In days gone by, nearly all adolescents were planning to engage in some form of paid employment during the summer months. Some people saw it as a continuation of an after-school job that they had held throughout the school year. For many others, it was a temporary position, such as working during the summer months at a pharmacy or as a lifeguard at a swimming pool.
Recent Evidence Suggests That This is Not Longer the Case
The Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the teen rate of labor force participation in July 2016 was 43%, which is significantly lower than the availability of young teens in the holiday workforce in July 1978, which was 72%. A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center looked at the typical summer employment numbers for 16- to 19-year-olds in December, and January of 2017 and discovered that only 35% of teens have a job during the summer.
So, what exactly has taken place here? As someone who has researched the effects of different generations on the labor force, we can tell you that there is not only one answer but many.
Are Today’s Modern Teenagers Lazier?
According to a white paper published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, there may be several reasons that account for the steady decline in adolescent employment. Some of these reasons include rising summer school participation, enhanced parental emphasis on education, and contestability from other demographic sectors.
One common misconception about teenagers is that they have become more sedentary. In addition, it is a common observation that adolescents are enslaved to technology and that the prevalence of obesity in adolescents is higher than it was in years past. The stereotype is strengthened by both of these factors. However, according to data from 2016, the percentage of young people who are “NEETs,” or young people who are “Neither in Education, Employment, or Training,” was only 7%. The notion that today’s adolescents are more sedentary is refuted by the fairly stable and low percentage of those who are not in school, employment, or training.
The Function of the on-demand or Gig Economy
The fact that it is difficult to keep track of employment in today’s gig economy is one possible explanation. For instance, a young woman may be working for her aunt’s local company, where she manages the Instagram account in addition to spending ten hours per week constructing a website. However, she will not be picked up by the radar of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it is highly unlikely that she will be considered employed.
A second possible explanation is that this is a result of changes that have taken place in the country’s economy and working population. One such example is what is known as the “Amazon effect.” Although jobs selling T-shirts at the shopping center or boardwalk have been quite common in the past, these days a growing number of people prefer to make purchases of their “stuff” online. As a consequence of this, retail stores and smaller stores can probably get by with the workforce they already have. Therefore, there is limited availability for those types of jobs.
In addition, research carried out by Christopher L. Smith of the Federal Reserve found that immigrants with lower levels of education are filling jobs that were previously reserved for adolescents during the summer months. It is interesting to note that there is additional competition from older employees who either stay in the workforce for longer periods or are prepared to take “bridge” jobs. In 2015, the percentage of people aged 55 and older who participated in the labor force was 39%, which was higher than the percentage of people aged 16 to 19 who participated in the labor force, which was 34%.
In certain instances, there has been an increase in the number of young people’s interest in programs that do not pay them for their educational, experiential, or social justice work. In addition, there is a persistent interest in “camps” that combine time spent working on specific skills, such as coding and writing, with time spent engaging in some form of physical activity.
Attempts to Obtain a University Education
Some high school students may be using the summer to get ahead academically and prepare themselves for college. This is probably more of a factor in middle-class to upper-class families, for whom a university trajectory is more automatic. Despite this, it is perceived as extremely competitive by overprotective parents, who are frequently hyper-involved in aiding the college objective in high school and even as far back as daycare. This can be a factor in lower-income families as well.
Furthermore, there are currently clearinghouses for travel possibilities and social justice missions, both of which are becoming increasingly well-liked not only among high school students but also among college students. Teenagers and their parents believe that having one or more of these on a college application could potentially be the required edge to get into an elite university.
In point of fact, according to Andy Challenger, VP of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, a national firm that monitors trends in the workplace, parents are not exactly forcing their children to leave the house in search of employment. Challenger stated that the children’s parents did not coerce them into finding employment. Parents are telling their children that there are various things they can do during the holidays that will add value for them, and that they do not have to work at a fast food restaurant.
Last but not least, there are issues with the way that employers perceive young workers overall. In a survey that was conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, it was found that 89.4 % of recent graduates rated themselves as having a high level of proficiency in their competence and work ethic. Nevertheless, only 42.5% of employers held that point of view.