As of August 7th, there were 8.6 million people to be considered “out of work” in the United States, yet nearly 10 million job openings. A majority of these jobs were considered to be low-wage or minimum-wage jobs. Despite the roll out of the vaccine, and the fear of the pandemic beginning to subside, low-wage and minimum-wage workers still did not want to return back to work. It is no secret that this lack of will to work was a result of the government providing enhanced unemployment benefits which served as an incentive for the unemployed to remain at home in their sweatpants, enjoying the newest Netflix series. But that is another problem within itself.
The more serious problem that we as Americans are facing is that many of us are perfectly fine remaining unemployed during this pandemic, and are failing to recognize the vast array of opportunities that the current job market holds
In 2008, Mike Rowe, an American television host and narrator established the “S.W.E.A.T. Pledge” (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo), in order to articulate the qualities that he values most. At the foundation of the sweat pledge are twelve statements of belief, each conveying an underlying tone regarding the importance of creating opportunity for oneself, especially when it comes to work. His twelve points are entirely refreshing and above all, motivating; I would encourage every American, jobless or not, to take the time to read them.
Unsurprisingly, however, in 2015 Rowe’s “S.W.E.A.T. Pledge” received criticism after he expressed his concern for the $15 minimum wage, stating that unskilled, and somewhat “underpaid” jobs are “simply not intended to be careers. They’re not intended to be full-time jobs. They’re rungs on a ladder.” While critics described his pledge coupled with his statement regarding the $15 minimum wage as “right-wing propaganda,” Rowe responded by saying that he simply wanted to “shine a light on a few million good jobs that no one seems excited about,” but more importantly, to “remind people that real opportunity still exists for those individuals who are willing to work hard, learn a skill, and make a persuasive case for themselves.”
This statement seems more relevant today, amongst the Covid-19 Pandemic, than it has ever. The statistics concerning the disparity between the number of jobs available, and the millions of Americans who are out of work is eye opening. As jobs become more widely available, and people remain at home, one must ask: is this pandemic serving as a catalyst for the creation of an entire generation of people who do not understand that no individual is above a menial job, that a better job has to be earned, or that each person has the opportunity to rise? If this is so, then as Americans we must be worried about the future of our workforce, and even more worried about our society as a whole.