Washington Post Stokes Class Envy with Front-Page Story
Registered nurses, carpenters, and technical writers are unfairly reaping the spoils of the strong economy while hard-working dishwashers and janitors get the shaft.
“Wages are rising more than twice as fast for highly paid workers” in the Washington, D.C., area than they are for low-paid laborers, complained staff writers Neil Irwin and Cecilia Kang. “That means the spoils of the region’s economic expansion are going disproportionately to workers who are already well-paid, widening a gap between rich and poor.”
But just who are these fat cats living in the lap of luxury while the working poor eke out a living?
According to data published along with the article, Irwin and Kang’s readers find that $41,590-a-year carpenters and $63,810-a-year registered nurses are among the “highly-paid workers” who are posting strong gains in earnings over just three years ago.
Those professions grew 13.1 and 9.6 percent, respectively, in earnings from 2003 to 2005, while janitors saw only a 3.9-percent growth in pay and dishwashers saw a decline in the same time period, according to data analyzed by the Post. Salaries in the middle (up an average of 10.5 percent) and upper-middle (up 12.4 percent) class ranges also grew at a larger rate than those in the highest upper-class category (up 8.5 percent).
Even so, Irwin and Kang did point out a key factor behind low-paying jobs: lack of education.
“This is a divided labor market” with “no talent shortage for people with low skills,” but high demand for “people with specific skills,” they quoted Jonas Prising, president of the staffing firm Manpower North America.
At the end of the article, the story of one shipping clerk who was frustrated with his pay level proved that people can move up from low-paying jobs to higher-paying jobs – that they don’t have to remain in those jobs forever. In fact, people can even adapt to changes in industry.
“Foreseeing that package handling would grow only more automated, he enrolled in college,” the article said. “He just graduated and plans to look for a job with more promise.”