When “Hours Are the New Bonus,” Bankruptcy is the New Answer Skip to main content

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When “Hours Are the New Bonus,” Bankruptcy is the New Answer


We talk a lot here about the trials and travails of underemployment, a perpetual condition of post-recessionary America, in which many, if not most, workers face stagnant wages and/or part-time jobs that fail to keep up with the rising cost of living in the new economy.

In particular, retail workers struggle for hours amid a weak economic recovery, clamoring for extra work in this lower-skilled and paying field. In fact, according to a new article by The Huffington Post, the difference between full and part-time employment can often be the difference between eking out a living or earning a quick trip into insolvency. And unfortunately, the latter is often the end game for many witnessing low consumer confidence and facing harsh retail realities.

According to HuffPost:

“Despite a string of mostly dismal jobs reports, the retail sector has managed to add 146,000 jobs over the past year. But many of those jobs don’t come with the hours that workers need in order to get by, nor do they come with the benefits or week-to-week stability of a quality job.

The average workweek in retail was 30.3 hours last month, fewer than the 33.5 hours for the average private-sector job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the past year, those figures have not improved at all for either the retail industry or the private sector as a whole, and they've even managed to drop in recent months -- a fact that doesn’t bode well for workers in need of more work.”

But in the end, reduced workweeks mean more than just a paltry paycheck that’s about two-thirds of what it used to be; it can also mean a less reliable schedule, no sick days and no vacation days, often forcing many to cut corners, take on additional jobs, get roommates, or find themselves falling further and further behind.

“Facing stubbornly weak consumer demand, retailers have needed to keep a close watch on the amount of work they're doling out in the down economy. But labor advocates say the skimping on hours and the scheduling fluctuations have put workers in a financial bind and created logistical headaches for them. When this week might offer 35 daytime hours and next week 22 nighttime hours, it can become difficult to arrange for daycare, to set doctor’s appointments, or, for many people, to take that much-needed second part-time job. The shortage of hours also limits workers' mobility, as the employees who do enjoy full-time status are careful to hunker down and keep it.”

“Hours are the new bonus,” says Carrie Gleason, director of the Retail Action Project, an advocacy group for rank-and-file workers in the industry. Many employers “don’t look at the cost of declining quality in customer service, or what the unpredictable scheduling does to a worker’s mentality. It’s really a divestment of the workforce through scheduling.”

This divestment of workforce, and lack of investment in the American workers is having dramatic impacts on average household budgets. Many are forced to turn to other financial options outside of the workforce, including personal bankruptcies.

In reality, there has been a steady stream of bankruptcy filings during the economic downturn, and we can realistically expect 2011 to be no different, with yet another 1.5 million people expected to file for bankruptcy in 2011, with many of these debtors suffering from the symptoms of underemployment, unemployment or long-term joblessness.

A personal bankruptcy can in fact, provide a very long-term solution to your part-time underemployment woes. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy can erase unsecured debt like credit card bills, while a Chapter 13 plan can help you keep those things you have fallen behind on, like your home or car. These options can take the financial weight off of families like your own struggling to make ends meet in an environment where few Americans are feeling particularly financially safe and sound.

If you too have been affected by the lingering economic crisis and live in North Carolina, contact the bankruptcy professionals at the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt TODAY.

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