War on wages

There may be loads of good economic news out there, but almost none of it indicates that your basic wage-earner types — I have reference to, among others, me — are benefiting from it. Dave Schuler offers a couple of reasons why:

The first is fear. People are afraid to ask for a raise for fear of being replaced by someone from a temp firm or placement company who’ll work for lower pay and no benefits. Additionally, people find it hard to leave their present jobs to find better-paying ones. There are multiple reasons for that. Multiple-job households are one reason. I could also go into a diatribe on how resume-screening software provides an advantage to people who look good on paper but in practice are incapable of doing the job.

In a slight digression I heard recently from an excellent source that the IT operations of a major financial services company were shut down for a week due to malware, resulting in the loss of at least a week’s work. That would never have happened, say, twenty years ago. Their present operations are being run by temps and placements. There’s a different ethos at work.

Another prospective explanation is that the job reports aren’t telling the whole story. The jobs that are being created don’t pay better than the ones that are being lost. The jobs being created in health care aren’t jobs for physicians or the highest-paid technicians. They’re jobs for bedpan emptiers that pay minimum wage. People earning $25 an hour are still getting fired and the best jobs they can find pay $15 an hour. That depresses the wage figures.

It also depresses the wage earners, I suggest.

For the record, I have no idea what they’re paying my replacement when he — I assume it’s a he, because reasons — but I suspect it’s less than what I get. Of course, I have something like three decades’ worth of experience in a highly specialized field, but that and $6.99 will get you a combo meal at your favorite junk-food emporium.

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