Cause and Effect of Low Wages
Kay Lynn Ruth Hurst English Comp 1 08 October 2012 The Cause and Effect of Low Income Jobs on Family Life While researching the cause and effect of the economy on low wage workers, the discovery of how the families struggle on a daily basis to juggle work, child care, transportation and family well-being was astounding. While some families are two parent homes, only one is able to work due to the cost of child care. Other families consist of one parent, who works two jobs to take care of the children’s needs, while the child’s greatest need, a stable home environment, is neglected.
While the cost of living continues to rise, the cost of wages does not, causing low income families to depend largely on assistance from state and government agencies. Is there an end to this continuous struggle? Will the families struggling to survive see any relief? The American Job Act is being put forward by the President to expand employment opportunities for communities that have been particularly hard hit by the recession and for workers who may take longer to get back on their feet due to greater income losses and smaller savings than higher income worker (The American Jobs Act, 1).
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While upper class households may not even feel a sting from the rise of inflation, low income families feel the impact without ever having to check the stock market (Inflation hits home, 1). With the rising cost of inflation, low income families have to make even more sacrifices. Two income families turn into one income families to cut back the extra expense of child care. The adult left working feels the full weight of the financial responsibility and works longer hours or finds a second job closer to home to keep gas expenses at a minimum, while caring for the family.
Single parent households may rely on other family members to help with child responsibilities while they focus on providing for the material needs, leaving a void in their life and the life of the child (Effects of Low-Wage Employment on Family Well-Being, 119). Government assistance may help ease the sting of the rising cost of inflation for some families by providing reduced or free meal programs at school, daycare assistance, medical insurance and food stamps. In some areas, job training programs may also be available.
Single adults in low income jobs may even have a more difficult time than low income families. Government assistance is more difficult to obtain for the single adult than for an adult with a family. The single adult may find themselves sleeping in their vehicles on an abandoned street or in an abandoned lot, eating food from a convenience store, and visiting friends from time to time for showers and to launder their few pieces of clothing (Nickel and Dimed, 205).
Many single low income adults look for roommates to help share expenses of rent and utilities, helping to relieve the pressure of making ends meet. After observing the effects of low income wages to families, as well as single adults, research was needed to help identify the underlying causes of the minimum wage worker. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, lack of education and training, child care, and transportation often limit work opportunities (Obstacles Facing Low Income Women, 2).
Most employers are unwilling to accommodate family needs, making it difficult for the wage earner to keep a job (Obstacles Facing Low Income Women, 3). Women entering the work force for the first time are often met with obstacles different from that of a male, such as gender discrimination and sexual harassment (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 6). Most often these barriers intertwine causing the struggle to find and keep a job more difficult. The biggest barrier for the low income wage earner is transportation.
Even if higher education or training is offered, without a means to make it to the training the wage earner loses the chance at a better income. Public transportation could be an option, but if the wage earner has odd hours or works evenings or night hours, they might be able to make it to the job but have no way home, leaving them unable to accept the job. Most training and education centers are located outside of town, making it difficult for those living in rural communities, where no public transportation is offered, to get to the training site (Obstacles Facing Low Income Women, 3).
Another area of concern for low income wage earners is child care. Many parents, especially single parents, are left with a difficult decision of leaving their small child at home alone while they work or stay home with the child and watch them suffer because they are unable to provide for the child’s basic needs like food, clothing and utilities. Many employers have an indifferent attitude towards child care and transportation and are inflexible with hours or positions available, leaving the wage earner unable to accept the job offered.
Other wage earners work two jobs to be able to afford child care without taking away from child’s basic needs, leaving them with little to no chance for advancement or a more secure means of employment for their family (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 3). The last and often worst barrier for low income wage earners is harassment and discrimination. Many wage earners are faced with discrimination based on gender or race, or harassment based on sexual orientation and marital status.
Spanish and African American males have a more difficult time finding work other than manual labor for poor pay, while White males about the same age will be offered management or office positions with or without proper education or training. Also women entering the work force for the first time or re-entering after a divorce or child birth often face sexual harassment from their management staff but stay at the job due to the necessity of caring for their children (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 7).
Discrimination, harassment, childcare issues and transportation difficulties, along with little or no education or training may undermine wage earners efforts to find and keep a job (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 9). What policies, if any, are in place to help the low income wage earner advance in this ever changing economy? Research suggests that public policies to these employment barriers are either absent or inadequate. State and government agencies responsible for equal rights should pursue complaints and work harder to enforce policies set out to combat discriminatory practices (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 9).
New policies need to be adopted to help with making higher education accessible to everyone, childcare affordable and accessible to needy families, children with special needs, sick child care and child care during nontraditional hours, and an expansion of transportation options for workers who live too far from available jobs (Obstacles Facing Low-Income Women, 10). Such policies are an essential step to helping low income families move a step closer toward financial security.