Work can be dignifying, but only when workers are treated with dignity. Unfortunately, more and more workers find themselves in jobs that neither pay well nor offer them hope for advancement or a career. In addition to poor benefits, including the almost complete disappearance of pension accounts, workers must now contend with a for-profit sector that prefers to hire temporary workers in lieu of permanent employees, who might demand higher wages and better benefits packages.
Underemployment is one of the saddest stories of this Great Recession. In addition to the unemployed workers in the United States (almost 8 percent), there are many more people who are underpaid and dissatisfied with the jobs they hold. Stores like Jamba Juice would prefer to hire a worker at 25 hours a week, even when she is available and willing to do more, because a full-time worker is more expensive. In this poor job market, employers can choose to be picky. In the United States, where the social safety net is fraying, the loss of permanent jobs threatens devastating effects.
The disappearance of full-time jobs is especially damaging to families and young people. When a job is temporary, termination always seems just around the corner, a state of affairs that only serves to weaken the family. And the enthusiasm of college graduates wanes quickly when they cannot find a permanent job, let alone a path to a satisfying career. Even the most menial of jobs can be satisfying if a worker knows she is working for the good of her family. For too many Americans, a paying job no longer offers hope for a better tomorrow.