Friday, February 17, 2012

Money's Too Tight.

Dear Globlets,

What do you mean I've been away for ages? I've been posting consistently for weeks!

Okay, no more lies.

I'm sorry for my absence. This is the part where I tell you I'm going to write more and try harder and explain why I've been gone.

And this is the part where I write like nothing's happened.


My brother got a job yesterday. My itty bitty baby brother is not so itty bitty anymore, it seems. Though he's 16 years old and as tall as my mom, he'll always be my little brother. (It is likely that there are, as we speak, readers laughing at the thought that something might be little compared to me. Well, ha ha ha I never hit my head on anything because I'm too tall to be alive okay? That's right! TOO TALL TO BE ALIVE.) Moving on... He'll be working as a car-wash boy at a dealership in town.

Oh, the poor baby. He'll have to make nice cars look even nicer, and he'll even have to sit in $100,000+ cars sometimes. Because physically touching and sitting in fancy cars is so not what Adrian has been dreaming about ever since he was an infant. He'll be like the dealership's Stig! Except instead of high-speed racing he'll be doing 10km/h and moving cars back and forth. He has to start somewhere...

He'll be working 8 hours per week, a full day once a week, which is the same amount of time that I work per week. I usually get two 4-hour shifts, which isn't much but it's a good amount with school. The funny thing is he'll be making more than minimum wage. And more than me.

This ties in nicely with what I've been talking about with a number of my friends, though I've only really talked about the difference between pay in Alberta vs. BC. People in Alberta tend to make lots of money. There are a lot of manual labour jobs that, on average, men tend to do. Some friends of my friends do mindless jobs, pushing buttons, sitting on their butts, and they get paid $20/h or more. I hadn't thought about it much until Adrian got his job, but it's possible that the situation can be local as well.

It bothers me. I'm sure there are plenty of retail establishments where the employees do nothing and care about nothing, and maybe they don't deserve $20/h, but those who do their job well... do. In this business, there are a lot of responsibilities - probably more than many manual labour jobs. Money is handled, inventory has to be kept accurate, and fraud must be dealt with. Little mistakes can have costly impacts. Theft is a real thing that, of course, everyone tries to prevent, and knowing what to do during and afterwards is important as well.

So maybe, on the surface, it seems like providing fashion advice really isn't that worthy of higher pay. After all, they're just clothes. Everyone has clothes. You put on a t-shirt and a pair of jeans and you're golden! (Except you're not.) What's the big deal? Well, it is a big deal, and it's harder than you think. In any case, how is fashion advice worth less than pushing a few buttons? Especially when you add on all those responsibilities I mentioned, while still making sure every customer leaves the store wanting to come back and knowing that we actually care. Real emotion goes into it. Actual thought. Physical exertion. But most retail companies only offer minimum wage, whereas manual labour will pay significantly more.

 The cost of living is too high for minimum wage to be so low.

And, wow. Amazing. They're finally increasing it. Except wages should have been going up as steadily as the cost of living has. Going from $8.00 to $10.25 is a good thing, and I suppose it's better late than never, but it really should have come in much sooner. And employees who serve liquor will only earn a minimum of $9.00 as of May 2012. [source]

I'd like to draw you a little picture:
Someone who works full time and earns $10.25 will earn a maximum of $21,320 in a year, assuming they worked 8 hours a day, five days a week, 52 weeks per year - no sick days, no holidays. One semester at school costs over $3,000 (5 courses), not that you could work that much and go to school full time. But let's say you're a wizard and you do. $6,000 goes to school for two semesters. That leaves you with about $15,000. Paying $700 each month for rent leaves you with $6,600, which you can use to pay bills and groceries. That might cost you $300 per month (maybe more), which means you would have $3,000 at the end of it all, assuming you had no other expenses like toothpaste or socks or shoes or prescription medication.

Which is why young people have four options after high school: a) get a student loan and acquire serious debt; b) go to school, live at home, and maybe work some; c) don't go to school and just work; d) have mommy and daddy pay for everything.

It's not a very nice picture.

And if we think about the kinds of jobs women typically do (customer service) and the types of jobs men typically do (manual labour), it's probably safe to assume that the majority of male workers earn more than female workers. I'm being very general, and I don't have all the stats, but from what I've seen and heard, this seems to be the case quite often. What are typically man-jobs pay better than typical woman-jobs.

I'm happy for my brother. I'm glad that his first job gets to be something he'll probably enjoy and actually earn a decent wage from, even if it's only once a week. And I'm not making the case that my employer should pay me more, but rather that the difference in pay between certain kinds of jobs is something we should be thinking about, especially since the cost of living is so high.

I guess I should just write a best-selling series that gets turned into seven movies and makes me lots of money.

No problem-o!


PeacefulChaos said...

You forgot e) Move somewhere where you can make enough money to go to school.

Also, there are plenty of women working out on the oil fields here. Even Dal's sister make quite a bit of money just dealing with broken tools. She even works in town. You don't have to work in customer service if you know where to go.

Ori. said...

Well, I was really just talking about BC. Not that manual labour jobs don't exist here, but there are certainly more in Alberta, I think.

And like I said, I was being very general. I have no doubt that there are many women doing manual labour jobs even in BC, but the point was that jobs that are typically woman-jobs pay less than typical man-jobs, and the question is why if the skill level required might be the same.

Out of curiosity, what's the woman to man ratio in her line of work?

Mommet said...

I think an important point to be taken away from this is that it really shouldn't be so hard to make a living wage, even if you are a student. Especially a female student. Or better yet, a woman, period. In some civilized countries students are given a stipend and/or access to housing and such in order to be able to focus on their studies. Being educated shouldn't be thought of as a luxury only the few can attain. An educated citizenry benefits everyone. Where this may not be desired is in countries where the state benefits from the ignorance of their populace (I'm looking at you US of A!). It is sad that Canada is well on that path too now.