The Case Against the 40/40 Plan
Why The Corporate System is Failing The Middle Class
_I'll admit it. I hate working jobs.
Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm against working. After all, I consider myself to be a hard worker...just a horrible employee. The currently accepted practice of being chained to a desk for a predetermined period of time five days a week and being forced to appear productive as opposed to actually being productive is maddening to me. It isn't natural. And it seems that more and more, it isn't beneficial for the average American.
The 40 hour workweek was once a celebrated innovation of the Industrial Revolution. It allowed individuals to provide for their families without having to undertake the risk of starting their own companies. After the Great Depression, the 40 hour workweek helped to create and sustain the subsequent growth of the American middle class over the next 50 years. The 40 hour workweek for 40 years plan was the engine of growth for many of the blue chip major corporations that exist today. Without individuals willing to trade in their time for their employers' dollars, companies such as IBM, Citibank and State Farm would never have become household names.
Middle class parents taught their children that if they went to school and got good grades, they could then go to a good college and, upon graduation from that good college, they could then get a good job. And for a while, things worked exactly as they were supposed to.
Then the Great Recession hit and the system got upended. Companies looking for tactics to shore up their balance sheets began to view their workers as liabilities rather than as human capital. As such, payroll was the first thing cut out of many budgets. And while that really sucked for those who lost their jobs, it was also a pretty bad deal for those who kept their jobs.
Many individuals found themselves now doing the work of two employees even though they were still getting paid the same. All the while, they were being told that at least they were lucky to have a job. The reality is, the recession has revealed a significant flaw in the current paradigm: It is a pretty raw deal for the worker, but a great setup for the company.
Today's employers are demanding more from their employees while giving less in return. Employer loyalty is virtually an unheard of concept in today's numbers driven business environment. Many companies now look at their workers as cost centers as opposed to value adding team members. Having extracted water from a rock, many employers are now demanding blood.
On the other side of the equation, employee morale is at an all time low. Workers are under greater pressure to sacrifice even more of their lives in order to maintain their livelihoods. The concept of work/life balance is a mere pipe dream for many. Today's worker finds himself dealing with the dual threats of downsizing and outsourcing. At the same time, many of the jobs lost at the height of the recession have been made lost forever due to the development of increasingly efficient technological advances that have made it possible to get the productivity of two 2006 employees from one 2012 employee.
It is no longer feasible to expect that you will work for the same one or two employers for the bulk of your career. In fact, in today's environment, it is more reasonable to expect that you will work for multiple employers in a variety of industries throughout the course of your career development. A more cynical view is you can expect that when you eventually get to the point where you are making a good living working for a company, your employer will then replace you with a worker who is younger and willing to work for far less.
So what is the solution? Should everyone quit their jobs? Should we resign ourselves to being a nation where the middle class is remembered fondly as an extinct species? Or is there something we can do to change the paradigm?