Moonlighting: How does it affect the poor?

Published on Poverty Portal, by Sumadi Samaraweera, July 5, 2010.

An individual holding dual or multiple jobs is defined as moonlighting. Today, moonlighting has become a key strategy among individuals in many developed and developing countries, where high competition exists to achieve economic goals. Moonlighting occurs when people are willing to work more hours than that demanded by their primary job with its fixed hours of work.

The poor, facing absolute or relative poverty, are one key group who are willing to moonlight to uplift their living conditions while professionals are another group for whom moonlighting plays a significant role. There are positive and negative factors with respect to this moonlighting. On the one hand, moonlighting encourages low income workers to earn more through for example, self employment than they could achieve merely with their primary employment, hence it would serve to uplift the living conditions of their families. 

Moonlighting then seems to be a good solution for enhancing the earning potential of the working poor in the labor market. On the other hand, however others argue that workers who moonlight grab the employment opportunities, particularly of newcomers to the job market, and contribute to the high unemployment problem that worsens poverty. Moonlighting could also lower the equilibrium wage, through expanding the labour supply relative to demand …  //

… n Sri Lanka 9.1% of the total employed are moonlighters according to the (Samaraweera and Rathnayake, (to be published) calculation based on data from CFS 2003/04) of which the majority are male. In Sri Lanka, the highest moonlighting rates are recorded for the primary educated group followed by graduates. 13.7% of the employees in the agricultural sector are reported to be moonlighters while 5.8% of industrial workers are also engaged in dual or multiple jobs. The impacts of moonlighting on the working poor, the unemployment rate and the wage levels, are some of the key policy concerns. Some questions that arise in this context are:

  • Could the unemployment problem in Sri Lanka be reduced through prohibiting moonlighting?
  • How does the wage rate of primary jobs influence in moonlighting?
  • How does the moonlighting affect wages in secondary employment?
  • Does moonlighting really benefit the working poor?
  • How does this affect the non -monetary aspects such as leisure, family relationships etc.

Moonlighting by professionals is the other side of the coin. Many professionals are attached to government sector bodies in Sri Lanka. Moonlighting reduces the enthusiasm and dedication of professionals for their first job and the financial benefits of the second job encourage them to do more evening work. Poor people however may have more access to such professionals when they engage in their primary job. Examples such as accessing the services of a medical specialist in a government hospital or a teacher in a government school come to mind … (full text).

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