(By NCrissie B)
This week’s series considers how we value each others’ contributions to society. Today we begin by unpacking work versus employment, that is: work a boss or customer pays for. Next we consider Matthew Yglesias’ proposal for a Guaranteed Basic Income. Finally, we’ll conclude with Ross Douthat’s claim that a post-employment society, while fiscally sustainable, may trap those without jobs in mere survival with no opportunity to grow and thrive.
“Live to Work or Work to Live?”
The 2012 Salary.com survey asked 3000 people if they “live to work” or “work to live,” and compared those two groups’ answers to follow-up questions. Some of the answers were surprising:
- 19% of respondents said they “live to work” (LTW) vs. 70% who “work to live” (WTL)
- 2/3rds of LTWers said they would keep working if they won the lottery, vs. 1/3 of WTLers.
- 80% of LTWers said their work matters, vs. 51% of WTLers.
- 78% of LTWers enjoy their work, vs. 58% of WTLers.
- 35% of 18-25 year-olds said they LTW, the highest of any age group.
- 83% of all respondents said they take pride in their work.
- 78% said they could support their families on their incomes.
- 45% said they feel overworked on a regular basis, a figure that peaked at 55% for those earning $80,000-$100,000 per year.
- 30% said the best part of work was what they do, followed by 25% who said their paychecks, and 17% the appreciation of their coworkers.
- 24% said the worst part of work was their bosses, followed by 18% who said a long commute and 13% who cited unfavorable work schedules.
- Asked what was most important about work, 45% said pride or a sense of accomplishment vs. 19% who said earning enough to pay their bills, and 16% who said an opportunity for advancement or a better job.
The survey infographic concludes:
So what does this tell us? It tells us business needs to evolve the way it looks at talent. In a world where companies are fighting for good talent, having insight into what makes talent happy and drives them to perform is key to quality recruitment and higher retention. Companies need to understand the value of work and how it varies for each individual. Why? Because America’s workforce still values its work, from hourly to salary and part-time to full-time – remaining passionate and engaged in their jobs will drive them to innovate, create, plan, execute, build – and ultimately perform.
In other words, the survey wasn’t really about work after all. It was about employment.
“THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD”
The dust up between Hillary Rosen and Ann Romney over stay-at-home moms seems a distant memory. Many leaped into the fray, often with a phrase that Feministe put in all-caps that dripped with sarcasm: “THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD” …
… because Mitt Romney had previously said poor women should get federal child-care assistance so they can have “the dignity of work.” By which he meant: a job that a boss or customer pays you to do. As The Nation‘s Bryce Covert wrote six months later, when one Republican after another had stumbled over rape and other women’s issues:
In the motherhood hierarchy, then, women who don’t need welfare support rank highest, followed by mothers who can “prove” that their rape is rape rape. Tough luck for low-income women who were date raped, raped when drugged or simply had a wanted child. Our message to them is that they’re not really mothers. They’re just moochers.
If raising healthy, well-adjusted children is our most important goal, then THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD – for women – is not motherhood … but marriage to an at-least-middle-class husband.
Ann Crittenden wrote much the same in her landmark book The Price of Motherhood:
Motherhood is paid lip service, and very little else. The Price of Motherhood reveals the myriad ways in which our institutions ignore or devalue the vast amount of work it takes to produce a well-raised child.
Mothers are routinely marginalized on the job. Mothers who can’t or won’t work long hours can be shunted aside, denied promotions, eased out of jobs, and even fired. This situation means that the average college-educated woman will lose more than a million dollars in lifetime income if she has just one child.
The great majority of married mothers become economically dependent on their husbands but family law does not grant them financial equality in marriage, or recognize marriage as an equal economic partnership. So-called family income in fact belongs solely to “he who earns it.”
“What do you do?”
Stay-at-home parents are not the only working adults we typically count among the “unemployed.” Consider Gardener, whose daily accounts of his activities fill us with pride and awe. Like most healthy retirees, he stays busy almost every day: helping at his church food pantry, helping neighbors with chores, tending his garden and sharing the food with neighbors, working with his local Democratic Party group and for candidates.
All of that is work, but none of it is employment. If asked “What do you do?” he might say “I’m retired.” Or as many retirees now do, he might jump straight to the follow-up question: “I’m a retired railroad engineer.”
Because when we ask “What do you do?” we mean employment: work that a boss or customer pays you to do. Like the phrase “net worth,” the question “What do you do?” is less about what you contribute to society than what you get paid. They are words about a single kind of human interaction: commerce.
But commerce is not the whole of human experience, and our societal obsession with employment – rather than all work – has consequences. Tomorrow we’ll explore how we might better truly value … work.