Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Moms Desire More Work Flexibilty, More Likely to Get Caught In a Scam

The American Prospect has a good piece in their most recent issue on work-from-home scams and how they disproportionately tend to target women who desire flexible working hours:

According to Staffcentrix, a company that investigates some 5,000 leads for such jobs every week, entities looking to make money from mothers themselves vastly outnumber real work opportunities online. For every legitimate work-from-home job advertised on the Web, there are some 57 scams, according to Christine Durst, the co-founder and CEO of Staffcentrix. And that ratio doesn't even include spam. Although one would think the reek of hucksterism would deter most job seekers, a startling array of ads announce these "job opportunities" with capital letters, exclamation points, dollar signs, and even, to convey the life of leisure you're supposed to live once you give them some money, images of palm trees. "Get Paid for Being a Mom!" "Your Own Crafts Business Making Photo Jewelry!" "Mom earns $250 in first week!" Many of the "jobs" involve selling everything from herbal energy drinks to mineral makeup, weight-loss powders, organic beef jerky, and Christian party kits, and often sellers have to purchase this merchandise first.

"The more desperate a demographic is, the more likely they are to be bamboozled by scams," says Durst, who has met dozens of women who have been burned by various scams in their search for part-time work. Staffcentrix contracts with the U.S. Army to help find legitimate part-time and work-at-home jobs for military wives (whose unemployment rate is upward of 20 percent, according to Durst), and many women approach her at workshops with their tales of woe. Many of the scams she hears about are not unlike pyramid schemes: disreputable multilevel-marketing companies that require an endless stream of new members. But in addition to having to recruit new dupes, participants in multilevel-marketing schemes such as Melaleuca, Herbalife, and Mary Kay also sell some sort of product. Hoping to distance themselves from both terms, such companies tend to refer to themselves as "direct sales" and give their recruiters fancy names like "independent beauty consultants," as they're called at Mary Kay, or "home business travel agents," as they're called at the multilevel-marketing company YTB Travel.

The vast majority of the people who get caught up in these schemes are women. (Eighty-eight percent of the people involved in direct sales in 2007 were women, according to the Direct Selling Association.) And despite the big promises, most people, not surprisingly, are more likely to lose money than to get rich. According to the calculations of Jon M. Taylor, adviser to Pyramid Scheme Alert and the author of The Network Marketing Game, only 0.13 percent of all Melaleuca participants earn a profit after their expenses and product purchases are taken into account.
This really points to how unflexible working hours are, despite the fact that many offices are more telecommute friendly than ever. As long as you have access to a computer and the Internet, you should be able to do work from home. Yet few jobs think to advertise this feature when they're attempting to recruit employees.

Furthermore, if men's worktime hours were more flexible, they might be more inclined to help with child care and household chores, instead of insisting that their jobs are too important or inflexible to accommodate help around the house.

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