Amidst the financial crisis that has wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of millions across the globe, earning a living wage – one that is able to support all the basic needs of a family—has become a constant struggle for most people. More and more people are forced by circumstances to take on two or more jobs to support their families, and the career choices of the younger generation are often determined by how lucrative a job is. Money, as they say, is the name of the game and many are forsaking their personal dreams for the sake of putting food on the table.
However, there are still those who, either because of sheer passion or the lack of other opportunities, take on jobs whose pay is less than stellar, yet are vital to the economic growth of society. These low-paying but noble careers are often overlooked by jobseekers and financial analysts alike, but their impact on society remains immeasurable. These thankless yet important career choices include:
Small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, and agricultural workers: This is especially true for third world countries where small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, and other agricultural workers produce food for the country yet are often left with pitiful earnings barely able to cover their basic needs. They are also the ones responsible for growing agricultural products for export, thereby fuelling the economy of their home country, but are not compensated accordingly.
Domestic helpers: Nannies, cleaners, gardeners, and other domestic helpers perform tasks that may be seen as lowly, but are actually crucial for the efficient functioning of a household. Because the majority of the people employed as domestic helpers are ethnic minorities or migrants with limited opportunities, they often perform strenuous work with long hours for very small wages. Indeed, despite the existence of appropriate legislation mandating a minimum wage for domestic helpers, many of them often receive salaries significantly lower than the minimum wage.
Teachers: Teachers often come to mind when discussing noble, yet low-paying professions and this cliché has been reinforced by the consistently low salary rates received by teachers, especially those teaching in public schools. Despite being tasked with the important work of molding the minds of the next generation, overworked and underpaid teachers are becoming more and more common, especially as the ongoing financial crisis has urged governments across the world to cut State subsidies for education sector.
Manual laborers, such as roofers, plumbers, public transport drivers, and the like: Manual laborers, including those who take on odd jobs, often perform skilled tasks that are risky, yet extremely necessary. In exchange for their services, manual laborers remain one of the most underappreciated sectors of society, with pay scales often looming close to the poverty line.
Department store and fast-food chain employees: Tasked with providing uncomplaining assistance to their customers 24/7, department stores and fast-food chain employees play an important role in making your shopping or dining experience pleasant and fuss-free. Yet, as the recent protests by Walmart employees show, many department store and fast-food employees who greet you with a smile often go home to their families with salaries far below the living wage.