Then think of low-paid workers like cleaners, cashiers and construction workers. They often enter vocational training in adolescence and start work by 18. They have little autonomy: They used to be bossed around by humans, and now increasingly by algorithms, which count things like how many calls they make. Many spend years out of work, incapacitated or unemployed.
They have jobs, not careers. At 60, they might still be scrubbing floors for the minimum wage. When I dipped into this life for a holiday job, sorting milk crates on an assembly line, every minute felt like an hour. Some of my co‑workers probably stuck it out for 40 years.
Low-paid workers often have miserable commutes. Priscillia Ludosky, a leader of France’s yellow jackets uprising, told me that the nadir of Parisian suburban life was the packed train into the city on a Monday morning. A triumph was arriving home, shattered, before the kids fell asleep.
If that’s your working life, retirement probably feels like liberation. But many of the low paid acquire a disability or chronic illness by their early sixties and die in their seventies.