Get a Job, Kid!

As typical for any teenager my teenage jobs were lousy and formative. I happened to have done a lot of jobs and at one summer I was employed at a dock to scoop ice cream for at a rate of $5 an hour and the additional tips I got which was not that badly off. At some instance I worked at a local grocery where I carried out a lot of activities including bagging the groceries and at some point keeping the leafy veggies moistened. As for me these jobs taught me some essential life skills that have been helpful till now.

As compared to the 1950s through to 1990s, the number of youths having summer jobs has greatly reduced from an average of about 55% to a low of approximately 25% currently. After the end of the World War II, the government began keeping tabs and it can be noted that the employment of youths between the ages 16 to 19 has really dropped. The question on everyone mind would then be; why are the numbers dropping or what could they be doing instead.

According to the research and analysis carried out by the Economic Policy Institute in 2010, it was found that though the numbers of youth being employed is less, it does not mean that they are merely lazing around as the number of idle teens has also fallen. The rate of youth unemployment fell to unprecedented levels long before the economic meltdown in 2007 as young Americans had started leaving the formal employment sectors.

In a quest to find a lasting solution, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board pointed out that there was need to raise the minimum wage from the $5.15 in 2007 to a high of $7.25 in 2009 in phases. This was majorly a conservative approach but it face challenges as the employers were going through a tough time economically and it wouldn’t make sense raising the wages of an unskilled labor while the payrolls of professionals were being slashed.

The minimum wage cannot be blamed for the poor turnout of youth into the labor market as they started opting out of the market long before the minimum wage hikes. Though it has had some effects, it isn’t solely to blame for the current trend. Businesses have been allowed to higher teens below the age of 20 and pay them wages below the minimum wage as long as they work for a period not exceeding 90 days.

The explanation for such a trend can be due to the fact that of late most teens would prefer staying at school or take up internship programs. An increase in the number of immigrants can also be blamed as there has been an increase in completion for these jobs by immigrants and from other old workers.

According to statistic only a mere 17% of teens enrolled for summer school in 1985 but currently more than 50% of the youth have been enrolled for such programs which can be the main reason as to the drop of participation of the youth in the labor markets. Apart from summer schools, internship and community service are on the upsurge and a lot of the teens are taking part in them now.

The shift indicates that the education system is more demanding today than it was several decades ago and with the tendency to achieve academically. According to economist Teresa Morisi of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, families today are wealthier today than they were some decades ago and college entry has become more competitive than it was hence teens pay more attention to their academics than getting summer jobs.

Competition for the poorly paying summer and part time jobs has really influenced the rate of uptake for these jobs as more and more immigrants are entering into the low paying part time jobs. According to the Center for Immigration Studies show that the share of participation of the immigrants in these jobs increased significantly this has led to a sharp decrease in the participation of US born teenagers. The study is also backed by other studies such as the one conducted by economists at the Northeastern University and the Federal Reserve.

Grandparents are also a source of competition for the teenagers. As early as in the late 1990s a majority of the senior citizens had reached the retirement age but a number were retained or joined other work places where they have taken up positions that were once a reserve for the teens. As the number of teens being employed plummets, those of senior citizens taking such jobs that were once for the kids rises.