McDonald's staff in Quezon City in the Philippines

"McJob" is a slang term for a low-paying, low-prestige dead-end job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of advancement.[1] The term "McJob" comes from the name of the fast-food restaurant McDonald's, but is used to describe any low-status job – regardless of employer – where little training is required, staff turnover is high, and workers' activities are tightly regulated by managers.[2]


"McJob" was in use at least as early as 1986 — it appears in an article by sociologist Amitai Etzioni[3] — and the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "[a]n unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."[4] Lack of job security is common.

The term was popularized by Douglas Coupland's 1991 novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture,[5] which described a "McJob" as a "low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one."[6]

In the face of objections from McDonald's, the term "McJob" was added to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in 2003.[7] In an open letter to Merriam-Webster, McDonald's CEO, James Cantalupo denounced the definition as a "slap in the face" to all restaurant employees, and stated that "a more appropriate definition of a 'McJob' might be 'teaches responsibility'". Merriam-Webster responded that "[they stood] by the accuracy and appropriateness of [their] definition."

On 20 March 2007, the BBC reported that the UK arm of McDonald's planned a public petition to have the OED's definition of "McJob" changed.[8][9] Lorraine Homer from McDonald's stated that the company feels the definition is "out of date and inaccurate".[10] McDonald's UK CEO, Peter Beresford, described the term as "demeaning to the hard work and dedication displayed by the 67,000 McDonald's employees throughout the UK".[11] The company would prefer the definition to be rewritten to "reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding ... and offers skills that last a lifetime".[12][13]

These comments run counter to the principle that dictionaries simply record linguistic usage rather than judge it, and that dropping the entry for "McJob" would be a precedent for bowdlerising definitions of other derogatory terms.[12] McDonald's attempted to get all of its workers to sign the petition but many refused on the grounds that the current definition is accurate despite the company's complaint.

During the aforementioned arguments that broke out when Merriam-Webster included "McJob" in its new edition, McDonald's officials implied the company might bring a lawsuit against the dictionary based on this trademark issue, but never did so. McDonald's disputes that its jobs are poor, because the company has been nominated for employee awards that are created by employers.[14][better source needed] However, this was contradicted in the outcome of the UK McLibel court case, in which the judges ruled that it was fair to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions".[15]

The term "McJOBS" was registered as a trademark by McDonald's in 1984 as a name and image for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". The trademark lapsed in February 1992, and was declared canceled by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.[16] Following the October 1992 publication of Generation X in paperback, McDonald's restored the trademark.[15][17]

Accuracy of the term

There are often wide variations in how workers are actually treated depending on the local franchise owner. Some employees start out in entry-level McJobs and later become assistant managers or managers, continuing to work at the same franchise for many years; however this is the exception rather than the norm. McDonald's advertises that its former CEO, Jim Skinner, began working at the company as a regular restaurant employee, and that 20 of its top 50 managers began work as regular crew members.[18]

According to Jim Cantalupo, former CEO of McDonald's, the perception of fast-food work being boring and mindless is inaccurate, and over 1,000 of the people who now own McDonald's franchises began behind the counter.[19] Because McDonald's has over 400,000 employees and high turnover, Cantalupo's contention has been criticized as being invalid, working to highlight the exception rather than the rule.[20]

In 2006, McDonald's undertook an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom to challenge the perceptions of the McJob. The campaign, developed by Barkers Advertising and supported by research conducted by Adrian Furnham, professor of psychology at University College London, highlighted the benefits of working for the organization, stating that they were "Not bad for a McJob". The advertisements ran at London's Piccadilly Circus.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "Definition of McJob by Merriam-Webster". Retrieved 18 September 2021.
  2. ^ Weissmann, Jordan (17 July 2013). "McJobs Are the Future: Why You Should Care What Fast Food Workers Earn". The Atlantic. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  3. ^ Etzioni, Amitai (24 August 1986). "The Fast-Food Factories: McJobs Are Bad for Kids". Retrieved 7 March 2017 – via
  4. ^ "Merriam-Webster: 'McJob' is here to stay Archived April 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine". The Associated Press. November 11, 2003.
  5. ^ Smith, Vicki, ed. (2013). Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Volume 2. SAGE Publications. pp. 1019–1020. ISBN 978-1-4522-7618-2.
  6. ^ Coupland, Douglas. Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. St Martin's Press, 1991. p. 5 ISBN 0-312-05436-X
  7. ^ "Merriam-Webster: 'McJob' is here to stay". CNN. Archived from the original on April 12, 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  8. ^ McDonald's McJob Petition Archived 2009-10-14 at the Portuguese Web Archive
  9. ^ "BBC NEWS - Talk about Newsnight - "Gis a McJob"".
  10. ^ BBC (2007-03-20). "McDonald's seeks McJob rewrite". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
  11. ^ "CNN International, 24 March 2007".
  12. ^ a b "Can McDonald's Alter the Dictionary?". Time. 2007-06-05. Archived from the original on June 7, 2007. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  13. ^ Thread, Open (2007-05-24). "A new McDefinition?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  14. ^ "McDonald's shrugs off 'McJob curse' to win Best Place to Work in Hospitality Award - Personnel Today". Personnel Today. Archived from the original on September 9, 2012.
  15. ^ a b "Press Release - McLibel Support Campaign; 25th March 1999".
  16. ^ "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval".
  17. ^ "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval".
  18. ^ "McDonald's Debuts Advertising on the World of Opportunity Under the Golden Arches" (Press release). September 21, 2005. Archived from the original on 6 March 2009. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  19. ^ "McDonald's anger over McJob entry". BBC News. 2003-11-09. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  20. ^ Polly Toynbee (24 May 2007). "Polly Toynbee: McJobs are giving Britain a reputation as Europe's offshore banana republic". the Guardian.
  21. ^ "Not bad for a McJob? Archived 2006-06-18 at the Wayback Machine" Management Issues. June 8, 2006