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Forum Post: Job Insecurity: It's the Disease of the 21st Century, and It's Killing Us

Posted 8 years ago on July 7, 2012, 6:21 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Job Insecurity: It's the Disease of the 21st Century, and It's Killing Us

Saturday, 07 July 2012 10:31 By Lynn Parramore, AlterNet | News Analysis


Remember Dilbert, the mid-level, white-collar Cubicle Guy of the '90s who could never seem to get ahead? In the 21st century, his position looks almost enviable. He has been replaced by Waiting-For-the-Other-Shoe-to-Drop Man. Across America, freaked-out employees are coping with sweat-drenched nights and heart-pounding days. They're reaching for the Xanax and piling on the work of two or three people. They're running the risk of short-term collapse and long-term disease. The hell created by three grinding years of 8 percent-plus unemployment brings us plenty of stories of what people suffer when they lose their jobs. But what about the untold millions who live in chronic fear that tomorrow's paycheck will be their last? Research shows that the purgatory of job insecurity may be even worse for you than unemployment. And it's turning the American Dream into a sleepwalking nightmare. From young temporary workers to middle-aged career veterans, Americans are being pushed to their physical and psychological limits in what has the makings of a major national public health crisis. The New Insecurity We're supposed to be a nation of cockeyed optimists. But many feel like haunted wanderers in a dark forest, knowing that the slightest turn of the foot could fell us. Just ask Alan L, a 32-year-old from Queens, New York. The path ahead should have been bright for Alan. After several years as a music industry publicist, he took the ubiquitous advice of the mid-noughts and went to back to school for a bachelor's degree. Yearning to do something more meaningful, Alan imagined teaching or perhaps working for a non-profit, a job that would put his double major in history and political science to good use. Today he wakes up in the middle of the night, gripped by fear. He checks his email compulsively, and suffers from the strange sensation that he is invisible, that his body is floating in space. Alan has a job. But not in a school or a non-profit. In fact, he can't even score work as a publicist, or even a position at a local bookshop or music store. Since getting his degree in 2011, Alan has bounced from one temporary assignment to the next, always aware the next quarterly budget could send him packing. The specter of $40,000 in student debt is his constant companion. When Alan decided to go the college route, his parents and friends cheered. Little did they know that a train wreck was coming. During his second week as a full-time college student, the economy crashed. Still, Alan worked hard. He made the Dean's List. He won awards. "I wasn't some goofball, flaky student," he says. Now he has a constant sense of failure. The temporary office jobs he lands offer no real path to full-time employment. Tied to budget decisions, they frequently vanish with little or no warning. "You begin to hear rumors that your job is going to be cut," Alan says. "People get passive-aggressive. It's stressful." During what would be his lunch break, Alan runs a mini-command center on his laptop, scanning job sites and sending out hundreds of resumes. He'll have three or four browsers open at one time, constantly hitting the refresh button on jobs listings to see if any new posts come up. Trying to look for a job while trying to keep a job is a frantic enterprise. Alan has started to experience the weird uncanniness of the New Insecurity. He feels like someone on the outside of society, looking in:

"I'm not unemployed, so I'm not part of the TV narrative. I'm off the grid. The advice I hear sounds like it was meant for someone else. 'Live cheaply! Go door-to-door to find a job.' But I'm already in minimal, survival mode. And as for going door-to-door in mid-town Manhattan? The security guards won't even let me in. My parents keep saying, 'You shouldn't be on your laptop all day.' But job searches are mostly done online now—that's the reality."

Alan finds that the traditional ideas about finding, and keeping, a job are bankrupt. He's having panic attacks. Alan is not alone.



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[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (23372) 8 years ago

Great post. This is a real problem for a lot of people, possibly the majority of American workers at this point.

[-] 1 points by brosefstalin (139) from Wantagh, NY 8 years ago

One of the benefits of a publicly paid for health care system would be that people are no longer tied to terrible jobs because of health care.

One of my coworkers, an older man who has been with the company for over a decade, is always mourning how much he doesn't like the Long Island climate anymore, how expensive everything is, how dependent on a car you have to be. And he can't stand his job anymore. He wants to move near his mother in Pennsylvania, but he can't because he and his wife are tied to his job because of health insurance.

Too many people are now held captive by our jobs, not just because of high unemployment, but also because of low-wages and the need for health benefits.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Very good post.

When I was still working and looking at these things developing - loss of income - living paycheck to paycheck - the decreasing number of jobs - the increasing costs of daily living. The increasing drop-out disconnect of kids. The growth of domestic violence - murder suicides. The growth of gangs on the streets - the growth of gun violence - the growth of drug culture and drug crime.

I started thinking of writing a book called - living in perpetual crisis.

[-] -1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 8 years ago

So let me ask - where is it written that a person with a college degree and $40,000 in sutdent debt should be making big money?

What the vast majority of you don't understand is "at the age of 25 you are just starting out in life" and you have no "job credentials".

Example: How many people are high school grads competing with to get a job? How many people are college grads competing with to get a job?

So, you submit your resume to a company with all your qualifications as a graduate - another person submits their resume to a company with all their qualifications as a graduate and additional obs that they have worked at for several years.

Who is the employee going to hire - they aren't going to hire the college grad with no job experience - they are going to hire the colleg grad with job skills regardless of where they worked - that person set a standard.

You see if a college degreed person takes jobs working at MCDees, Burger King, fixing flat tires at a auto repair shop, working at Walmart or any job gives those people more qualifications then a person that just has a college degere.

Why you ask - it's because they have shown that they have the initiatve to go out and do something instead of "expecting somethin".

When will you younger people realize this and understand that a college degree doesn't give you "qualifications" to get a job when you are competing against thousands of other grads.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

Why single out college graduates in an article that addressed people of all ages and experience having hard times?

[-] 3 points by brosefstalin (139) from Wantagh, NY 8 years ago

Exactly. College degree or not, the 25-year-old still does not have an adequate job and does not have prospects like home ownership and starting a family on the horizon.

[-] -1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 8 years ago

The reason is the younger generation of this country has to get a grasp on what they need to do to survive. Expecting the government to do it for them isn't the answer.

Look at all the posts on this website - the vast majority of posts are on this web site about destroying the present government political system and turning it into a welfare system.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 years ago

The vast majority of the posts on this site are critical of either corporate or government wrongdoing and agitate for change. Various individuals may or may not want a welfare system but the underlying perspective is opposition to systematic inequality facilitated by government collusion with corporations.

[-] 0 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 8 years ago

Ok so there is "corporate or government wrongdoing". Protesting on a street corner doesn't get any results. Becoming part of the solution does.

If that means getting involved in government then that is what it's going to take to make change. The only other way is a revolution and that isn't going to happen.

[-] 1 points by Shule (2638) 8 years ago

A few more years of the present political/economic course this U.S.A. is taking, then their will be enough pissed off people for a revolution.

[-] -2 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

with obama and the dems spearheading the charge. the more people that depend on govt , the more they want govt handouts to grow. this is how the dems make sure that they get the votes to stay in office and expand govt. around and around it goes.

[-] 1 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 8 years ago

Can't argue with you about that - so very true -

[-] 0 points by salta (-1104) 8 years ago

be the " go to person" among your friends. arm yourself with knowledge and FACTS about the dems and the current administration.

[-] 4 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

These days - and for many many years now - the company/employer will hire the no work experience newbie - as the experienced applicant would be too expensive. They say you are overqualified and would not be happy with this job.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 8 years ago

Please don't use the false term "no skilled" that constantly floats around in the great tub of media brainwashing. A human being is the most adaptable, functional, and essential tool that any business uses. No machine, or computer can come close.

"No skilled" is a powerful term that results in lower wages if you are foolish enough to believe it. And millions do.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

The inexperienced newbie then. Yes humans are quite adaptable are quite brilliant in being able to learn new things and to apply new found knowledge. Yes - a lack of a piece of paper has been used to keep down the masses that become experts and innovators while on the job.

I shall edit the comment.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 8 years ago

"No skilled" is also the ultimate "straw man" argument. It misrepresents the abilities of entry level and low income workers, weakening their value in the marketplace of labor, and so legitimizes their reduced wages.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 8 years ago

I use the term "low skilled".

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

ooo - I don't know as I like the sound of that either - too much like low intelligence.

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 8 years ago

Can you think of a more accurate term?

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

The inexperienced as that implies nothing about intelligence - just that this individual has not yet experienced as much as that individual.

[-] 0 points by SteveKJR1 (8) 8 years ago

You may be right about that to some degree - especially when companies make a person at the age of 23 a manager of a restaraunt. Who's fault is that - is it the resteraunt or the person taking the job with no experience thinking "wow I'm a big shot, I am a manger of a restaraunt".