Monday, December 08, 2008

nickel and dimed: undercover in low-wage usa by barbara enrenreich

In this thought-provoking read, Ehrenreich asks the question: "can you get by in the land of the free on the minimum wage?" She takes on cleaning jobs, retail, nursing work and waitressing - often simultaneously - and the answer is a resounding no. The biggest obstacle seems to be the prohibitive cost of housing - she makes barely enough to cover the rent for short-term housing or a motel room, let alone to save up a sufficient amount for a deposit for her own place. Together with the physical exhaustion of working 7 days a week, Ehrenreich shows that such a life is unsustainable - if it can be called a life at all.

While a bit heavy for the holiday season perhaps, I found this book really fascinating. It was recommended to me by a lecturer, along with Elisabeth Wynhausen's repeat of the experience in Australia, Dirt Cheap: Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market. If nothing else, it will make me treat those who form the backbone of the economy just that little bit better - after all, there but for the grace of God goes I...

Note: this book is available in the US under the title, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America


  1. interesting read. I guess this is why the waitresses will chase you after you leave a restaurant if you haven't left enough of a tip?

  2. Indeed! Now I feel as though we should have been throwing large amounts of money at them considering how little they earn...