Literacy Is The Challenge For Educators But Is It The Cited Pinnacle For Impoverished Communities Seeking Fair Education In The United States?
What does a college education mean when an experienced worker is laid off and can’t find employment they are qualified to fill? Especially when job search reveals that in order to find work workers must take a substantially underpaid position to survive. How does this affect the well being of the workforce? Is this the definition of literacy?
The United States National Unemployment Rate is reported as remaining at 3.7 percent through October of 2018. “Approximately 250,000 jobs were created in October 2018 and the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Is low unemployment real and is literacy truly an answer for the depraved?
In my article, “Driving Toward Literacy Engineered By Noteworthy Female Authors: J. K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and E.L. James, Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, Whose Words Are Relatable As They Touch The Lives Of Urban Communities, Particularly Children Of Color,” on SheWrites.com, low literacy rates drive up health care costs by $73 million according to the Health Policy Institute (2018). The job market is a Catch 22 paradox.
According to Leonid Bershidsky, a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering European politics and business, “Some major Western economies are close to full employment, but only in comparison to their official unemployment rate. Relying on that benchmark alone is a mistake: Since the global financial crisis, underemployment has become the new unemployment.” Bershidsky expands and clarifies, “Western countries are celebrating low joblessness, but much of the new work is precarious and part-time.” How does an educated, experienced worker who is literate earn sufficiently to make a living and support a family, in a rising cost economy that’s paying a decreasing wage? Is the hope of a better life because this worker is literate, a reality?
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Further clarity on literacy and underemployment
Blumberg Opinion clearly points the finger at the politicians claiming low unemployment: “In a recent paper, David Bell and David Blanchflower singled out underemployment as a reason why wages in the U.S. and Europe are growing slower than they did before the global financial crisis, despite unemployment levels that are close to historic lows. In some economies with lax labor market regulation — the U.K. and the Netherlands, for example — more people are on precarious part-time contracts than out of work. That could allow politicians to use just the headline unemployment number without going into details about the quality of the jobs people manage to hold down.”
Clearly the problem points to underemployment despite the literacy of workers. If world leaders are misquoting the employment of suitable workers, (Bloomberg Opinion), how does the problem get resolved? “In recent months, leaders including President Donald Trump, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have bragged about record high employment. The veracity of these boasts varies, however. As different economies recovered from the global financial crisis, some relaxed labor regulations, creating more precarious jobs to drive down the headline jobless numbers and get more people off the dole.”
Underemployment Despite Literacy In An Educated Population
The whole point of literacy is to educate and train oneself in an area of expertise that one is interested in, so they can support themselves in their lifetime. As workers work, over time their experience and expertise grows and so should their wages. If this is not the true model of growth, then workers become disillusioned and resistant to accepting unappealing work. Once again, health care costs rise from a growing pyramid of physical and mental health care stresses.
The impact on health care costs of the underemployed
“Should We Be Happy At Work” as reported by Dede Henley at Forbes magazine reports that, “…unhappiness at work can be expensive.” The American Psychological Association estimates, “… that 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. 60-80% of workplace accidents are attributed to stress. And workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality.” We know without a doubt just how miserable and costly a bad boss can be.
Employees reported with a high overall ‘well-being’ have lower health-related costs (41%), as compared to employees that are struggling and a reported 62% lower costs compared to employees that are “suffering,” according to a 2012 Gallup State of the American Workplace study. In addition, a study by Willis, Towers, Perrin reported on higher employee engagement, productivity and morale as contributing to major financial returns and competitive advantages for U.S. businesses.
In looking at the overall state of U.S. educated, literate, workers who continue to struggle to “make ends meet “ in a supposedly recovering and growing workplace, underemployment feels like the crab in the boiling pot pulling the struggling worker back down into the depths of plight and surrender. As a teacher working within the depressed urban communities of Southern California, finding the olive branch that offers a solution feels evasive and unreachable. Encouraging the youth of a depressed urban environment can be elusive and unfounded if the evidence of education and literacy cannot be found within the very environments that need it most.
The goal is always to encourage students in K-12 schools, to want to read and write and pursue higher education so the marketplace will embrace how these students will contribute to it. Be it be that these students pursue careers in writing as new authors, or following a path into engineering or medicine or perhaps focusing on a path of career training in the industry of automotive repair or hair care – becoming a barber or a beautician as salon owner. Yet and still, these students need to see that the fruits of their desired education and training will offer a better life for their pursuits than the path of underemployment. How do we solve this concern, given the current plight of the underemployment marketplace as it currently exists in the U.S. right now (November 2018)? There doesn’t seem to be a heart-warming solution in the current state of marketplace or opportunity. All we can conceivably do is hope for the best.
- Health Policy Institute, Georgetown University. Low Health Literacy Skills Increase Annual Health Care Expenditures by $73 Billion. Retrieved from URL: https://hpi.georgetown.edu/agingsociety/pubhtml/healthlit.html.
- Blumberg Opinion, Underemployment is the New Unemployment. Retrieved from URL: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-09-26/unemployment-numbers-hide-the-effects-of-underemployment
- Forbes Magazine, Should We Be Happy At Work? Retrieved from URL: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dedehenley/2018/04/30/should-we-be-happy-at-work/#b8e90e959eae.
- GALLUP, How Employee Engagement Drives Growth. Retrieved from URL: https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236927/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx.
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Disclosure: Riley Rose Author is an Amazon Influencer