Tuesday 20 September 2011

EMPLOYMENT ISN'T WORKING (Nor is Unemployment)

Now, here is a challenging thought.

In the United States, 64 per cent of people living in poverty have full-time jobs.

I was a bit hard-put to believe this. But apparently, it's correct. And in some cases, it's a couple of part-time jobs, which may add up to more than a full-time job.

Moreover, I know people in that category.

Now, more news. Among young families (meaning families under 30), 37 per cent are living in"economic distress." Meaning "poverty." That's up from about 25 per cent through the first decade of this century. For elderly families the poverty rate is about 5.7 per cent.

Back in the 1970s, the poverty rate for younger families was only slightly higher for families headed by someone aged 65 or older.

But now, having six young families in poverty compared to one elderly family in poverty, is the new norm. It means a huge social change.

First, there was a major shift back in the 1980s, with more money allocated to older citizens. Then, with welfare reform in the 1990s, there was less money to help poor families, which often have only one parent-wage earner (usually a woman). It's those latter families, and high-school dropouts, for whom there are no jobs, even for those who want to work.

The proverbial pigeons have come home to roost. And they're creating a mess, as pigeons usually do.

The change emphasizes the class distinctions (some say "class warfare") in the U.S.

Until meaningful and sustainable employment can be found for a lot of Americans, many will be locked in poverty. And when people are locked in poverty, they cannot spend money on houses, appliances, cars, and the like. That is spending the economy needs to see in order for real economic grown to take place.

"Buddy, can you spare me a job?"

Note: These are American figures, so this is not directly applicable to Canada. But I wonder if the numbers would be significantly different in the "true north strong and free."


  1. Nice. What can you say about a country like that? The less the better, I guess.

  2. It is bad in England too, very bad actually! Yet still most of the money is in a very small percentage of the population's pockets. When I was learning sociology some years ago (not to a high level I might add) the percentage was something like 95% of the wealth was in the hands of 5% of the population. It's probably a bit different now - could be even worse. Makes the point though, doesn't it. If only we could learn to share and forget how to hoard!!! I have not had a job since July 2010 and during that time our government has decided to with hold my pension for another 1 yr and 8 months. Women over here used to get it at age 60 (that's me next month) but now we have to wait another nearly two years. That might sound good enough to those of you across the pond but it isn't good to me because I didn't expect it. It was thrust in my lap. I'm lucky, I have someone to look after me - not everyone else has.
    We have a lot of immigrants over here, but in the main they are very hard-working, especially the eastern Europeans. However, if they weren't here, our own would have more work.
    - Shut up now Stella, you're going on and on!

  3. Sometimes we feel like we are drowning here. Our annual income used to be considered "Middle Class".
    Now we are barely scraping by on the same income. I see the effects in my neighborhood, we aren't the only one's struggling to keep the utilities turned on. I feel awful when I see one of my neighbors water or gas getting shut off. And they all work! It's very sad.
    Somethings gotta give soon. Love Di ♥

  4. ® Blog Fodder: The phrase that comes to mind is, "Oh, how sadly fallen."

    ® Star: Thanks for visiting, and sharing your story. You're in a difficult situation. Made even more difficult by a government that has changed the rules in mid-game. Certainly not cricket, the way they're treating folks!
    I do appreciate the details of your story. It is so like the stories of others.

    ® Diana: Thanks for sharing your story, too.
    Yes, it is sad when hard working people lose the battle to keep their heads "above water."

    Blessings and Bear hugs to all you folks, as you keep trying to live with what you have.

  5. I keep telling everyone, we are going to have to start living like the Waltons. Not sure if you remember that TV Show with John Boy.
    Anyway, families are going to have to start sharing a home just to make ends meet.

  6. New Albany was becoming a ghost town due to no availability of employment. Streets falling apart, homes vacant. This makes everyone feel hopeless and on the edge.

    In Florida, not having a job seems to be the norm and perfectly acceptable. The houses in our village are going into foreclosure and now available to be rented by anyone with part of the first month's rent. Which will lead to more trouble down the road.

    One young woman with two children and no car was able to rent a luxury home that no one could afford to buy.

    As she's laying at the pool all day, she keeps saying she hopes she can find a job.

    Unless McDonald's has a limo service, she won't have to worry about working.

    And that's the problem. People who actually work can't make it and it leads to rage.

  7. ® My Journey with Candida: I remember the Waltons, indeed. (You're talking almost ancient history here.)
    They operated a lumber mill and did some farming. They had a big, three-generation family.
    Your idea sounds great, but it would take a lot of social change. Including housing by-laws in some communities.
    Thanks for sharing.

    ® Beau's Mom: Memory serves that New Albany had one big business. Kinda like putting all your eggs in one basket.
    I wonder how typical the situation in Hernando is. I suppose there are some similarities with many places. Particularly foreclosure.
    I think your bottom line is absolutely right: "People who actually work can't make it and it leads to rage."
    Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. I did 2 jobs for 6 months, it made me ill. Saying that I could do with more work, but 2 jobs is much harder than 1 full time one. So for now I'm waiting for extra hours where I currently work, not sure how long I can afford to wait though.

  9. ® H A R R Y G O A Z: Thanks. You too.

    ® Suburbia: Two jobs, combined, are much harder than one. I know from experience. Hope you can get something extra at work. Soon!

  10. dear mr. bear, wise and true points you make here. i work with people in poverty, in an impoverished city. i see two threads:
    --definitely no job opportunity, not to mention that lack of transportation (no car) limits options considerably. practically, who will choose to take two or three buses to get to a job?


    --many people who could work have no concept of it. i can't believe the number of able bodied young men and women who have no intention or interest in working.

    --oh , and one more point. Most people are happier working than not working.


  11. Interesting stats - any worrying.

    I'm in the UK and not sure where we are but I know the last govt had a plan to get every child out of poverty... however the govt measure of poverty is relative to national average income. So a policy doomed to failure surely, since if poverty is n% less than national average even if you gave everybody £100K from the state, there would be people still in poverty but just at a higher position monetarily. Makes no sense.

    Whatever the fundamental shift between the haves and the have-nots has continued to grow over the last 30 years alarmingly. The cult of celebrity and footballers earning obscene weekly wages doesn't help as then people expect so much.

    The IMF is asking for stimulus - so in the UK we're going to upgrade the broadband. Why not just give the money to people who really need it and them spending it would surely stimulate the economy but "welfare" seems a dirty thought for some reason.

  12. ® Furtheron: Thank you for the worthwhile comments. Poverty seems to be the universal problem nobody can solve, or wants to solve (it appears).

  13. That gentleman's lady: Didn't mean to terrorize or terrify you. But the story is upsetting, to say the least.
    Thanks for your visit.

  14. A minister I know in our town calls them the working poor--they have jobs, but their wages are so low that they still can't pay their bills. He helps run a food pantry to help feed those who use their checks to pay the mortgage or their electric bill and then have nothing left over to buy groceries. It's very sad indeed.

  15. ® Daisy: Thanks for visiting; welcome to my blog.
    The pastor has the right language; such folks are indeed "the working poor." That's the proper title for them, sociologically, I think.
    A whole bunch of people got a food bank started here in River City. It has grown, and grown, and grown over the years. A huge number of people contribute.
    Sadly, some of the people who used to be donors are now coming there for food. Yeah, things have changed.

  16. I think it's worth noting that in the US for a family of five (maybe four) the poverty line is $33,000 a year (ish) and the only reason I know that is because I was so shocked to find myself under the poverty line!

    But, when we were there, both of us had jobs, mine was full time and his part time while he went to school...

  17. ® Cannwin: Usually a family of four. We have comparable rate up here.
    I often wonder if that is an appropriate rate. Or process of creating a rate.

  18. It is hard to see eo many people working so hard and still sruggling to get by. Then there are those who always seem to coast with little effort. I'll never understand it. But I guess there is the satisfaction of knowing that one makes a well deserved living.

  19. thanks for visiting my blog (a corgi in southern california) and your kind comment; I agree with what you said with income/expenses. I totally agree with what you said here too; America does need jobs. We need to stop outsourcing our jobs to other countries and stop giving jobs to technology (think about the last time when you called a business you actually got a live person). Until we make jobs, we are doomed.


  20. It such a sad world we live in right now, most of us in our area are struggling to make ends meet, we've cut back on everything we can to pay for Mr. P's meds a necessity in this household. Your post is so well written. Thank you for stopping by and your sweet comment.
    hugs ~lynne~

  21. There was an interesting article in the September 2011 issue of The Atlantic, Can The Middle Class Be Saved? by Don Peck:


    The article is about the US, but I fear the overall trend is more widespread. Here is an interesting quote that will warm the cockles of your heart:

    Since 1993, more than half of the nation’s income growth has been captured by the top 1 percent of earners, and the gains have grown larger over time: from 2002 to 2007, out of every three dollars of national income growth, the top 1 percent of earners captured two.

    I read this about a month ago but from what I remember things do not look rosy for the middle class in the future. The lower end of the middle is pretty much already gutted and the upper end is being eroded.

    I believe that it is a strong and vibrant middle class that allows a nation to become a first world nation. Due to the fact that the US has decided that the middle class is a burden that it can no longer sustain, that wealth should be concentrated in the top 1 percent, and that the shareholder is the only important element of American society, I should imagine that we are rapidly approaching third world nation status and will probably achieve that goal within one or two generations.

    I have spent most of my adult life watching my generation tear down, in the name of the almighty dollar, what my parent's and grandparent's generations had worked so very hard to build. It makes you proud.

  22. ® Sextant: Thanks for dropping by. Welcome to Bear's blog.
    "I have spent most of my adult life watching my generation tear down, . . . what my parent's and grandparent's generations had worked so very hard to build."
    That is a very sad story of the single-minded chase for "the almighty dollar," which is a long way from being almighty.
    And yes, Canada and the U.S. are close to being third-world. Which always scares me.
    Excellent observations. Thank you.

  23. I was reading yesterday that the percentage of poverty in Russia is lower than in America. For some reason, that struck me as odd. For years those two old adversaries were in a cold war, but it seems that in many ways America lost.

    It will be interesting to see if the demonstrations on Wall Street will make any change. I doubt it, though.

  24. Good Morning Bear ~ I think I'm going to like your style and voice in this blog. You speak from your big bear heart and it is obvious that through sharing we don't feel so alone and there is healing in that.

    Times are different for our children and grandchildren, and helping them without enabling them is a fine line. Let the heart lead and the intelligence follow.

    Thank you for coming out of the hibernation you sometimes want to wallow in, climbing that tree for better perspective and teaching us to awaken our potentials. Bear Medicine is very powerful.

  25. ® Jo: I find it a little difficult to believe there's more poverty in the U.S. than in Russia. But I believe there is a possibility that is so. I just haven't seen the evidence. If you could send me what you read (by way of a url or magazine reference) I would love to see it.
    The interesting thing is that "Occupy Wall Street" is spreading, not just to cities across the US, but here in Canada as well.
    It all reminds me of Harold Beale's famous line in the movie Network: "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore."
    Here's to change.

  26. ® Deborah: Thanks so much for your kind remarks.
    For some reason, your comment about children and grandchildren drew me back Sextant's comment (above). In his case, it was about tearing down what parents and grandparents had painstakingly worked to build.
    It's "Mental Illness Awareness Week" in the US, something I have noted on my Chrome blog (which is my main blog).

  27. But bear, you didn't comment on my comment :-(

  28. ® kj: OOOPS! Sorry about that! Bear is easily befuddled these days.
    » Yes, there is real difficulty in finding jobs.
    » It's sad that people don't want to work at things which are usually considered work. Sad in some ways. But the truth is there are so many "surplus workers" in our society already, for whom there are no jobs, and for whom there may never be jobs. So why should they keep trying to fulfill an illusion that they can/will have jobs? Thus, I find I have more sympathy for those who choose not to work. But then, as a retired person, I also choose not to work.
    Wait a minute!
    Actually, that's not true, come to think of it. I do choose to work. But not at things that bring me money. Interesting, you know. People who do important things for society, like "volunteer workers," are not considered workers. Folks like Bear.
    » I agree that it is important for people to have important and creative things to do. Whether they are paid or not.
    The Keynesians of our world messed all that up, by saying unless you're earning an income, you're not working. We are still messed up by that definition. Sadly.

  29. Interesting debate, thanks for sharing and am enjoying reading everyone's thoughts. Thanks too for your comment bear, I do think big bears may cry, maybe just in private who knows. I am very glad there are many of us who would indeed hold out a hand, just in case it maybe needed.

  30. Hey, I would like to forward this data to someone, but only if I can get at the source. Do you remember exactly where you got this data, and what their source was? Ideally, I would like to track it back to a governmental agency publishing its numbers.

    If it does not track back there, then I probably cannot use it.

    The 64% of impoverished people have full time jobs, is the statistic of interest.

  31. Mon cher Roberto,
    I'm fine but thanks so much for asking. Just lots going on here in real life.
    Sounds like the US is even more depressing than when I left.
    Hope you are not in difficulty financially. Also, hope your health is holding up.

  32. This is so sad. and so true. Jobs are gone and we have two governments and even three counting municipal, that should stand up to bring jobs home.
    They are supposed to speak for us but for some reason don't do what they are paid for, standing up for people.Mom and Pop companies should be promoted and a deaf ear to the big guys who want it all but are not loyal to their customers.

  33. There definitely needs to be a change in the American system but the situation in Italy is even worse. You should check out the statistic for this country. It's pretty bad. That being said. I think the world needs a kind of revolution of sorts.


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