Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Kinds of Labor

The Times has an article on young people taking multiple part-time jobs in order to fill the days, and concludes with this thought:
Still, is job-juggling really sustainable, particularly when the next stage of life hits and there may be a mortgage and children?

Ms. McCarty doesn’t think so. She is looking for an end to her 80-hour weeks and meager paychecks. “I don’t want to be 30 and working a bunch of small jobs so I can pay my bills,” she said.

No one wants to be working eighty-hour weeks, but why should mortgage and a children be a huge impediment to a life of multiple part-time jobs? I suppose the reason is stability and rootedness, but are we just too rooted these days? The institution of the thirty-year mortgage looks particularly odd these days; I’m sure there are a number of older people just paying off their thirty-year mortgage in Detroit right now who were looking forward to a much easier life, financially speaking, only to find it’s not quite what they wanted to be.

This may be an interesting case of culture versus economics; economically the idea of a series of part-time jobs looks intriguing—with the increasing substitutions of computers and machines for labor, actual people become less important and so part-time jobs becomes a possible economic solution. One could imagine this being appealing for many reasons too—you get to try out a bunch of different stuff and generate a variety of experiences; perhaps you’d become more entrepreneurial as you acquire a variety of experiences. Culturally, though, society is still geared against dilettante career-hopping: the thirty-year mortgage, as mentioned; perhaps marriage expectations; and career prestige is still tilted towards the people who focus over the people who hop around. So will money change our expectations or will our expectations change where the money goes?

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