Wealth or Opportunity: America’s struggle to provide jobs to the masses

In April, mega-brand Amazon announced that it would be creating 30,000 new jobs across the U.S. Before you applaud this initial investment into the nation’s working class infrastructure and development, you might want to stick around and decide if the silver lining is worth giving cheers.

These new jobs are part-time positions. An addition of this magnitude will successfully raise Amazon’s part-time job sector by nearly 75 percent. The majority of these new jobs will be at fulfillment centers, warehouses and distribution centers. They are bulking up their manpower to ensure that when you click that order button, the brand holds up to its end of the bargain — bringing you just about anything your heart desires in two days or less — thanks to the Prime membership promise. That’s a lot of jobs, there are a lot of packages — this seems perfect. From the perspective of Amazon, it is, but for those looking for new job opportunities it could go either way.

The wealth of jobs that will be spread to states throughout the country, including Michigan, do present new opportunity, yet according to analysts, it’s a big step backward for a margin of workers lost at sea. Searching for buoys to stay afloat, many who are on the hunt for jobs may not be able to dedicate their time to a part-time job. The idea of working multiple part-time jobs isn’t always the only option, but it’s the obvious choice and the reality for many Americans. A scenario that comes at a cost for those looking to get ahead of the curve.

This isn’t to say that Amazon isn’t offering opportunities — some of these positions may be critical, game-changers for the lives of some individuals. Yet when looking at the bigger picture, there’s cause for concern whether you’re considering seeking out one of these new jobs or staying in a lane of your own. Full-time employment is the desire of most, but just like products, supply doesn’t always meet demand.

The problem with mass part-time positions in comparison to full-time opportunities and its impact on commerce, livelihood and progress is well documented. When looking at the nation’s status of part-time employees on a grand scale; the negative impact is startling.

The approaching year is a milestone of sorts, and it is one that should prompt businesses to gain hindsight. As a result of the Recession of 2008, more than 2.6 million jobs were cut, nearly two-thirds of which were full-time, in the half-decade that followed. Ten years later, the nation as a whole sits with nearly six million individuals who are currently employed as part-time workers and are actively seeking full-time employment. Even if you exclude the period of the aforementioned job cuts, this is the highest statistic seen in 30 years.

The masses are clamoring for stability, salaries and benefits. Thankfully the Amazon employees who will be working 20 hours or more will receive these perks. But not every company can afford to offer that luxury, and without these essentials, typically reserved for full-time workers, people simply can’t succeed.

According to a study by University of New Hampshire professor Rebecca Glauber, 25 percent of part-time workers live in poverty while only 5 percent of full-time employees live in poverty.
This perspective on the state of the nation may be more evident in certain places, but it’s inherently something that, over time, will trickle into our communities, invited or not. Part-time employment is directly impacting the potential of America’s largest portion of the workforce: those between the ages of 25-54. On each end of the spectrum you have two very different livelihoods co-existing. Members on the higher end are poised to retire soon, while those on the lower end are actively seeking entry into industries, often defined by their chosen career path.

Some three million Americans retire each year, but it remains unclear how many of those positions are regulatory full-time positions and how many will be refilled or simply decommissioned. What is certain is the need for opportunity is stronger than ever and certainly more critical than was realized. The opportunities of tomorrow rest heavily on the shoulders of the ever-expanding technology industry. It’s important to remain hopeful that creators behind innovation aren’t filling shoes with metal and wire, but rather, fill the shoes of those more deserving.

The optimistic side of this equation is the window of opportunity in which the young inherit the opportunities left behind by the old. Additionally, some could argue providing any opportunity at all can help those currently left out of the employment pool to find their place and get their start. Some choose to look at part-time employment as an opportunity to test the waters and find the right fit from both the employer standpoint as well as the employee.

“I can’t speak on behalf of Amazon, but in some cases, there can be value in hiring people part time. At least at first,” said Eydthe Hatter-Williams, CEO at Capital Area Michigan Works! “Companies get a chance to see how an employee works and employees get a chance to see if this is an organization they’d like to work for. Ultimately part-time employment lets everyone see if it is a good fit.”

And although part-time positions may not be suited for some, others may take the opportunity to find a foothold in a growing company like Amazon. Employers often look at their part-time employees first when looking to fill full-time opportunities and the growth opportunities expand from there.

“It can give people a chance to get their foot in the door and explore their options. Hiring part-time means those folks might get hired into a full-time position down the road,” said Hatter-Williams. “It gives people an opportunity to get into the workforce and grow from there.”
There are ways part-time employment can kick-start careers and support growth for an organization to create full-time positions.

The need for change is real. Businesses should invest in their people as much as they do their bottom line. When businesses and the local community come together to support education and talent development, everyone wins.

Adam Lansdell

Adam Lansdell

Adam Lansdell is a Grand Valley State University alumnus, and currently a Communications Specialist with M3 Group of Lansing. With a passion for all things creative it comes as no surprise that he’s also a musician, movie buff and graphic designer. Adam spends his down time biking, and spending too much of his personal income on concert tickets or vinyl records.

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