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Retirees in RVs: A Modern Migrant Workforce


Have you heard about Workampers? They’re a new phalanx of people over age 50 who live in RVs and travel across the country, looking for work. Many are retirees who needed to cut costs and took their act on the road.

They have become such a phenomenon that Amazon has dubbed them CamperForce. These older workers pack orders during the crazy-busy holidays and are given referral bonuses of $50 if they can find other skilled seniors to show up and keep the Christmas machine running smoothly.

Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos has predicted, says the New York Times, that a quarter of all Workampers will pass through his warehouses, working 10 hours or more a day, sorting packages.

Given that more than half of people over age 50 have less than $25,000 saved for retirement, it’s obvious that continuing to work is a mandate for many.

Yes, there’s camaraderie among Workampers and some adopted the lifestyle for the excitement of a roving, nomadic existence. But it’s hardly how many of them thought they’d be spending their golden years. The recession of 2008 can be blamed for dimming the already not-great prospect of retirement.

According to the Washington Post, “record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.” Given that more than half of people over age 50 have less than $25,000 saved for retirement, it’s obvious that continuing to work is a mandate for many.

To learn more about the Workamper phenomenon, you can read Jessica Bruder’s new book, Nomadland. The author lived among these modern migrant workers for three years in order to write her book.

–Janet Siroto

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5 Comments on "Retirees in RVs: A Modern Migrant Workforce"

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How funny, I was just thinking yesterday about how wagon travel in the Old West, was the original American RV. I know quite a few people who are retired and do this. They tend to have a home base somewhere, but spend most of the time on the road sightseeing this country, which is so big and so vast, so much to see and visit. So much difference from one place to another. Its like a much bigger Spain. Spain IS like that, but the USA is so massive in comparison. I want to see all of the U.S. national… Read more »

I did this for the summer! It was a blast!

Been my fantasy for more than a decade.

This is actually terrifying and horrible. Amazon’s CamperForce is not sightseeing or enjoying their golden years. They have been impoverished by America and are working 10+ hours a day just to eke by, at or near minimum wage. As itinerants, they struggle to find health care, to vote, even to be allowed to park their vans for the night. These older people are our throw aways.

Just finished our 10th summer RVing through this incredible country, Canada, and Europe.

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