It’s the narrative — not the unemployed — that’s lazy
(This is an excerpt of an opinion piece written by Dan O’Brien, PCCY Education Coordinator for Bucks County, that was published in the Bucks County Courier Times.)
We’ve all heard the narrative from politicians, pundits, etc. “People are choosing not to return to work because they would rather take an extra $300 federal government handout than get off their lazy butts and work the nightshift at Amazon.” These talking points are not only way off base but insulting.
Women, who prior to the pandemic were the majority of the workforce, are now the majority of those who’ve yet to return to it. In fact, the latest data shows only about 56% of women are currently working a paying job. Do these same politicians believe women are just innately lazier than men and like to sit at home collecting free checks? Or could there be something more here?
It’s easy for politicians, who make close to $100,000 per year as state lawmakers (many while earning other full-time salaries) or around $174,000 in Congress, to pontificate about how a mother of three should return to work instead of collecting taxpayer money. It’s easy also to fall into the trap of believing the ignorant “I worked hard, they should too” narrative.
This “us” versus “them” mentality is almost as cliché as the blanket statements about people being more interested in collecting a check than working. The people who have been using this talking point for decades are the same people who are against raising wages for hard-working individuals.
They ignore the fact that if wages were raised, then we wouldn’t need to pay so much money for safety net programs because people would be able to afford to live without them. Imagine that.
A mother of three who makes $15/hour still has to pay $10,000 to $15,000 per year per kid for childcare so she can go to work on top of more than $1,000 rent. So that means, after tax, not much is left for food, utilities, medicine or basic household supplies.
Instead of talking about taking away supports for those who are still unemployed, we should focus our efforts on incentivizing a return to the workforce. These initiatives should especially be geared toward women who are unsurprisingly taking on the brunt of the economic woes caused by the pandemic.
We must increase access to high-quality affordable child care, offer on-the-job training programs to expand the pool of potential qualified candidates, and not only raise wages and increase worker protections, but offer more family-friendly work schedules so working parents don’t need to choose between being a good parent or being a better employee.
Lastly — and this is for us men — step up, do your part and don’t quietly sit back and let women take on this burden and this fight alone. A truly great society works together to lift everyone up.