Babysitting is one of the most popular first experiences with the working world for teenagers. Negotiating fees and terms of employment, taking responsibility for those under their care, and providing quality customer service are just a few of the skills a young person learns as a childcare worker. However, for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they aren’t real jobs.
This is according to her recent comments when telling the story of a young woman who got her first “real job” at a pizza shop:
“It is high past time to guarantee equal pay for women.
… there are some people who basically say this is not a problem anymore. Well if you have a mother, wife, daughter, sister who is not being paid equally, it’s your problem, it’s your family’s problem, it’s America’s problem.
Just the other day, there was a story of a young seventeen-year-old girl who went to work for a pizza restaurant. She was really excited … because it was her first real job. I remember those days, when I had my first real job. Not just babysitting and things like that, but a real job.”
Putting aside Clinton’s dig at those who have debunked the pay gap, her treatment of babysitting exposes the pejorative way that Clinton treats jobs that are untraditional or underappreciated.
Babysitting may not come with a title and a W2 form, but it is legitimate employment. There were 1.26 million childcare worker jobs in 2014 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and that’s expected to grow over the next decade.
According to Care.com’s national Babysitter Survey, the average rate for babysitters was $13.44 per hour in 2015 (up 28 percent in just six years). This is far above the federal minimum wage and many state minimum wages. For example, the average per hour to hire a babysitter is $16.65 in San Francisco and $15.37 in Boston, MA. In addition, one in four families tip on top of the hourly rate. Not a shabby source of income.
Babysitting is not that different from the world of new jobs and opportunities that technology has opened up. On-demand jobs from companies that are app-based such as Uber, Thumbtack, and Airbnb are treated as nothing but gigs, perhaps because they lack a politically-connected union or lobby.
Last year Clinton noted during a speech:
"Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing a website … even driving their own car. This on demand or so called 'gig' economy is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future," Clinton said
In the same way babysitting is not a “real job,” some progressive policymakers hold a similar view of the on-demand or sharing economy as gigs that people do. When they do so, they dismiss the legitimate income that workers generate for themselves and their families and the service that’s provided to customers – often at a lower cost, better quality, and more safety –than their traditional counterparts. There should be nothing to dismiss about a part of our economy that a reported 44 percent of U.S. adults say they have participated in. As Time notes, that’s more than 90 million people – greater than the number of adults who identify as Democrats or Republicans.
The economy is shifting away from the “real jobs” or “good jobs” that some policymakers can’t let go of. The shift toward to automation of low-wage and low-skilled jobs in many industries underscores that.
The jobs that will grow in the future are those that rely on individual reasoning, competence, and creativity. Babysitting will never disappear unless Rosie the Robot (from the Jetsons) becomes a reality, and even then, parents will likely be wary of leaving their toddler in the care of a robot for hours.
We shouldn’t be dismissive about treating some opportunities as better than others, especially when they are the ones experiencing wage growth and may be the ones providing opportunity for women and young people as our economy continues to evolve.