Underemployment challenges our nation’s futureLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Underemployment challenges our nation’s future

This past spring, I was informed the position I held at a local counseling center was ending due to a lack of clients. I was serving as the teacher of record for teens suffering from extreme anxiety and depression who had stopped attending their local schools.

The idea was the center would provide them with an environment where they could get caught up with their schooling while receiving much needed daily counseling with the hope we could get them to return to their regular schools. Everyone my boss spoke to thought this was a great idea. The schools felt there was a big need for such a program and the center was already an established family counseling provider. Unfortunately, we just could not get enough parents to buy into what we offered to keep it going.

By June, I was back to job hunting. However, unlike most Americans who lose their job, I was not concerned. First, it was a part time job that supplemented my retirement and not something that I depended on to pay the mortgage and other bills. Second, I figured it would not be that difficult to find another job to fill 20 to 25 hours a week of my time.

During my time at the center, I began to realize the impact of under employment and how it affects people at many levels. This was my third part time job since retirement. My first was working at a pet crematorium where I was the old fart of the bunch. Most everyone I worked with was half my age, had only a high school education, and all had their hours restricted because the boss was looking to avoid having to pay the cost of health care. Making enough money was a challenge to the rest of the crew.

At my next job, I worked for a Parks and Rec program where again, hours were limited. Specialists were capped at 30 hours a week while most everyone else was topped off at 20. There were few full time positions to be found and though you could opt in for insurance coverage, most could not afford to on their hourly pay. Many of the younger employees had degrees in Recreation and were still paying off college loans while still living with their parents because they could not afford the cost of rent.

While at the counseling center, most of the counselors were in their late 20s to early 30s, held a Masters Degree, and were just getting by in life. No one was employed full time and each held at least one other job. Three that I knew of were considering going into a new line of work all together because they could do the math and knew it would be a long time before they might see life making a buck in their field of study. One was already planning to go back and wait tables because she knew doing that full time with tips was going to allow her to earn more than she could as a mental health professional with a Masters degree.

My neighbor has a one-year-old son and holds down three jobs while her live in boyfriend works a full time job. They rent a home and still have to keep one or two roommates to make ends meet. She has a nightmare of a schedule that has her bouncing back and forth between jobs, one of which is during the graveyard shift. She has to be home when her boyfriend is at work because of the high cost of child care. She is lucky because she has family nearby to help out in a pinch. They do not have extravagant tastes, just the misfortune of being born at the wrong time.

As it turns out, this time around was a bit of a challenge finding part time work. Despite applying for a number of different jobs, my searching resulted in just two interviews; one was working from 5am to 9am cleaning up a downtown park and nearby area that is a favorite for homeless people. Basically, I was to be the first reminder it was time for them to get up and move on before cops came around to tell them to. Then it was time to clean up their feces and other messes so the public did not have to deal with it. I decide to pass on this primarily because I am selfish and prefer having breakfast and working out at this time. In other words, I was not that desperate for work.

Next up was a job being a dog walker. Sounds like fun until you realize how much money you are going to spend on gas getting from job to job and the down time in between assignments, which is not long enough to work another part time gig, but just long enough to be boring. I saw no need for me to be the guy who walks a 150-pound dog in 95-degree heat so I was not heart broken when the owner selected someone else.

Then I hit pay dirt. Actually, I hit it three times. In a span of a week, I landed three different part time positions, each of which I liked too much to say no to. Today, I am once again employed by Parks and Rec and am excited about the opportunity to develop a new community wide health and fitness program. At the moment, it is only averaging around six hours a week, but it has the possibility of turning into a 30 hour a week job which would be great.

I also landed a great job at a nearby YMCA and get to work in their wellness center teaching small group fitness classes. The people are wonderful there and the work is enjoyable. Last night, after making six adults wonder why they let me put them through the workout I put together, they all thanked me before dragging themselves home for the night. The young couple from Poland who wanted to check out the place also thanked me for the time I gave them showing them around the Y while pointing out all of its offerings. However, other than a few full time employees, if you work for the Y, your hours are capped at twenty-five a week.

Finally, my third job was just too good to pass on, a part time position teaching PE two afternoons a week at a small charter school. Who else will pay a retired teacher close to $40.00 an hour these days for part time work?  The kids are great, the school is unique, and it is close to my job at the Y.

I have no idea how many hours I work each week. I am paid for about twenty-five, but then like most Americans, there is work I do at home prepping for my jobs. I do know my three jobs are a scheduling nightmare at times, but all my bosses are okay with my dilemma so I make it work. In a few months, I hope to have a schedule that sees me spending two days a week driving into Ventura to do my two jobs there so I can spend the other three days here in town at the Recreation Department.

I am lucky. You see, unlike the others I have mentioned who are underemployed and working multiple jobs, my kids have grown and left the nest. I do not have to shuttle them back and forth between school, appointments, music lessons or soccer practice. My wife is able to work part time as well without similar worries. While we may get an earful from our five dogs when we return home, we at least still have time for each other and do not have to go into a state of panic if a car breaks down or there is a medical emergency.  We have life pretty well covered. At least I think we do.

Our presidents, past and present, love to brag about low unemployment figures when they are released. I pay no attention to them because they fail to paint an accurate picture of life in America. They do not tell us the number of citizens who have just given up and stopped looking for work and they certainly do not tell us just how many are under employed.

From what I have found on under employment, the rate seems to be somewhere between 25 and 40 %. Compare that to the 4 % unemployment rate and you begin to realize why so many adults are struggling to make ends meet. These are not people who simply live beyond their means and bitch about low pay for full time employment. They are the folks I have described to you who just want an opportunity to follow the American dream and have in its place found the American nightmare.

Why have kids if you can’t be around to raise them? How do you save for tomorrow when you are working your ass off to get by today?

These are also people who say yes to ideas like free health care, free tuition, and free child care because they know the life people like me have had a chance to enjoy has been destroyed by boomers greed, mismanagement, and horrific leadership. Leaders who lack empathy call these things handouts because they would prefer to build walls, pay for wars, and line their pockets with profits before ever thinking of investing in our future generation of citizens.

They are also the people who will brag about the simple to understand unemployment figures while laughing at the poor saps who buy into it over martinis at their private clubs.

Don’t believe what you are told. All is not well for the American worker. In fact, it sucks. And if it continues, in just a few years, it will be all the younger generation has known, just as being at war will be. It will also be the primary reason we implode as a nation. You see, the enemies we should fear most are not those who live abroad and want to bring harm to us, it is the people who call the shots from within and have no regard for the well-being of the minions they laugh at.

Unemployment may be low, but morale is even lower because for much of the American working class, they cannot see a future where their hard work will pay off. A political party that can provide Americans with the hope of a future where their efforts are rewarded so they too can enjoy a decent retirement will be richly rewarded by voters.

Come November, we will see how the nation feels about their future. The old guard should be worried because they are about to receive a very loud message they can no longer afford to ignore or laugh at.

 

 

 

 


About the author

James Moore

Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program. Contact the author.
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