May 24 2007

McJobs in America – under threat!

BBC NEWS | Talk about Newsnight | “Gis a McJob”


“An unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector”.

That’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines “McJob”. Yesterday McDonald’s launched a petition to change the definition, saying that the above definition is derogatory and hurtful to McDonald’s employees.

I heard a blurb about this story on BBC tonight and it got me thinking about a previous post I wrote about the stronger Chinese currency’s impact on the balance of trade between China and the US: Will a weaker dollar affect the balance of trade? It already has!. Elaine Witkowski, a teacher in North Carolina commented on this post:

“Few people mention that the jobs being created are lower paying jobs with less benefits than the manufacturing jobs that are going overseas. I teach in a rural county in NC where only 1 out of 8 people have a college education. When textile, furniture and other manufacturing jobs go away, these workers with a high school education or less do not find equivalent jobs. While going back to school to get new skills seems to be a solution, the reality of having money to pay for tuition and finding time while working many jobs and taking care of your children is slim. I know parents working two to three jobs and we have a food bank at our school for when times get rough for families. I believe the zero sum concept is alive for workers without the necessary skills to get better employment when the factories leave.”

McMansion - Shanghai's Forest Manor

In other words, globalization, outsourcing and off-shoring of traditional manufacturing jobs has left Americans in communities like Elaine’s with little left to choose from but McJobs.

Another thought that crossed my mind: What would most McDonald’s employees say about the work they do? My guess is, most probably would describe their jobs flipping burgers and scooping fries in a way similar to Oxford’s definition above.

If McDonald’s succeeds in removing “McJob” from the dictionary, what will be next? Where will the Orwellian restructure of our language stop? Will they go for McMansion next? If so, my students living across the street in Forest Manor may need a new word to describe their houses!

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About the author:  Jason Welker teaches International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement Economics at Zurich International School in Switzerland. In addition to publishing various online resources for economics students and teachers, Jason developed the online version of the Economics course for the IB and is has authored two Economics textbooks: Pearson Baccalaureate’s Economics for the IB Diploma and REA’s AP Macroeconomics Crash Course. Jason is a native of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and is a passionate adventurer, who considers himself a skier / mountain biker who teaches Economics in his free time. He and his wife keep a ski chalet in the mountains of Northern Idaho, which now that they live in the Swiss Alps gets far too little use. Read more posts by this author

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