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I've been interviewing for jobs that pay about 60 percent of what I was making four years ago. One manager said, "Why should I hire you when someone as experienced as you is going to leave as soon as something better opens up?"
"This is the going rate now," I said. "It's the new normal."
That's how it is, as we make the transition to a Third World stratified system, with the very wealthy at the top, and the rest of us struggling at the bottom. Maybe someone should do something about that?
Ms. Woods’s current job has not been meeting her needs. When she began driving a passenger van last year, she earned $9 an hour and worked 40 hours a week. Then her wage was cut to $8 an hour, and her hours were drastically scaled back. Last month she earned just $233. So Ms. Woods, who said that she had been threatened with eviction for missing rent payments and had been postponing an appointment with the eye doctor because she lacks insurance, has been looking for another, better job. It has not been easy.
“I’m looking for something else, anything else,” she said. “More hours. Better pay. Actual benefits.”
These are anxious days for American workers. Many, like Ms. Woods, are underemployed. Others find pay that is simply not keeping up with their expenses: adjusted for inflation, the median hourly wage was lower in 2011 than it was a decade earlier, according to data from a forthcoming book by the Economic Policy Institute, “The State of Working America, 12th Edition.” Good benefits are harder to come by, and people are staying longer in jobs that they want to leave, afraid that they will not be able to find something better. Only 2.1 million people quit their jobs in March, down from the 2.9 million people who quit in December 2007, the first month of the recession.
“Unfortunately, the wage problems brought on by the recession pile on top of a three-decade stagnation of wages for low- and middle-wage workers,” said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group in Washington that studies the labor market. “In the aftermath of the financial crisis, there has been persistent high unemployment as households reduced debt and scaled back purchases. The consequence for wages has been substantially slower growth across the board, including white-collar and college-educated workers.”
Just about everyone I know is also working longer, unpaid hours. They're coming in early, working through lunch and staying late. That's why this BBC story doesn't surprise me:
People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
It says people have become "screen slaves" and are often working while commuting or after they get home.
The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain.
Unions said people needed to learn to switch off their devices.
An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours.
The organisation said people were topping up their working day with more than two hours of extra screentime, on average, every day.
The data suggested that having too much work and easing pressure during the day were the two main reasons for the extra workload.
Well, sure! After all, they have to hire people who are desperate enough to do the work of two without complaining. They have to come up with the money for those huge management bonuses somewhere!