Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Teen Unemployment

In the late 1950s one looked for summer employment for several reasons. First and most importantly, it was a means to fund college. Yes in those days with tuition some $750-$1,200 a year, and room and board as low as you could make it off campus, you found the best possible job for the most money. Thus as a lifeguard in NYC you got $60 a week, and this for 12 weeks you got $720.00. Almost there on tuition. If you lived in an apartment you could get 4 guys for $120 per month so it cost you $30 per month and food was rutabagas! You survived.

Yet to get the job as lifeguard you had to do one thing. Be one of the top 400 swimmers in NYC. You competed for the 400 slots by swimming 440 yards and you had to rank 1-400 to become employed. Having no access to a pool one ran and exercised and then eventually jumped into the 54th Street pool and swam like hell. It was not a job but your life that was driving you through the water, lungs burning and muscles being used in a way you had not trained for. But year after year one did this.

Thus when is read the articles about the Jobless Generation I also wonder why the Ecuadorans are doing the lawns, the gardens, the painting work, while the college students are "unemployed". The authors state:

The summer work situation for teens is even worse. Sum and his Northeastern colleagues figure that in 1999, 52.6 percent of American teens between age sixteen and nineteen had summer work. Today, only 32.3 percent do. And these numbers are worse for young blacks and Latinos. In 1999, about 33 percent of black teens had summer jobs; now 19 percent do—a reduction by almost half. But the decline is true for all groups: 39 percent of white teens worked this summer—a sharp decrease from the 1999 figure of 63.3 percent. 

 Somehow the lawns are being done, the houses painted, the windows washed, and yet not a single college kid, not a single teenager. Why. I am certain that if they offered and delivered at competitive prices there would be massive amounts of work. It is less an issue of lack of work than it is an issue of lack of motivation. At 5 AM the Ecuadorans line up to begin their day. I see them as I go off to an early meeting, me and the Ecuadorans. Then in the day time when I am out in the 100F temps dressed to protect my Northern European skin from the sun as I labor on the plants, they say hello and shake their heads to see the old man in hat, long sleeves, long pants and gloves. To them I am the oddity because they do not seen any American youth doing such things, just me the crazy old many, working in the heat of the day, along with the Ecuadorans.

Thus when I read of the lack of jobs, I see that is a whine of the kids who cannot and will not create their own future. The Ecuadorans have taken the future in their hands, the sweaty hot and difficult future and it may very well become theirs. Not the college kid bemoaning the fate of not having a job!