Labor Day Alert: American Workers Feel Disposable

What Should the 1/3 of Employed Americans That Believe They Are Disposable Do to Attain Durability in a Time of Uncertainty?

Naperville, Ill, Sept. 4, 2020 - This Labor Day, when American workers should be feeling recognized and celebrated, nearly one in four employed Americans (24 percent) believe that American workers are not valued, according to a survey by DeVry University. Perhaps more shocking, 36 percent of survey respondents report that based on their employer’s actions since the start of the pandemic, they believe their employer views them as “disposable.”

“Earlier this year, we were dividing the American workforce into ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ workers, and now we have ‘the disposable worker’,” said Alexandra Levit, best-selling career and workforce author. “It is heartbreaking, but perhaps not surprising, as both companies and employees navigate a challenging landscape. This Labor Day workers can, and should, take time to evaluate their careers and take steps to build what DeVry University calls ‘career durability.’”

Demographically, the sense of disposability seemed to resonate more among young people with 47 percent of Gen Z and 42 percent of Millennials believing their employer sees them as disposable compared to only 28 percent of Gen X and 32 percent of Baby Boomers. Not surprisingly those with less education also felt more vulnerable with 43 percent of workers who didn’t complete college believing their employer considers them disposable versus fewer than a third (30 percent) of respondents who graduated college.

The survey also explored what the American worker believes can be done to build a more “durable” versus “disposable” work environment. The findings included:

  • Tenure and Education Don’t Matter
    • What Workers Believe Employers Value Most
      • 65% Hard Work
      • 49% Meeting Goals and Deadlines
      • 43% Positive Mindset
    • What Workers Believe Employers Value Least:
      • 22% Industry Experience
      • 16% Education Level
      • 14% Years with the Company
  • Paycheck Over Health
    • Workers Say Employers Can Do These To Demonstrate Appreciation:
      • 69% Pay Increases
      • 34% Awards and Recognition
      • 30% More Work Schedule Flexibility
    • But Few Feel Appreciated Via These Activities:
      • 17% More Pandemic Safety Measures
      • 17% Start Offering a Health Insurance Plan or Offer a Better Health Insurance Plan
      • 10% Access to PTO and Sick Leave

Dave Barnett, Chief Human Resource Officer at DeVry University added, “Not only is it disturbing to realize that more than one-third of American workers feel disposable—it’s also bad business. Both during and after the pandemic, it’s the companies that demonstrate they care about their employees and help them build their durable career value that will emerge as stronger competitors—they’ll be the winners.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: A former nationally syndicated columnist for The Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes and best-selling author on career and workforce, Alexandra Levit is available to provide insight and advice to both employees and employers on building a “Durable” vs. “Disposable” workforce.

About the Workforce Sentiment Survey

This CARAVAN survey was conducted by ENGINE INSIGHTS among a sample of 965 adults 18 years of age and older who are employed full or part time. The online omnibus study is conducted three times a week among a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older. This survey was live on August 24-26, and 26-28, 2020.

Contact Us

Hessy Fernandez

Director of Public Relations DeVry University

About DeVry University 

DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online within six areas of study: Accounting, Business, Healthcare, Technology, Liberal Arts, and Media Arts & Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit