In which I respond to a Twitter thread I read earlier.
Everybody baggin’ on Millennials for still living at home, not earning, not taking all those jobs.
Well, fuck that.
I’m not a Millennial; I’ve been working for decades. I’m making now what I made when I started working in the early 90’s – my earnings have essentially been flat. A few times I earned well, but not for long, in short-term contract gigs.
The job market over the course of my working career has gotten worse and worse, and pays less and less.
I’ve done a lot of job hunting over the years, and here’s what’s out there these days:
Utter, complete crap. Temporary jobs, temp-to-hire jobs, seasonal jobs, shitty hours, part-time without benefits, low paying, insecure, crap jobs that expect extremely overqualified applicants.
Nobody doing call center customer support for Fingerhut needs a bachelor’s degree, but that’s what their agencies ask for in the job listings. A degree or five years experience. For profoundly low-quality jobs.
I saw a posting here in Minneapolis just last week that wanted people, experienced technical people, to drive out to the suburbs (no public transportation available) to work three 10-hour days followed by a 6-hour day followed by a 4-hour day, with one weekend day required, in a call center for around twelve bucks an hour. Temporary position with “the possibility of full-time.”
That, friends, is a shit job, and yet it’s one of the good ones! Because at least you’re sitting down, and the hours are the same every week.
Want to know more about today’s job market? Go take one of the jobs that are left: work at one of the major retailers, like Walmart or Amazon or The Home Depot, why don’t you. They’ll hire you just a smidge under full-time (deliberately, so you don’t cost them any bennies), they’ll pay you ten or eleven bucks an hour, and your schedule will be randomly generated by a computer program so that you cannot plan anything more than two weeks in advance (so no second job, no school unless you’re a glutton for exhaustion).
And if all that isn’t bad enough, you’ll spend your 34 random hours a week at work not in an office but in an ugly, loud, artificial environment, pounding around on concrete floors, getting abused by both the customers you serve and idiotic, hostile corporate policies that remind you at every turn that you are just a cog, and a replaceable one at that.
Even if you’re a model employee, even if you’re wonderful and knowledgeable and charming and always on time and never sick and you internalize all the utterly dehumanizing, dollar-worshipping, sunshine-up-the-ass crap they train you with, eventually you’ll get let go.
You’ll break some hostile corporate rule (maybe you’ll be late three times within a 45-day period because your schedule’s random but you have to get your kid to school), or maybe you’ll get sick, or maybe you’ve been there so long you’re finally making actual money and they’ll remainder you so they can replace you with someone who doesn’t cost as much so they can funnel more money into some useless golf-obsessed asshole CEO’s bonus.
There is no such thing as employer loyalty to employees. Every employer works hard at designing jobs that require very little more than a pulse; jobs that virtually anybody can be plugged into. Big corporations pay their front line employees crap and keep entire dev teams to build shit software that intends to make those front line employees replaceable. They think they can put experience and knowledge and problem-solving into software, and replace the humans who use it, more or less at will.
This is why customer service sucks pretty much everywhere you go. Even the lowliest position requires human knowledge; if it didn’t, the job wouldn’t exist. And yet the person you’re talking to is inevitably new, because these jobs suck and there’s a lot of turnover, and, even if they’re not new, they’re completely unable to solve any problem not specifically covered by their job parameters.
In fact, the odds are, even if they’ve been there for a couple of years, they don’t even know anybody not on their own tier. Even big box retail store managers have very little access to solutions beyond refunds or coupons; the tools they use to do their jobs are built far away, by teams they’ve never even heard of let alone have access to. Lots of things just can’t be fixed, period. Fuck you.
Employers don’t care about employee expertise, they don’t care when somebody leaves and the entire store loses a valuable resource. To the typical employer these days, employees are all disposable.
Many jobs requiring certifications and degrees pay less than $15 an hour.
Many jobs are temporary.
Many jobs are scheduled randomly, which, believe me, has a massive impact on quality of life, because the employee’s sleep schedule is constantly impacted, and home and social life is skewed. Try spending three or five years working every single major holiday. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for human mental health, it is.
Seriously, if you really think there’s any honor in taking a shit wage in a shit job to earn less than you need to survive, you’re an asshole. These jobs are not like the jobs you remember. They’re awful and dehumanizing. And employers do not care about their human resources; they care about shareholders.
The sorts of career-building positions that used to exist just don’t exist anymore. I mean, there are some, sure, but not like there used to be. The people who have them are incredibly fortunate to have banker’s hours, paid vacation, holidays, and decent wages. They get to stay in the middle class.
Everybody else is dropping into poverty.
You don’t start as a bank teller right out of college and then end up in management in your 40’s. Why? Because banks are websites now.
You don’t start as a grocery store cashier right out of college and then end up in distribution in your 40’s. Why? Because stores are giant corporations now, and they’ll never pay you enough to remain in the middle class.
Even teaching at the college level is crap; they’re all students or interns now, getting paid little to nothing to work 65 hour weeks.
Jobs these days are “alternative” – temp, freelance, contract, part-time. They don’t pay a decent wage (or often even a living wage), they don’t offer bennies, and they don’t last.
The idea that there are “tons of openings, but there aren’t people with the right education and experience to fill them” is bullshit. People who are educated and experienced don’t want to work crap jobs for $9 an hour; they shouldn’t have to. But they do. And you wonder why they’re nihilistic? THEY’RE POOR.
And when an entry-level job wants applicants with advanced degrees but can’t find them, that’s not actually evidence that people are under-qualified. It’s evidence that the job market is a disaster.
Employers are demanding the most qualified applicants in the pool because they can – that’s how tight the market is – not because they should. Robots and automation are killing what used to be decent, honorable jobs, but the people all still exist.
Earnings have been stagnant for thirty years. 94% of net US job growth 2005-2015 was “alternative” work, not the kinds of real jobs people had in the 80’s.
You wonder why Millennials aren’t marrying, having kids, buying houses, even buying cars? This is why. They’re not middle class anymore, they can’t earn middle class wages and do middle class things because the jobs just aren’t there.
With the middle class failing in the way that it is, Millennials these days are either the few lucky ones at the bottom of the upper class – like the ones who live around here (I live in Uptown) in one of the newly constructed and mind-blowingly expensive apartment towers with underground, heated parking, restaurants and gyms built-in – or they’re college-educated, debt-ridden poor with nothing but low-quality, no-future, low-paying temporary work.
Even EMTs make shit wages these days! The guy or girl who saved your fucking life after that heart attack or car crash wasn’t even making $15 an hour! For a high-stress job like that!
Kids these days aren’t lazy; a lot of them are educated and willing to work, and work hard, just like you did. If only there were jobs.