According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in three people in today’s workforce are millennials. Despite being better-educated, millennials earn less on average than their parents as young adults. Increasingly, jobs don’t provide hardworking young people with the wages and benefits they need to care for themselves and their families. Jobs with benefits are disproportionately held by wealthy demographics, which further exacerbates income and race inequality.
Many jobs don’t offer livable wages or stability, forcing workers to work longer hours or take multiple jobs to get by. These jobs are often “contingent,” or temporary, and don’t provide adequate hours. Most people who make up the contingent workforce are under the age of 25. They deal with unpredictable work schedules that make it challenging to balance work, accommodate education or training, manage child care or hold a second job. This is especially true for young workers of color.
Paid family and sick leave
When workers don’t have paid sick leave, they can’t take short amounts of paid time if they’re sick or need to take a child to the doctor. Among adult parents under 30, more than one in five live in poverty. These parents often run the risk of sending a sick child to school because they can’t afford to stay home with them and lose wages — or worse, their job. This is especially frightening when that job pays the rent, keeps the lights on and buys the groceries.
The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave. Young adults without paid leave are forced to choose between working and recovering from a debilitating sickness or caring for a seriously ill loved one. Like sick leave, paid family and medical leave is disproportionately available to those with higher-paying jobs. Among the bottom quarter of wage earners, more than 90 percent have jobs without paid family leave. That’s why one in four mothers return to work just two weeks after a birth, leaving their newborns during a critical developmental stage and while they may still be recovering themselves.
Many states are making jobs better for workers and their families by enacting minimum wage increases and providing paid sick days, paid family and medical leave and fair work schedules. However, all workers should have the benefits people in higher-income jobs take for granted. We all need money and time to care for ourselves and our loved ones regardless of our race, gender, generation, where we live or how much we earn.