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Working More Than Ever

Mark Davies

while growing up I remember the feeling that society was progressing towards something great. Gone would be the days of slaving in factories and coal mines. Forgotten would be the 12+ hour work days. Robots would be doing all the work while humans lazed around on beaches and spent quality time with their families.

This utopian image is familiar to so many of us. It is a dream world where we further the human race with intellect and philosophy rather than through back breaking labour. Tedious and dangerous jobs are automated and humanity reaps the benefits of increased relaxation time.

In many ways this vision is true. Many dangerous and tedious jobs have been automated. But anyone who works in the fast food industry or who works in the natural resource sector can tell you that we are far from a utopian vision. Many workers are still killed every year while on the job. Not to mention that this is the West we are talking about. In the Third World these problems are magnified.

The point I am trying to get at here is a simple one: although we had visions of working less the fact is that we are working more than ever. This is certainly not groundbreaking news to anyone who's been in the workforce recently.

Part of the problem is in how competitive the workplace is. I remember my grandfather telling me that if I worked hard I would get ahead. He never mentioned I would be pulling 60 hour work weeks and be underpaid for my qualifications. This isn't competition. This is me killing myself.

The fierce competition out there demands that we act like slaves for our employers. If we don't kiss ass and push ourselves to an early death someone else will. There is always another dozen people with the same qualifications as me waiting to get their foot in the door.

It is strange that we have this incredibly educated group of people out there clambering for jobs barely above minimum wage. A lot of people with university degrees are serving tables or working in retail stores. It's not for a lack of trying either. It's because of a lack of decent jobs. You know, the kind of job where you can raise a family, buy a house and car, and maybe have something left over for a vacation or even retirement. These days you wouldn't dream of raising a family on a minimum wage job. Yet many Canadians do just that. These same people may never own a house or pay off their car. Vacation? What's that? And retirements are something you hear a lot on TV about but can't afford to plan for.

There are a lot of government initiatives out there to get people working. It seems like every week there is a newfangled web site which will help us all find the perfect job. There is a difference between 'a job' and a 'good job', however. There are always jobs out there but rarely good ones. Good jobs are ones that make us feel useful and give us a sense of self-worth. Not to mention benefits. Plain old 'jobs' are the those with low pay and no security. Until these programs and initiatives can help Canadians find the jobs they are suited for, we will continue to be an unhappy and depressed nation. What does the government really care as long as we're paying taxes.

I know I'll have more than ten careers in my life. In fact I've already had four and I don't see any security around the bend. I also know that I will never be sitting on a beach or relaxing with my family while robots do my job.

The answers to this problem are nowhere to be seen. Should I become more educated by 'retraining'? Should I move to the US? Should I take up a life of crime? With the way things are going a life in crime is looking to be the most plausible option. I don't think there is an easy answer. Until the business sector stops treating employees like disposable diapers we will see little change.

The only ones not getting downsized, restructured, or 'let go' are the robots. I want to be a real robot instead of just being treated like one. Maybe then I'd get ahead.

Mark Davies lives in Toronto.

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