Are Youth Facing a Future Without Work?

A friend once asked me why young people no longer have any motivation to do work. I told him I think it’s because a lot of young people have figured out that work isn’t worth their time or energy — that the jig is up. People are no longer being fooled into thinking that taking crappy jobs is their only choice. We only have one life that we know of, and many people would rather spend it enjoying themselves instead of being wage slaves. It’s as simple as that. And I cannot blame them.

So many young people have been screwed out of the “American dream,” or what their parents promised them would be a better life for them. The resulting disappointment can be astounding. Many young people even go to college, taking out huge college loans, thinking it will mean they will land their dream job full time with benefits. But this is not what is happening for most. Most people have to settle into jobs they hate — jobs that are part-time, below their skill level, and without benefits. Jobs that, at the end of the day, just aren’t worth doing.

Many see what is in store for them so they don’t even attempt college. Some buckle under massive student debt and just default on their loans. It has become overwhelming. Some young people have even chosen to simply drop out of society. 

Many label these young folks “slackers,” “losers,” “moochers,” and “lazy.” But the truth is our society has failed them. The fact is a lot of jobs no longer exist. They have been shipped over seas, replaced by technology or machines, or are just plain gone — having been eliminated.

Let’s be clear: The capitalist economy values only certain types of jobs and certain types of employees. So if you’re a creative type, need a lot of training and mentoring, question authority, are introverted, not skilled in exactly the “right way” etc. the chances of finding the right job are slim to none. The truth of the matter is there are a lot of jobs to do; they just aren’t jobs that pay. These are things like taking care of other people — our children, our elderly, our sick — beautifying our society, protecting the environment, providing care for animals, etc. These things are not seen as easily commodifiable. If the capitalist cannot make money and exploit a worker to do so, then that job isn’t created for pay.

Many youth of today are jobless, not out of choice but out of force. They either cannot find work or can’t find a job worth doing after weighing the pros and cons. This has left many youth feeling depressed, withdrawn, isolated, anxious, and even suicidal. Unemployment causes mental health issues.

The sad reality is there is now something called job obsolescence. It’s the future some imagine, where there is a great shortage of jobs that never come back. Yet more and more people are born every day who will grow up and need a job to survive. What is to be done about this?

I think we can start with developing a four-hour work day. Lessen the work hours and then divide them among more people. Pay people a living wage despite working shorter hours. Another idea is a guaranteed income, which is a payment to all that need it every month to cover basic expenses. This ensures that everyone food, clothing, and shelter. We could also promote co-ops, bartering, community time shares, programs, and gardens, and rely more on each other and less on corporations.

Or we could also just, you know, end capitalism.

Socialism would give everyone a job that wants to work. Socialism believes in the true value of work and respects workers by letting them keep their earnings without exploitation. Socialism would create jobs where they are needed, not because they make some rich guy more money he doesn’t need. Socialism would end wage slavery and give the means of production back to people for use and not for profit. Socialism is what our young people truly need and deserve.

Right now many youth are struggling to find or have simply given up looking. They, at least for now, find themselves in a precarious position. They are meandering through life, living with parents well into their 20s and 30s, couch-surfing, relying on friends and family to put them up and support them, and some have even, sadly, gone homeless. Sometimes they are able to give back to those that help them in other ways other than money. Those who can, do get part-time work, odd jobs here and there, or engage in the black market or under the table work just to make it through another day. Their life becomes about living for the moment, since the future has become too scary to contemplate — a future so uncertain, most cannot imagine it.

It’s up to us to help our young build and create a future of their dreams. If the future is some kind of “post-work” world, we have to re-imagine what life will be and start putting into place a new framework for being. After all, we are not human doings, we are human beings. What will we become?

Will we be fulfilled and reach our fullest potential? Only if we can build a sharing economy and be willing to give each other the means to make our own way in this world with dignity and self worth. We must begin to pivot and begin to transform if we are going to prepare for the world that awaits us. We can balance the needs of the planet and human needs, by socializing our economy and having “enough for everyone, and time for what we will.” It’s up to us. We can do it together!


Tina Phillips

is a social worker who enjoys writing, advocacy, good food, and thrifting. She lives in Oakland, CA with her partner, Rachel, four cats, and their dog, Miss Piggy. You can read more of her writing on her blog at

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