Albelda says the long-term affect could become a vicious cycle: These parents are raising children who aren’t easily able to develop the skills they need to do better than a low-wage job for themselves as adults.
It’s a pretty awful outlook for the future generation if we don’t make changes.
“Employers are just not seeing that their focus on profits is short term,” says Daniella Levine, founder and CEO of Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit that uses civic engagement to improve health, education and economic opportunity for Miami-Dade residents. “By not investing in their employees they are not investing in their future workforce or future customers.”
And now, here comes the fiscal cliff, with its threat to cut funding to afterschool, subsidized child care and mentoring programs and that low wage workers desperately rely on. “The choices we are about to face are so important to the future of our workforce and our educational system and quality of life for these children and families,” Levine says.
If we’re going to break this cycle and give the next generation opportunities they deserve, we need to think differently.
Albelda suggests a start is recognizing the link between low-wage jobs and children’s education and getting the right policy makers talking to each other. “We have to look at why we’re spending on education reform when improving family lives will improve education scores and provide opportunity for kids in the future.”
As important is improving the quality of low-wage jobs. Albelda says we already see efforts to get more flexibility and stability around schedules. We also see some policy makers who understand and have lobbied successfully for parental job benefits such as paid sick leave. So far, Washington, D.C., and cities such as Seattle and San Francisco have approved mandatory paid sick leave laws along with the state of Connecticut.
Yet, it’s disappointing that recent efforts in Miami-Dade County to provide low-wage workers with paid sick leave failed. Business associations lobbied hard against paid sick leave, calling the effort “burdensome, job-killing regulations on private sector employers in the county.” But advocates say they see the effect on families and will continue to push for the passage of the Miami-Dade Earned Sick Time Ordinance. “In low-wage families, it’s common to see teens miss school to stay home with a sick little brother or sister because their parents can’t earn paid sick days,” said Deborah Dion, campaign manager for Miami-Dade Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces.
Until change happens, it is the children of workers at the stores where we shop and the pancake houses where we eat who are suffering for the “deal” we think we’re getting.
“These low-wage jobs have a cost,” Albelda says. “The cost is to families …young children and teens and that becomes a question for society.”
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or read her columns and blog at worklifebalancingact.com.