Here’s Why Fast Food Workers Apply for Government Benefits


Over half of fast food workers require some form of government assistance to make ends meet, Reuters reports. According to the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Illinois, 52 percent of workers in the fast food industry have been on some form of government help over the course of the past few year.

This is proving to be very costly to taxpayers. Estimates of the total amount that fast food workers cost the taxpayers of the United States every year varies from $3.8 billion to $7 billion. Some analysts even believe that the numbers should be higher, reflecting that the fact that only certain forms of assistance are counted in the various tallies. If it were possible to include other programs, the numbers could only go higher.

The numbers are particularly scary because they apply not only to young people looking for a part time job while enrolled in school, but also to families and adults. A significant portion of the applicants for government aid were older and trying to support a family. The median age of those receiving help from the state in the fast food industry was 28.

The reasons for the excess of fast food workers who are turning to the government can be boiled down to three major categories. The first is the low wages, with the median wage in the industry at $8.69 per hour and many making the legally allowed minimum wage in their region. Another reason is the part-time nature of many of the jobs, which are, either because of other obligations or restrictions on the employment, not available full-time on either the employer’s or the employee’s side. The final reason is the lack of benefits, with only 13 percent of workers in the industry receiving an adequate benefit package.

Proponents of a minimum wage hike — including those who went on strike to campaign for a raise in the fast food industry in 60 major U.S. cities this summer — cite the report as evidence that the industry is not properly compensating workers for their time. They also point to the fact that many fast food employees do not earn what is considered to be a “living wage” in their regions.

However, representatives of fast food interests have remained staunchly against such a proposal. They point to the fact that the industry employees millions of people, and that many managers and executives within their companies started as hourly workers. They say that any wage increase would just force companies into replacing jobs with machinery, and that it would also lead to price increases for consumers.

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