Are jobs for Marin’s youth going, going, gone?

POSTED: 09/14/17, 10:44 AM PDT | UPDATED: ON 09/14/2017

Author: Mary Ann Maggiore

Publication: Marin Independent Journal: Marin Voice


Three years ago, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Morgan Stanley released separate but complementary reports on the dismal future awaiting millennials — those ranging in age from 18 to 30.

They each concluded that one in every five members of this group were either unemployed or underemployed. This means 20 percent of our next generation will be hard-pressed to buy houses or cars, pay their student loans or properly raise families and pay taxes.

At the end of that school year, Reuters took a poll of graduating college seniors to discover how many of them had jobs waiting for them after graduation. Again, up came that maddening 20 percent number. In subsequent years that number has risen only about 1 percentage point per year. This is not advancement to praise; this is a kind of mire to be wary of.

Pew Research recently reported that although unemployment rates have been dropping in other age groups, the group they studied, ages 16 to 34, is suffering the greatest unemployment. They form less than a third of the nation’s population. Yet they are over 50 percent of the nation’s unemployed. As the Gallup poll assessment stated, these rates will continue to cause a “staving off of adulthood” and may very well “reap economic difficulties down the road.”

Here in Marin, yearly we cheer ourselves with news of our low unemployment rate. But this number, around 3 percent this year, does not take into account those who are off the rolls and those who must work two and three jobs to live as poor amid such plenty.

Who of us has not witnessed a nighttime tableau in a business window of mother, father and children emptying waste baskets and vacuuming rugs — their second or third job of the day for the working poor? Meanwhile, for the middle class and affluent, high-tech and other booms brought them in and busts moved them out. Everyone became dispensable.

Labor suffered terrible setbacks. The great leaders against tyranny in the workplace are now gone. We decry the changes in our economic system that gave power and wealth to the top 1 percent while never fully realizing that its influence is now binding us and the generations rising behind us.

The problem of unemployment or underemployment has affected many families of every stripe in Marin. A huge number of college graduates are now living with their parents once again. Many of them are working jobs that do not pay a living wage. They cannot go forward. They cannot move into a state of independence or true adulthood.

This is a grave problem for our collective future. Like any grave problem there are also several solutions.

• Work strategies for management and labor:

The changes we need will require business and labor to work together. Currently in the North Bay, companies are crying out for new employees. These companies need to change their complaint from a grumble to a clarion call. They need to create in-house training programs that will build the workforce they are seeking.

On the labor side, young laborers need to look to avenues they have not seen before and be ready to be trained as workers, not managers. And they need to look more widely. High-tech avenues, yes. Also, trades: carpentry, electrical, roofing, masonry. Do you know how many plumbers in this country are millionaires?

• Housing strategies for millennials and communities:

Rents are very high, no argument there. But young people seeking their own living spaces should be forming co-housing teams, living together and supporting each other. At the same time, planning directors and commissioners should move from reviewing plans to creating plans and methods for young people to adapt our housing stock and also getting more affordable housing underway. Tiny houses, anyone?

We need to look ahead to integrating this rising generation fully into our communities. Or we will end up a county of the very old and the very rich.

*Mary Ann Maggiore is a former mayor and planning commissioner of Fairfax and is now youth employment director for the nonprofit LAUNCH. Visit

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