Teenagers are always finding jobs whether it be a temporary summer job or a job that they keep throughout the school year as well. Teens’ reasons for finding jobs can also vary from pocketing some extra spending money to trying to help their parents put food on the table and a roof over their heads. For most teens living in the United States, their reason for getting a job is the former rather than the latter. Who wouldn’t want some extra spending money on the side for things such as movies, gas, and dare I say it, parties? It’s always nice to know that you have that money there to spend and even better, that you earned that money yourself. But what about those teens whose wages get stripped from them almost as soon as they earn them in order to pay for the electrical bill or the week’s dinners? How do they feel about the wages they’re earning and the way in which they’re earning them? What about teens in general and their feelings on the jobs they work and how they’re treated at these jobs? Believe it or not, basically every working teenager in the United States, and especially in other countries, is a low-wage worker. They don’t go to work making $20/hour or even $10/hour; instead, most teens (or at least most teens from where I’m from) are excited at making $8/hour. What does this say about the types of jobs that are available for teens? What about teens working in third world countries? The low-wage life isn’t an easy one, but for some teens, it’s all they know.
Many teenagers have it “easy” – they work in a decent environment with decent people (perhaps even some of their friends if they’re lucky) and get paid a decent amount of money. These teens have jobs working at such places like movie theaters, non-fast food restaurants, and retail stores. If asked about their job some will say that they love it and that the hours and the pay are perfect while others may completely disagree by saying that you’d be better off not getting a job whatsoever. However if you were to take a look at these jobs – the environment they’re in, the tasks they employ, and the benefits employees receive – you’d probably think that anyone who complains about such a job is crazy. But are such jobs really all that glamorous? Cleaning up spilled soda and ketchup off of the ground, standing on your feet for hours on end, and carrying heavy trays of food through a crowded dining hall – such activities don’t sound too attractive. Yet, when compared to working at places like McDonalds or in extreme cases, a sweatshop, I’m sure any teen would jump to be folding clothes in an air-conditioned room while chatting it up with co-workers.
There are many horror stories about teens working in low-wage jobs such as McDonalds, small diners, and other “unattractive” jobs, but personally I’ve never experienced a job like that. I have had summer jobs; however, compared to some of the work that I hear about other teens and even some of my friends doing, my “jobs” can’t really be called jobs at all. The two summer positions that I held were both clerical jobs and were honestly two of the easiest jobs I could have imagined. I sat at a desk, did some occasional scanning and filing, took one hour lunches (sometimes even a bit longer) and still got paid $8/hour. And I loved that I got paid $8/hour. One of my good friends who had started working at a local movie theater a couple years before I had even gotten my first “real” job has only gotten a $0.25 raise and I was already making $8/hour with my first job. Even more, I was working 8 hour days, earning $64/day and he was working 10-12 hours/week if he was lucky. The major difference between our jobs though was the way in which we got them. My friend went out looking for his job by talking to some of our other friends, comparing his different options while I on the other hand basically had my job handed to me. A few of my friends and I had applied for a state program called the Summer Youth Employment Program and after filling out a simple application, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations contacted us with our positions. You could pretty much say that we were still being like kids while trying to act like adults.