Economists are fond of saying that a rising tide lifts all boats. But those toward the bottom of the economic ladder in Orange County understandably are skeptical of that bromide.
A Times Orange County Poll of workers has found that while most are happier than their counterparts across the country, job satisfaction split sharply among professionals or managers at the upper end and blue-collar and clerical or sales people at the lower end.
Nearly seven of 10 of the managers and professionals in the county pronounced themselves "very satisfied" with their jobs. Only 43% of the blue-collar workers and 38% of the clerical or sales personnel felt that way.
That is a disquieting disjunction. The United States has benefited from being relatively class-free, especially when compared with Europe. There were thin layers of the very rich and the very poor, but the bulk of the population has been able to aspire to the middle class. That made it easier to have a shared vision and common goals. Class antagonisms that have wracked other countries are more easily avoided when a worker believes the fruits of labor are not being used largely to prop up someone else.
Those surveyed in September often reported working harder now than five years ago. That was true especially among sales and clerical workers. Analysts said workplace pressures have increased for a number of reasons, most dealing with job insecurity. So it is not surprising that with work harder, many wish they could spend more time with their families.
Nearly half the Orange County workers rate their employers as very "family friendly" for offering flexible hours and other accommodations for workers with children. Yet workers count themselves less successful in balancing their lives between work and family.
Employers would do well to help workers achieve more success in that juggling, realizing that both workers and their bosses benefit when employees are not distracted by personal worries. The poll also showed that companies need to do a better job demonstrating that they care about their customers and their workers as much as they do about the bottom line.