Are Summer Jobs On the Way Out?

Published: Jun 24, 2015

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Kids these days, with their new-fangled gadgets and their lewd pop music and their scandalous fashion sense and internet memes, amirite?

The only thing that's worse: us "grownups," consumed with our bitter envy of their lifestyles and freedom and, well, general youth.

If you're looking for more fuel for your "things were better back in my day" fire, check out the chart below, which shows that summer employment rates among teenagers are perilously low. Which is a problem for those of us who came up the hard way, sitting by pools for endless hours or slinging golf bags or cold beverages in hot weather for tips. Why is it a problem, you ask? Well, how else are those youngsters supposed to prove to future "real" employers that they've got the kind of stick-to-it-iveness to hold down menial jobs while partying all summer long?

 Summer Jobs

Over at Slate, where I found the chart, Alison Griswold offers several factors that might help to explain why teens aren't using the summer to fuel their savings/purchase "investment pieces" at Hot Topic the way they used to. Among them: entry-level jobs are on the decline in general, which has a knock-on effect on temporary employment, while the average school leaving age is also climbing. Griswold also notes that "Other teens are opting for volunteer work, unpaid internships, and other 'pre-college' sorts of programs during the summer over traditional jobs."

While the dropoff in youth employment in general is likely the major reason for the decline, those last two reasons underline a much more meaningful shift in the lives of that demographic over the past 10-20 years. More kids staying in school leads to greater competition for places in college, which it turn makes the those long, responsibility-lite summers much less appealing. In a world where being chosen to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an education at the college of your choice is increasingly resembling an arms race, it makes sense that teens would forego the meager amounts they could earn serving ice cream in favor of something that they'll be able to squeeze an applications essay or resume bullet out of.

The worst part about that chart, then, is that it doesn't demonstrate the feckless nature of teens today; it's that it underlines just how competitive their lives have become.

Read More:

The Best Summer Job I Ever Had Was the Winter I Spent in the Italian Alps

Bad Jobs: What I've Learned From the Worst Jobs I've Held

Great Jobs: What I've Learned From the Best Jobs I've Held


Lifeguard image credit: 

"Lori Wilson Park, Cocoa Beach FL - Flickr - Rusty Clark (149)" by Rusty Clark from merritt usland FLA - Lori Wilson Park, Cocoa Beach FL. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.