So, why are Babyboomers not having their millennial teen children work? Why is that the case? We Babyboomers certainly worked from a very young age, and I think we believe that millennials should do the same.
A friend of mine mentioned Smartphones and video games as being responsible, while my mom complains that our youth are lazy, spoiled, immature, and self-centered kids who would rather play video games than earn a few bucks for spending money. I don’t think either is true.
Let start with demographics. Babyboomers are not retiring by 65 so much anymore. Thirty-two percent of Americans 65 to 69 are still employed, the highest level in 55 years. Many older workers are holding the jobs formerly filled by teens, and that number is only expected to rise in the next 5 years.
But Babyboomers aren’t the only guilty party. To make ends meet, 20-something Millennials are taking many of the jobs traditionally reserved for teens. Fifty-one percent of Millennials, a 10 percent increase since 2013, are underemployed. Forty-four percent of Millennial college grads are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, typically a first job for teens. Here’s an example from personal experience: my teenage daughter is working this summer at a community center teaching music. Her supervisor is a Millennial teacher. Twenty years ago this teacher’s summer job was filled by a 19-year old college student studying to be a teacher. The same goes for the crew who cleaned up our landscaping. In the 60s and 70s the crew was made of high school and college students. This year the crew was a team of local teachers looking for ways to supplement their income.
But it’s not just demographics and the economy. Education may be partially is to blame too, rather than laziness. Teenagers aren’t just spending more time on the couch exercising their thumbs and playing video games, but rather spending more time in the classroom. Teens are remaining in high school longer, going to college more often, and taking more summer classes. They are attending sport and/or band camps as well as band camps and family vacations. The percent of high school grads enrolled in college has grown has grown by 25 percentage points, which funnily corresponds almost exactly the decline in teenage labor force.
While all these conditions set up compelling if not provocative arguments, the clincher to why millennials teens aren’t working may be simply that employers aren’t hiring them. Why employ an inexperienced teenager when you can hire a college grad desperate to pay off school debt? Why not hire us senior citizens who are experienced, historically more dependable and strapped for cash or emotionally bored with retirement? The rise of low-skill immigration in the last few decades has also created more competition for exactly the sort of jobs that teenagers used to do, like lawn mowers and landscapers, grocery-store cashiers, restaurant servers, and retail salespeople. The number of federally funded summer jobs, where students work temporarily with their local government, has declined too. And while the jury is still out, minimum wage increases—both mandatory and competition-driven—may be pressuring companies to choose between a teen without a work history and a more experienced worker.
So what are your thoughts — please share with me — is the loss of summer jobs for millennial teens a good thing or bad?