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Working poor

From Academic Kids

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Working poor is a term used to describe individuals who maintain full-time jobs but remain in relative poverty. Often, they have negative net worth and lack the ability to escape their situations. In some situations there are people who choose to reject material benefits or prefer a lifestyle that most would regard as lazy or degenerate. Those people would not fall within the category of working poor.

In contrast to the ideal portrayed in Horatio Alger novels, where determination and a strong work ethic can lift a person from poverty into middle class comfort, the "working poor" are those who work hard yet do not escape poverty. While poverty in first world countries may be luxury in the eyes of many third world inhabitants or in comparison historical conditions. The fact that children do not have to work in coal mines does not mean they should not share the benefits of a society that has moved beyond that condition.

Workers without marketable skills will often face low wages, unpleasant working conditions, and few opportunities to attain skills that would allow them to escape their situations, especially if leisure time for education, libraries, schools and student loans are unavailable. If those facilities are available and are not exploited, then the reasons for this should be explored before time and energy are expended on the elements of society who do not, rather than cannot, make use of them.

In 2004, the bulk of the working poor in the United States and other western countries occupy unskilled and semi-skilled positions in the secondary labor market, predominantly in the service sector. In many cases, members of the working poor work at multiple part-time jobs, which require nearly full-time commitment but are classified as "part time" so some benefits, like medical insurance, are not paid by employers. This situation is sometimes referred to as precarious employment.

The working poor often live from "paycheck to paycheck", so unexpected costs related to healthcare, appliance repairs, school fees or utlity bills can bring them close to financial ruin. People, such as solo parents who don't have the ability to save or who have made wrong decisions in their past can descend into a debt spiral that makes their financial position untenable.

Job-training programs offered to low-income individuals can ameliorate this situation, by providing access to marketable skills. They also enable society to benefit by reducing ongoing welfare payments.

In many countries, fuel poverty policies have been introduced to help working poor people to cope with high heating bills in cold climates; budgeting services provided by state or other agencies have been made available to help poor people to manage what little they earn. Countries like Australia and New Zealand have policies designed to protect the vulnerable in society and which target welfare to deserving cases, especially to the working poor. Many social agencies and lawyers are calling for labor laws that ensure that those people who operate in the precarious employment sector are accorded the same rights as citizens in full time employment.

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