.”

BINGO! She nailed it. They are people who are withdrawn from the realities of the lower-wage workforce and, for whatever reason, like believing herd mentality that people under 30 and others in the entry-level blue-collar sector are simply too lazy to work.

The myth of unemployment money

Why do some people think folks who are receiving unemployment money are living large and totally content? Unemployment benefits DO NOT pay more than a full-time job. And the numbers aren’t even close.

Second, Olsen reminds readers that in order to get that money, you have to have been “working” and subsequently laid off from a previous job. And if you quit your job for almost ANY reason or were fired, you aren’t entitled to those wages.

Olsen also notes that obtaining that unemployment check isn’t as simple as most think. No, the government, at least at this level, isn’t keen on throwing away money. In fact, at this level, it’s quite stingy. To obtain unemployment, you have to fill out a lot of paperwork, explain who laid you off and why, meet with a counselor, and show proof you’re looking for work.

And yes, they will investigate you if they think something isn’t right. I once had a friend who found a job but didn’t alert the unemployment agency until three months later. Yes, she was double-dipping. Unfortunately for her, the government found out and forced her to pay back three months’ worth of unemployment wages.

While governments, whether Democrat or Republican-run, have histories of blowing money, that’s not the case on the individual level.



Childcare

If you have kids, you’re familiar with the crazy costs of childcare these days. A 22-year-old single mom without a college degree is sometimes better off being a full-time parent than ringing up items at the local grocery store.

In my region, the DC area, the weekly rate for a nanny is $855 per week (or $3420/mo) while the national average is $420 a week (or $1700/month). Even after working 40 hours per week, that young mom might be only earning $3,000 per month – and that’s before withdrawals for taxes, health coverage and commuting expenses.

Depending on the childcare costs in her area, she might be better off as a full-time mom for a little while if she has relatives who’ll financially help her.

Lack of a consistent revenue stream

Olsen points out that job reliability, or lack thereof, has been an issue in the lower-wage workforce since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

“If your restaurant or store closed unexpectedly due to COVID exposure of a positive test, there was no hope for compensation,” she wrote.

“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.”

Unemployment checks aren’t much but they are consistent.

Gas prices and the cost of getting to work

Olsen briefly touches on the cost to commute. And from my own personal experiences, I can attest commuting costs these days are no joke depending on where you live and work.

At my previous job, I paid $600 a month just to commute. It cost $22/per day to park and about $8/day in gas. And I held that job from 2016 to 2020, prior to inflation and the recent surge in gas prices. That’s $7,200 per year of out-of-pocket cash just to get to work.

And taking public transportation was only about 30% lower, and the commute time was double and sometimes triple when I used buses and the subway.

The position was full-time office job and I had good benefits so the cost to commute didn’t break me; However, I can only imagine the cost-to-commute frustrations of someone working in a part-time, lower-wage position with little or no benefits.

In sum, Olsen brilliantly states: “We want to work because we want to survive. We want to work because we need money…. But we don’t want to work if it means impossible hours, physical demands that crush us, and little to no protections for our lives outside of work. Nobody wants to bag groceries for $18 just so they can spend half of it on gas to get to their next job.”

In her article, nO bOdY wAnTs tO WoRk, Olsen also discusses wages vs cost of living for 20-somethings and low-wage earners, student debt forgiveness, increased COVID-19 vulnerabilities for law wage earners, the rise of gig economy labor (like DoorDash and Uber), and shares compelling stories about her own work situations and salary struggles in the past.

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