The Crisis Facing The Working Poor
A growing part of American society belongs to a group which is referred to as the working poor. These are the people who hold down jobs and want to pay their own way, but aren’t able to make enough money to do so. As a result they are forced to live in near-poverty, struggling to make ends meet, week to week.
According to recent reports, more people returned to work in the US in 2011 than in the previous several years. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that most of these new jobs were at the lower end of the pay scale, in sectors that offered less than full-time hours and few if any benefits. This trend has grown to the tune of an additional 200,000 families in 2011, up from the numbers released for 2010.
The highest growth rate has been in the service industry. Historically these are the kind of jobs that are low paying, without benefits and frequently part-time.
Unfortunately, today there are fewer of those better paying jobs that employed the middle class very comfortably in the past.
Who Are The Working Poor?
So who exactly are the working poor and why can’t they get better paying jobs? The working poor are average, hard working men and women who can’t get jobs that pays enough to cover their living expenses.
As a result they live close to or even under the poverty level, which according to the government figures, is currently around $22,811 for a family of four. According to a report released by the ‘The Working Poor Project’, even though the economy has made some gains in various segments, these gains have not filtered down to low-income families. Their data also supports the fact that the middle class is shrinking.
They also looked at regional differences. Some southern states like Georgia and South Carolina as well as western states like Nevada and Arizona experienced the largest increase in the working poor. The Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic regions had some increases, but these were at lower levels.
Make no mistake; American initiative is alive and well, even in post recession America. Most people flat out want to work rather than depending on handouts.
This is especially the case for those who had well-paying jobs before the recession hit. But since then they have been forced to accept jobs, which are much different from the jobs they previously held.
For example, many manufacturing jobs have disappeared. They have been replaced with jobs requiring fewer skills, which pay a lot less and don’t provide benefits. These are ‘better than nothing’ jobs, but not by much when it comes to what they can provide for the families of wage earners.
The recession officially “ended” in late 2009, but the problems remain. In fact for many working families, the problems have gotten worse. Statistics show that nearly a third of working families are now struggling to make enough money to meet basic needs. That’s up from 28% back in 2007 when the recession started.
Basic needs include food, housing, clothing and health care. Currently, there are more than 49 million Americans of every age, who do not have health insurance. And with wages being so low, it’s unlikely that they will be able to afford to pay health insurance premiums any time soon.
It gets worse, as statistics show that the median household income for almost all groups has decreased by thousands of dollars between 2000 and 2010. When you look at statistics like that, it’s no wonder that there are so many working poor.
The Effects Of Near-Poverty On Children
In 2011, around 37 percent of American children were part of working poor families. This is compared to about 33 percent in 2007, which is when the recession began.
The effect on children doesn’t only come down to dollars and cents. Of course, this is a big one, but consider some of the other problems experienced by children whose parents are forced to work for minimum wage.
Many service jobs are evening or even night jobs. Who looks after the kids when the parents go off to work cleaning offices or waiting tables?
When you don’t have an extra penny to stretch; that means that any problem can have a far-reaching effect on the entire family. If a child is sick, that may mean a parent missing work. If the car breaks down, where does the money come from to make repairs?
These situations and others like them create huge stresses on these families and the stress affects every single member of the family in one way or another.
Is There A Solution? It’s pretty obvious that things are not going to magically return to the pre-recession era anytime soon. So if we can’t depend on a surging economy, government stimulus funds, or the private sector to create well-paying jobs in huge numbers, then what can be done?
Maybe it has to come down to using some of that good old American initiative that we mentioned. If you’re the person holding down that entry-level position or flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant, chances are you are frustrated with your situation and know that given a chance you could do so much more.
But since you’re not going to get that chance with your employer why not do it for yourself? Did you know that today, thousands of Americans run small businesses right out of their own homes?
Some do it for the personal satisfaction of working for themselves; others do it because they want to spend more time with their children. Still others do it because they like the fact that it gives them more control over their own lives.
But the vast majority do it to supplement their incomes. Running a small home-based business can be the difference between making ends meet and having to choose between buying groceries and paying the rent at the end of the month.
Now before you start raising all kinds of objections about why this couldn’t possibly work for you, realize that people in all walks of life and in all kinds of financial situations have done it and continue to be successful right now.
So let’s look at a few of those objections.
Of course the number one concern is that it will cost money that you don’t have. But the fact is that there are many home- based businesses that can be started up with a minimal investment, and some that require no money upfront at all. You just have to find the right one.
Another concern is the time involved. Well, admittedly you do have to spend some time getting things set up initially. But even if you’re working full-time, maybe you can squeeze in a few hours here and there. There is no deadline so you do it when and, as you are able.
Once it’s set up, it will require a lot less time (unless of course you get really busy and successful, in which case you may not need that minimum wage job at all.)
A third common worry is not having the money to have Internet at home. It’s a valid concern since there are many business opportunities that require Internet to run. But the good thing is that today there are many places where you can use Internet services free of charge, like your local library, the employment center, or even a coffee shop. That’s going to be enough to get you started, until you can afford to get hooked up at home.
Being a member of the working poor is nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re working and still struggling to make ends meet, starting a small business on a part-time basis could make all the difference for you and for your family.
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