As a current job-seeker, I am especially sensitive to the market for recent graduates. Since I’m looking at a lot of do-gooder organizations, I somewhat expect that wages in such positions don’t keep pace with business or government positions. But how much of a cut am I supposed to accept in order to do “fulfilling” work?
What got me riled this time was this fellowship, a one-year position that offers $20,000 to recent graduates of undergrad or graduate programs (no differential for the latter’s further educational experience) or to activists with work experience who would benefit from a research-oriented environment. That sum is to live in Washington D.C., a city where rent can easily equal what the organization is paying as a monthly wage. Unlike many other organizations offering meager salaries, this one doesn’t make it up in free housing or elaborate benefits either. I don’t mean to single them out, because they are by no means the only ones exploiting young people. This is long common and accepted practice in the competitive world of internships; the question is how far it will extend into the world of employment, of qualified people who should be able to support themselves.
Yes, it is possible to live, even in D.C. or NYC, on $20,000. A frugal single person with no dependents and no debt who remains in good health might even save money. But throw some cavities in the picture, god forbid a broken bone or an appendectomy, maybe an unexpected pregnancy — it becomes clearer how tenuous the whole picture is. Such a low wage eliminates applications from anyone with a family, anyone with educational, homeowner or credit-card debt, anyone with medical issues — pretty much anyone who doesn’t have some savings or additional support of some kind (like parental funding for, say, car emergencies). Further, that person is unlikely to receive preventative medical and dental care or put aside savings or retirement during that year. Why should people doing “good work” be rewarded less than others? Furthermore, what kind of “ideals” are these organizations supporting when they remove diversity from the applicant pool and don’t meet even the basic needs of their weakest employees?
— posted by poetloverrebelspy