The idea of unskilled labour is one that is routinely used to make life harder for economically disadvantaged people. The notion is that if you have no skills, there are many jobs you can apply for that aren’t skilled, and that don’t merit much of a wage. If you don’t have a job you are therefore deemed lazy and workshy.
At the start of January, I was job hunting again. When I can work in the kinds of jobs I have considerable experience in, I can earn a decent wage. However, I have done a number of minimum wage jobs along the way. If I can’t find stuff I am well qualified to do, I have to look at whatever I can get.
There are very few jobs out there that ask for no qualifications and no experience. Many jobs require you to be able to drive and to have a car. When I’m looking for work outside my areas of experience, there’s not much I can apply for, and what I can apply for has everything to do with retail experience and public facing work history. I note that a significant number of low paid jobs require strength and physical fitness, and that we don’t value that much in workers. There may be a lot to be said about the value placed on the bodies of the economically disadvantaged.
Work requires skill and knowledge. Some of the worst paid jobs require heroic levels of patience and considerable stamina. For jobs that pay you to do nothing, as far as I can make out you want to get a high level consultancy gig where no one expects you to do anything, or to get your income from shares and resource ownership rather than by actually working. There are no unskilled jobs. Every employer out there has qualities they require in their employees.
During the pandemic it’s been really obvious that low paid workers were in the front lines doing some of the most important things and shouldering a great deal of the risk.
The idea of the unskilled worker is a convenient illusion. It’s part of the thinking that justifies who gets to be rich and who gets to be poor. The idea that work is low paid because it isn’t important and doesn’t require much of you simply isn’t true. How people are paid has everything to do with power, and very little to do with the true value of their work.