It may surprise you to learn that data from the U.S. Census data show that just 2.4 percent of those who work full-time year-round live in poverty. In contrast, 14 percent of those who did work—but not full-time, and not year-round—were in poverty, and fully 32 percent of those who did not work at all lived in poverty.
Surprisingly, these numbers are nothing new. Economist Lawrence Mead noted in his book From Prophesy to Charity: How to Help the Poor that the poverty rate in 2009 for those who worked at least a 35-hour work week for 50 weeks of the year was just 3 percent. Mead summarizes: “The lion’s share of adult poverty is due, at least in the first instance, to low working levels.”
Clearly, the key to escaping poverty isn’t merely raising wages, as important as that might be. It’s full-time (or close to full-time) work. And one of the key ways to help our neighbors escape poverty is straightforward and simple: help them get job training, land a stable job, and advance into higher paying positions over time.
To this end, we are proud of the impressive results flowing out of our workforce initiative, Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG). By breaking down the key barriers to full-time employment—lack of education and job skills—HWDG connects local employers and community leaders with job seekers to provide valuable training that leads to stable, good paying jobs that lift people out of poverty and break the cycle of generational poverty and government dependency.
We believe that the best solutions to problems are at the local level. And we believe that the reason HWDG is the most effective job placement program in Georgia is because it moves beyond political grandstanding and offers a real solution to the core problem—the need for sustainable jobs.
In our booming economy, there’s little reason for those who want to work to remain mired in poverty. Job initiatives like HWDG give motivated individuals a second chance and much-needed on-the-job training to get a solid job that leads to a life of dignity and thriving.