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Sat Dec 14, 2013, 04:32 AM

 

Is service work today worse than being a household servant?

At least one class of American workers is having a much harder time today than a decade ago, than during the Great Depression and than a century ago: servants. The reason for this, surprisingly enough, is outsourcing. Let me explain.

Instead of live-in servants, who were common in prosperous U.S. households before World War II, better-off families now outsource the family cook, maid and nanny. It is part of a problem in developed countries around the globe that is getting more attention worldwide than in the U.S.

We are falling backward in America, back to the Gilded Age conditions of a century and more ago when a few fortunate souls grew fabulously rich while a quarter of families had to take in boarders to make ends meet. Only back then, elites gave their servants a better deal...

A household cook typically earned $10 a week in 1910, century-old books on the etiquette of hiring servants show. That is $235 per week in today’s money, while the federal minimum wage for 40 hours comes to $290 a week. At first blush, that looks like a real raise of $55 a week, or nearly a 25 percent increase in pay. But in fact, the 2013 minimum-wage cook is much worse off than the 1910 cook. Here’s why:

The 1910 cook earned tax-free pay, while 2013 cook pays 7.65 percent of his or her income in Social Security taxes as well as income taxes on more than a third of his pay, assuming full-time work every week of the year. For a single person, that’s about $29 of that $55 raise deducted for taxes.

Unless he can walk to work, today’s outsourced family cook must cover commuting costs. A monthly transit pass costs $75 in Los Angeles, $95 in Atlanta and $112 in New York City, so bus fare alone runs $17 to $27 a week, eating up a third to almost half of the seeming increase in pay, making the apparent raise pretty much vanish.

The 1910 cook got room and board, while the 2013 cook must provide his or her own living space and food...


http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2013/12/service-industryworkerslaborinequality.html

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Reply Is service work today worse than being a household servant? (Original post)
El_Johns Dec 2013 OP
NYC_SKP Dec 2013 #1

Response to El_Johns (Original post)

Sat Dec 14, 2013, 04:36 AM

1. It could easily be argued that household servitude was better than minimum wage.

 

I wasn't there, I don't know, but the masters had an interest in keeping their workers healthy and, if fact, happy.

It's an opinion I have not based upon experience.


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