Workampers

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The Wall Street Journal had an article that introduced me to the idea of workampers. The article was on the seasonal workers that Amazon.com uses in the US to help it with the surge in demand in the run up to Christmas.

Who were these elves to Amazon’s Santa Claus?

The article describes them as workampers. Older retired people who live a transient lifestyle by choice in an RV (recreational vehicle) for at least part of the year.
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Their motivations were diverse in nature. Some of the workers are similar to their ancestors during the Great Depression, who moved across the country following work were it was available.

For others the reasons are diverse, from money to help with expenses to camaraderie with similarly nomadic peers or proving to themselves that they could still hack a task. A mix of forced earlier retirement and improvements in health mean that many seniors still have decades of potential work still in them that they want to take advantage of.

A mix of ageism and globalisation have meant that there is a growing body of workampers. Future workampers might be in a worse financial state due to less generous pensions and health insurance, higher personal debt and automation. The move to a lower carbon economy will also impact the ability of a workampers to live out of an RV and transverse large distances at a reasonable cost.

Workamper futures

With an aging population and the decimation of working class communities due to the opioid epidemic we are likely to see more demographics like workampers as companies adapt to tap into an older work pool. With Amazon in particular, one has to wonder if more of their warehouse and logistics work can be automated and how it will be affected by a low carbon future.

More explanations of of jargon terms can be found here.

More information

Seasonal Amazon ‘Workampers’ Flock to Remote Towns for Temporary Gigs – WSJ.com (paywall)