How would you like to put in full-time hours at your job, work hard to perform your job well, manage your household, and yet still spend time waiting in lines for general assistance and charity to pay for your basic expenses, including food and heat? If you are a member of the growing population of minimum- and low-wage workers, this could be you. And the problem affects all of us.
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Age of the Low-Wage Worker
Low wages are not just for kids and teens anymore. They are for everybody.
Steven Greenhouse wrote a piece for the Economy section of The New York Times that compared the demographics of low-wage workers in 1979 and 2013. The changes are shocking. The steretype that low-wage workers are young, and are either just starting out or saving money for school is out of date and incorrect. In 2013, 20 percent of workers aged 25 to 34 earned low wages, up from 15 percent in 1979. In 2013, over 30 percent of workers ages 35 to 64 were making low wages.
Education of the Low-Wage Worker
Education has long been considered the doorway out of poverty. Get a good education, and more opportunities will be available to you, as will more money. Therefore, it may come as a surprise that, according to Greenhouse’s article, about 41 percent of low-wage workers today have some college education. Many factors contribute to this state of affairs, not the least of which is the recent recession.
The point is that it is getting more and more difficult to stay above the poverty line. Available jobs offer low wages, people put off finishing their educations because they cannot afford it, and health crises take any savings the family was able to stash away. People are asking for assistance with basics such as feeding their children, paying rent, keeping warm through an incredibly cold winter, and transporting themselves to work. The low wages available today do not support the cost of basic living.
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