In Praise of McJobs

Merriam-Webster has the term “McJob” in the newest edition of their collegiate dictionary, which has caused McDonald’s, from whence the term is derived, to be slightly upset. The new dictionary defines a McJob as, “a low paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement.”

McDonald’s is upset because they say that these jobs are not dead-end and do offer opportunities for advancement. I think I’ll have to take the unpopular road and side with McDonald’s on this one. I’ll even admit to liking McDonald’s. Yes, they’re everywhere. No, it’s not good for you. But the food is not that bad—especially when you’re in a foreign country and have had enough of the local fare, Micky D’s can be an expatriate’s solace.

Back to the jobs—it’s true that flipping burgers at McDonald’s is a less than desirable job. Nobody wants to make a career out of it, and that’s the point. The thought that “McJobs” provide little opportuinty for advancement it ludicrous because these jobs are so bad and pay so little that everyone who works in them has ample motivation to leave them after a time. McDonald’s employees come and go like the tide, but they go with a little experience that helps them get another job. The Wall Street Journal observes:

Notwithstanding laments to the contrary, this ladder of opportunity remains a fact of American life. In a recent study of earnings mobility in California, economist Michael Dardia of the Bay Area’s Sphere Institute found that for most young people minimum-wage jobs such as those in retail or fast food are only a temporary stop on the way up. “Condemning retail jobs as ‘dead-end’ jobs misses the point that these are primarily entry-level jobs for entering or part-time workers,” says Mr. Dardia. “The important issue is where workers end up–not where they start.”

I’ve never worked fast food, but I have worked the in the factory equivalent. One of my first jobs involved putting a washer onto a pin follwed by a rubber stopper. This process was repeated thousands of times during my eight-hour shift. I earned $4.35 an hour. I am also no longer there.

Sure, there are exceptions. Some people for one reason or another never advance beyond entry-level jobs. For most of us though, these jobs are a door into the marketplace though which virtually anyone can enter.