Friday, January 27, 2006

'Cause I like to stir the pot
[That Wal-Mart opening I posted on a while back] received 25,000 applications for 325 openings for a new Chicago area store. Critics charge that this will encourage a race to the bottom, as the store fills many of these vacancies with part-time employees and offers lower wages and benefits than the competitors that will inevitably fold against Wal-Mart’s enormous buying power.

Meanwhile, Chad Donath, the corporation’s Chicago area manager argues, “That incredible number of applications shows the community thinks Wal-Mart is a great place to work.”

Well, not exactly. What it shows, though, is that 25,000 people would prefer to work in those jobs than the jobs they have -- or don't have -- at the moment.

That's the fundamental fact of economics that the critics seem not to get. Sure, for those with college educations or substantial technical skills in high demand in the marketplace, work as a stocker or cashier in the retail industry would be undesirable. It's hard, stressful work. But there would appear to be 25,000 people out there who consider those jobs a step up from where they are now.

. . .as economist Thomas Sowell explains, people who take low paying jobs gain valuable skills that they can translate into higher paying jobs. “Notions of menial jobs and dead-end jobs may be just shallow misconceptions among the intelligentsia but they are a deadly counterproductive message to the poor. Refusing to get on the bottom rung of the ladder usually means losing your chance to move up the ladder.”
This from an article comparing Wal-Mart to Universities. Interesting.

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