The face of the American working class is changing. Whereas once the phrase "working class American" conjured up images of men working in factories or on construction sites, today the majority of the working class is employed in the service industry.
The Rise of Service Sector Work
In 1900, more than half the workforce worked in factories or on farms. Today, that number is less than 10 percent. Meanwhile, service sector employment grew from 40 percent in 1950 to 56 percent in 2005, with the rise continuing at a rapid pace since then.
What Do Working Americans Do Today?
Instead of toiling in the fields or manually putting together products on production lines, Americans are working in service sector jobs. In particular, there's been a huge rise in demand for jobs that involve caring for older people or people with a disability, largely due to the aging population. The healthcare sector is booming, but it's not the only service industry that's experiencing growth.
Many job opportunities have also opened up in education, childcare and home cleaning. Meanwhile, many of the jobs Americans used to do have been replaced by machines, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Whereas once building a car would have required many people, all playing their part in a well-organized production line, today machines can put together components to create a high-quality vehicle. In the near future, artificially intelligent software may even be driving the vehicles, eliminating another traditional source of jobs for working class people.
Lifting the Stigma
Historically, working in the service industry carried a stigma. Roles have traditionally been poorly paid, and this kind of work is often associated with the low-status servants that used to be employed in the homes of wealthy people. However, the status of service work is slowly changing. As more and more working class Americans flood into this sector, it's important to continue this trend of lifting the stigma. Service sector jobs can provide a way of life for millions of people, but only if the roles are able to offer job security and a high enough level of pay to allow workers to support themselves and their families.
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