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No financial incentive

The federal minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with inflation, and an analysis shows a growing gap between productivity and compensation.

In 1980, the federal minimum hourly wage was $3.10. Today, it sits at $7.25. Adjusting for inflation, to reach the same purchasing power as over 40 years ago, the minimum wage would have to be around $12.22 an hour.

Meanwhile, productivity from 1979-2022 grew at more than four times the rate of compensation (64.7% vs 14.8%) for typical workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

If hard work doesn’t necessarily pay off, and it’s a struggle to afford basic goods, young people may not feel the extra effort is worth it.

Read more: Thanks to Jeff Bezos, you can now cash in on prime real estate — without the headache of being a landlord. Here's how

Lack of stability

In the eyes of many young Americans, corporations are not seen as safe havens of steady employment. Layoffs are rampant across tech and media, and college graduates struggle to acquire jobs in their field.

Some young workers have become so disillusioned that they even post recordings online of themselves being laid off.

They want to see more from their employers — especially if they can’t count on them for a job anymore.

Quiet quitting response

Despite an apparent lack of desire to get ahead in corporate America, workers still live in a world where they need to pay for things and therefore keep their jobs.

This gave rise to quiet quitting during the pandemic. It’s a term that means doing the bare minimum at work rather than hustling to go above and beyond.

Roberts mentions the trend in her video, saying that young people get “flack” for quiet quitting in spite of the limited rewards of working hard.

Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report shows that nearly 6-in-10 employees are quiet quitting. It’s a sign this trend of disengagement at work hasn’t gone away.

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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex


Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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