"McJobs" OK after all

Service jobs are much derided by Leftist elitists. They need to rethink -- a new study by the indefatiguable Adrian Furnham shows

A new academic study challenges people's misconceptions about McJobs. Endless studies have shown that working is good for young people's physical and mental well-being but McJobs are still widely - but wrongly - derided, it says. The Brighter Futures report suggests that having such a job often has a positive impact on young people's lives. From increased self-esteem to being cleaner around the house, the benefits are both personal and practical.

And far from being brain-dead dropouts, youngsters in the industry are on the whole happy, enthusiastic and very motivated to succeed, says author of the report, Professor Adrian Furnham. "The youngsters we spoke to started work viewing a McJob like most other people," says the professor of psychology at University College London. "But there is an amazing change in perception once they start. They are happy, motivated and the work gives them confidence and self-esteem. The evidence indicates that these types of jobs are positive for young people."

The study looks at jobs within the service industry in general - from supermarkets to high street stores and fast-food restaurants. But more unusually, researchers also interviewed the young people's managers, friends, family, partners and teachers to get a full picture of how the job had changed them.

Low expectations of what a McJob can offer could account for some of the impressive results - such as 85% of McDonald's staff saying their job was better than they thought it would be - admits Professor Furnham, but job satisfaction and promotion prospects still outstrip the norm.

* 90% show high levels of engagement
* 85% said job was better than they'd expected
* 83% had seen positive change in themselves since starting work
* 74% saw long-term career at McDonald's

The real success story is the youngsters who have done poorly in mainstream education and left without any qualifications. Often viewing themselves as only good enough to flip burgers, many flourish and quickly progress in such companies.

The research was conducted independently, but was commissioned by McDonald's. While Generation X did not link the fast-food chain with its description of a McJob, the company accepts the association exists but says the tag is misleading, and demeaning. It says it was prepared to publish the findings of the study - good or bad. "We've known for years the jobs we offer are good for young people," says David Fairhurst, a vice-president at McDonald's UK. "If we'd based an advertising campaign around it people would quite rightly have challenged us to prove it - now we can. This report is saying is that our jobs transform young people in a positive way - that's not bad for a McJob."


While there is a high satisfaction rating among service sector staff, the job is far from perfect, say unions. With Sunday trading and longer opening hours, staff often feel pressurised into working unsociable hours, even though they often have a legal right to opt out. Wages can be at the lower end of the scale as well.... But they also agree the service sector is perceived by many to be second-best as a career choice. "That just isn't the case," says USDAW. "It is very skilled now, with emphasis on training and career advancement. Companies are really keen to bring employees with talent through the system."

Again, it all comes down to the difference between the perception of working in the industry and the reality. One of the best ways to redress that is looking at the success stories.

Jason Hersey left school at 16 without any qualifications and little confidence. He got a job at McDonald's and nine years later is now in charge of a store with a turnover of 1.7 million pounds annually and 45 staff. The average wage for a manager is 45,000 pounds, plus a car. "I went into the job so I could get a bit of money to have a laugh with my mates," he says. "My perception was the same as most other people - it was a means to an end and was not going to take me anywhere. "My mum was just happy I'd got a job but me working for McDonald's wasn't something she was going to sing about to her mates. Now you can't shut her up. "While other business wouldn't have given me a chance, I showed I was willing to work and they rewarded that. They realise it's not in their interest to hold someone back who wants to do well."

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