What the rise of “hipster jobs” hides about America’s precarious labor market.
Earlier this week the job recruitment site Indeed put out a press release about the rise of hipster jobs. “The United States of Hipster jobs,” it read before going on to detail how millennials and Generation Yoga are searching jobs described with “small batch” or “craft.”
It’s reductive to assume anyone born between the early 80s right and early 00s strives to work with anything that could be served in a mason jar, sold on Etsy, or described as artisan. But there does seem to be an increased interest in certain professions. The data goes on to look at key terms used in job profiles, including “organic,” “vegan,” “coffee,” “vintage,” “yoga,” “pop up,” “craft,” “tattoo,” and “distillery,” and found that all were on the rise.
Is this because young nomadic people put certain values above all else, shunning offices to pave their own utopian career paths to charming kombucha-filled lives? Probably not.
There is no official definition of “hipster jobs,” but a quick search on Google Jobs seems to suggest companies put in key search terms in order to attract younger employees. The pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest, is currently advertising for a “Hipster Digital Brand Incubator” to help them rethink how they grow their business.
Now, yes, that might imply that people who are into yoga and organic coffee desire it in every aspect of their lives—including work. But, further down the press release, the job site goes on to list the top five so-called “hipster jobs”: bartender, chef, barista, yoga instructor, and tattoo artist. What these positions also have in common is that all are precarious work. None of them typically come with health insurance and probably won’t come with perks like a pension plan.
In 2015, the Washington Post ran an article about how bartenders regularly get injured at work, but it’s rarely the establishment that foots the bill. The report went on to reveal that the number of incidents reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is far lower than what speaking to any insider would reveal. Chefs and bartenders have the second-highest risk among all workers of injuring themselves by falling down. In an environment with long hours, slippery floors, sharp knives, hot stoves, and drunk customers—it’s really no wonder it’s such a dangerous place to work.
Oddly, the growth in these sectors contradicts what young people say they want in a job. Another recruiting firm recently tried to figure out the top incentives younger employees say will keep them in their current jobs, and found out that benefits was at the top—in particular, help with finances and paying off student loans.
The gig economy has yet to sort of the mammoth headache that is healthcare and benefits. 36% of Americans are freelance, according to a recent study by the Freelancers Union, and when it comes to millennials, that number rockets to 47%. A recent Reuters report tried to unpick the problem, taking into account flexible plans, unsteady income, and a variety of needs, and found a huge gap where the Affordable Health Care Act once was.
The idea that waves of the country are uprooting themselves from the stability of a 9-to-5, disregarding health benefits or a pension scheme to work in precarious industry because it has “yoga” in the title, is insulting. The term “hipster jobs” seems to come with already loaded stereotypes about young people; they’re entitled free-spirits averse to regular hours and the pressure of a career. There is some good news. Last month, US jobs growth was double what economists expected. But we also have more people who have been out of work for over a year since 1976, and a lot of people are unhappy in their increasingly precarious positions. A record number of US workers went on strike last year over labour disputes, while 63% of Gen X workers say they are struggling financially, and are earning less than in their former careers.