In The New Economy Are Low-paid Jobs An Improvement?

vpplogo_resizeA couple of days ago Marc Andressen said in a Business Insider interview that in the new economy “even low-paid jobs — is an improvement”. Here is the entire quote.

“The old farming jobs were f–king terrible jobs. I mean, farmers wake up at 6 in the morning and work 14-hour days. Industrial jobs — people would get killed in these factories all the time. Coal miners — people are trying to protect coal-mining jobs. They’re terrible, terrible jobs … In developing countries, everybody’s dying to get into modern factory jobs, because the alternative is far worse.”

Back in the 1980s and 1990s I worked at a chemical plant near Houston. During my 15+ years at the plan we had one on the job injury. Our safety record was good enough that we applied and was accepted as an OSHA Star site. I know. I was on the committee. I know the slogans and I really do believe that companies really mean it when they say “we like you just the way you are!” A safe workplace is good for the company’s bottom line and both management and the employees are happy! While I was on the committee I knew the injury statistics for various industries.  In the 1980s chemical workers and coal miners were not on the top ten list. Since it has been a few years since I looked at the numbers, I did a little research to see if anything had changed. Here is the list from a recent Forbes article, America’s 10 Deadliest Jobs.

1. Logging workers
2. Fishers and related fishing workers
3. Aircraft pilot and flight engineers
4. Roofers
5. Structural iron and steel workers
6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors
7. Electrical power-line installers and repairers
8. Drivers/sales workers and truck drivers
9. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
10. Construction laborers

Yup, the list is pretty much as I remember. Industrial jobs did not make the list either. Mr. Andressen was 0 for 2 in job safety predictions. Our country learned a lot of bitter lessons improving mine safety since 1900s and the unions and coal companies are proud of their progress. The same can be said for industrial jobs, too.

I am kind of surprised Mr. Andressen did not crank up his favorite browser and check the safety and salary information for coal mining before he spoke.  If he did he would find that the average coal miner salary in 2013 was $82,058 while the average U.S. worker got $49,700. According to the Glassdoor the average hourly wage for a Starbucks Barista is $9.32 per hour or about $18,640 a year if they work full time for 50 weeks. When you look at the safety record and the salary, I think it is pretty obvious why coal miners want to hold on to their jobs. These “new economy” jobs are jobs you take while you are look for a real job.