Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Solving Unemployment, or, "The Value of Babysitting"

Here in Hawaii, where I'm basking in the delicious warmth of a winter working vacation, hundreds of nurses and others were confronted with the Yuletide news that they were losing their jobs. It may be paradise, but when you get your layoff notice on Christmas eve--part of the thousand-person cuts that two bankrupt hospital closures are forcing--it's tough to look forward to the New Year.

The nation still suffers from high unemployment (8.6% overall; California 11.3% according to latest DOL stats) and with weary job-seekers running out of government payments despite extensions, many settle for lesser positions or leave the job market entirely. Well, I've got a suggestion: babysitting.

Babysitting has skyrocketed in value over the years, more than any position I can think of.  Admitting my age, I'll tell you that I earned 50 cents per hour in high school babysitting, and it didn't matter how many kids there were in the family.

Now the going rate is $15 per hour, at least, and parents pay more per child.  In many areas, $20 an hour is de rigeur. In New York City, it's more like $25 per hour.  Since I was a kid, the amount of annual income considered a good living has escalated about five times over.  In that same time, the wage of babysitters has increased thirty-fold.

Many people who spent big bucks on a college education may think themselves above this plebeian occupation. You don't need academic skills to soothe a crying baby, and the status of babysitting isn't up there with professors or physicians.  Still, if you're looking for something to sustain you, would you turn down work that pays $15 an hour? You don't even need to go to barista school.

Babysitting does have its qualifications, and these would probably exclude a lot of people.  You need the patience of a saint, a tolerance for bodily excretions, incredible flexibility both in planning and posing, and clever, if not devious psychological skills. It helps if you can stand to read Goodnight Moon sixteen times over (Adam Mansback's Go the F--k to Sleep is generally not permissible).

On my first non-family babysitting job, the two-year-old, who was supposed to be sleeping so I could do my homework, got repetitive projectile stomach flu. This was before cell phones. I immediately decided to scuttle babysitting and get a job using the shorthand class I was taking (anyone remember when girls learned Gregg shorthand in school?).  My ability to take dictation at 120 words per minute earned me $1.65 an hour.

My point is that every mom I know grouses about the lack of babysitters, despite their willingness to pay so well.  So, if you're up for a little down time, as in crawling around on the floor, or enjoy listening to happy tunes on the road chauffeuring children to lessons and tutors, there's likely an opportunity for you.  And if my observations about salaries hold, and kids keep doing what they do, it's sure to be a growth industry.

1 comment:

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