The death of the job

“Once upon a time, there were good jobs.

These jobs paid people enough money to live on, even enough to support a family. They provided health insurance so people could go to a doctor if they got sick. They even came with pensions so that once you’d worked for a certain number of years, you could actually stop working. You could rest.

But there was a problem.

These jobs weren’t for everyone. They were mostly for white men, and mostly in certain places, like a factory or an office. For everyone else, there were jobs that paid less, with fewer benefits — or no benefits at all. And over time, there were more and more bad jobs and fewer and fewer good jobs, and even the good jobs started getting less good, and everyone was very tired, and there was not enough money.”

“The pandemic has made matters even worse. Millions of front-line workers risked their lives doing jobs that often offered them little more than poverty-level wages in return. Even for those able to work in the relative safety of their homes, the pandemic often sapped whatever joy, camaraderie, or fulfillment jobs had once offered — 40 percent of workers in one 2020 survey, the majority of them working remotely, reported experiencing burnout during the pandemic. The problem was only compounded for parents and others who took on new caregiving responsibilities, with mothers especially dealing with high levels of exhaustion and depression.

But the pandemic has also been a turning point for many workers, leading them to reevaluate their jobs in the face of new dangers — or a realignment of priorities brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime public health disaster. Indeed, the pandemic has led to record numbers of people quitting their jobs — 4 million this April alone, a phenomenon so widespread it’s been called the Great Resignation.”

“over the past 70 years or so, retail, hospitality, and other service jobs have proliferated while the manufacturing sector and others that once provided well-paid jobs with benefits have shrunk. That’s part of the reason American wages stagnated and more and more people had to go without health insurance (at least before the passage of the Affordable Care Act). “To a degree, the crisis today in work is because of this huge expansion of the service sector, which was not covered by the kind of regulations or unions or social norms that we once expected,” Lichtenstein said.

Other factors, too, combined to make jobs worse. Long hours became more common as more and more workers were declared exempt from the 40-hour standard. The rise of “just-in-time scheduling” made retail and other service work increasingly unpredictable, leaving workers unsure if they’d get enough hours to be able to pay rent, or be able to find child care during their ever-changing shifts. And some jobs themselves changed to become less pleasant. Retail, for example, “moved toward more customer self-service and away from the sort of skilled model of retail selling,” which meant less opportunity to interact with customers and hone sales techniques, and more of an emphasis on mechanically keeping people moving through a store”

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