Labor Day was declared a
national holiday for the purpose of honoring American
workers and their contributions to society. Since
nearly 44 percent of the nation's workforce is unmarried, I
thought it would be appropriate to devote today's column to
them, especially since so little has been written about the
unmarried American worker.
Who are these unmarried
workers and how do they compare with their married coworkers
when it comes to unemployment rates, wages, promotions,
shift schedules, flexible hours, multiple jobs, work at
home, and leave benefits? What does the most recent
information from the United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics tell us about the unmarried workforce?
Unmarried employees are
more likely to be unemployed, make lower wages, get fewer
promotions, and work less desirable shifts. They
aren't given as much flexibility, are more likely to work
multiple jobs, and they take less advantage of leave
benefits. No wonder single people often complain about
a lack of fairness in the workplace.
Unmarried people are much
more likely to be unemployed than those who are married.
Only 2.8 percent of married men were unemployed last year,
compared with 9.5 percent of never-married men and 5.6
percent of men who were previously married (widowed,
divorced, or separated). The same holds true for
women, with 3.3 percent of married women unemployed, compared
with 8.3 percent of never-married women and 5.4 percent of
unmarried workers have lower wages than married workers
If benefits were included in the picture, the disparity in
compensation would be even greater.
The median weekly earnings
in 2004 for salaried full-time married workers were $719,
compared with $510 for never-married workers and $606 for
those previously married. For those paid by the hour, the
median pay for married workers was $12.81 per hour, compared
with $8.98 for never-married workers and $11.49 for those
Unmarried employees are
much more likely to be minimum wage workers, even when
employees under the age of 24 are excluded from the
analysis. For those 24 and older, the never-married
were more than twice as likely to be working a minimum-wage
job than married workers. Workers who were previously
married were 63 percent more likely than married workers to
be earning a minimum wage or less.
Data on promotions showed
married men with a promotion rate of 26.4 percent, compared
with 23.1 for never-married men and 24.3 percent for those
previously married. Never-married women fared better
than everyone on this score, with a 27.4 percent promotion
rate, compared with 25 percent for married women, and 27.2
percent for those previously married.
Some 28.8 percent of
married workers had flexible schedules, compared with 25.4
percent of never married workers, and 26.8 percent for those
previously married. More than 82 percent of married
men worked a regular day shift, compared with about 77
percent for unmarried men. The disparity between
married and unmarried women was even greater.
employees were 13 percent more likely, and never-married
people were 6 percent more likely, to work multiple jobs
than employees who were currently married.
Employees who were married
or lived with a partner were more than twice as likely to
have taken advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act
than workers who have never married. Probably because
of the presence of children in the home, previously-married
workers had the highest leave rate of all marital statuses.
When unmarried workers do
take an extended leave, they are much more likely to do so
without compensation. More than 62 percent of
never-married workers did not get paid when they took an
extended leave, while only 30.9 percent of married or
partnered leave-takers did not get paid. Some 26.5
percent of previously-married leave-takers did not get paid.
And guess whose more likely
to get the privilege of working at home?
More than 18 percent of
married people worked out of their house, compared with 8.8
percent of those who have never married and 12.9 percent of
those previously married.
So as we salute the
American worker on this Labor Day 2006, let's not forget
about the unmarried portion of the workforce who work just
as hard, sometimes harder and longer, but who get paid less
and receive fewer perks and benefits.
Perhaps the unmarried
workforce should get organized. If unmarried American
workers would unite and form their own labor union, the
initials U.A.W. would take on a whole new meaning.