17 May 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Why is it so hard for people in my generation to “make it”? So many of my friends (I’m around 40) work hard, and no matter what we do, we just can’t get ahead. My parents and friends from the baby-boomer generation sometimes sound as if they’re blaming us: that if we just try harder, or get more education, it’ll all work out. Don’t they know how much different the educational investment and the job prospects are?
Signed, Feeling like giving up
The society we live in values productivity over all else: over family, relationships, even our physical and mental health. And, it seems to many of us, society finds more and more ways to exploit workers. While the cost of housing, goods and services, and education have gone up dramatically, wages have remained almost constant for the last 50 years. Companies create “unpaid internships” that allow them to get free labor from vulnerable and inexperienced workers. Workers get their jobs cut, which increases the load of responsibilities for everyone else. Jobs that can support us are scarce; often they’re underpaid for the level of experience and education of the worker. Minimum wage jobs are a joke, unable to provide a full-time worker with even a poverty level subsistence.
Employees in helping professions–such as teachers, social workers, mental health care professionals, paramedicals, etc.–have seen their workload increasing while their wages remain the same.
Teachers, for example, were expected to essentially reinvent the educational system this past school year. For their efforts they have had to work harder, and under worse conditions than ever before, while facing criticism from parents and the school board. And was there any discussion of raising their pay? Not that I’ve heard.
The joke is that if you have an “appreciation day” (such as nurses appreciation day, teacher appreciation day, administrative assistant appreciation day) it means you don’t get paid enough.
Older Christians love to say that capitalism is a biblical principle, suggesting that those who aren’t getting ahead are just lazy and entitled. “You should work as hard as I did at your age!” But what about the principle in 1 Timothy 5:18: “The worker deserves fair compensation” (AMP)? Why don’t we hear about that biblical principle?
You would think that an organization like a church would be above exploitation—not so. Church employees are squeezed between work and wages, too, with the added expectations of having to volunteer their time at the church in addition to their normal job duties.
Many of your generation—and some in mine—realize that the system is not sustainable. There was a time in America when wealth was more evenly distributed: around 35% for each generation with slight fluctuations. But in the past 20 years, wealth has shifted dramatically: The 70+ age group holds around 26% of wealth, while ages 55-69 has grown to almost half! Only 5.9% is held by millennials.
Something needs to be fixed. Working some to death on poverty wages while the rich get richer, often on unearned investment income, just can’t continue.
What can we do? Let’s keep speaking up. This is a reality that needs to change. Eventually, with enough passionate people, and with prayer, we Christians can make the world a more equitable place.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.