What Are Non-Essential Jobs?

Nearly 10 million people in the USA lost their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown, and most of these jobs were non-essential. Many of us heard the term ‘Non-Essential services’ several times during the pandemic. So, what constitutes a non-essential job?

What Are Non-Essential Jobs?

The US Department of Homeland Security suggests essential jobs provide services in Public health and safety, essential products like food and medicine, and other critical infrastructure support. While there is no standard definition for non-essential jobs, all other sectors whose services are not necessary during an emergency, or an authorized business closure are considered non-essential jobs. For example- Casinos, Salons, Bars, Restaurants, etc.

Is your job Non-essential?

Everyone thinks their job is essential because when you are working, you meet your daily needs, otherwise life becomes difficult. Every state has its own list of Non-Essential jobs. A service that is deemed non-essential in one State might be considered essential in another. For example, Construction work is a Non-essential job in a few US states, and in a few other states, construction is an essential service due to infrastructure needs.

The jobs whose services can be stalled temporarily and are not necessary during emergencies like natural disasters, Pandemics, etc., and jobs in which workers are easily replaceable are all non-essential jobs. If you work in the following sectors then, your job might be a non-essential one.

  • Entertainment Sector
  • Library
  • Tourism
  • Beauty Salons
  • Sports
  • Restaurant
  • Hotel
  • Administrators
  • Real estate
  • Florist
  • Artist
  • Non-essential product manufacturers etc.

These are a few examples of Non-essential jobs. If your job falls under the above category, then it’s non-essential. These jobs are not necessary during emergencies as they do not provide critical services for human survival. Many people believe that the term non-essential is misleading because every job has importance and irrelevancy, depending upon the need and environment. A farmer’s job is non-essential in a place like Antarctica, but it is very essential in the USA, where people live and need food to survive. So don’t worry if your job comes under the non-essential category because it simply means that your services are not worth risking your life.

Difference between an essential and a Non-essential job

The job description varies for an essential and a non-essential job. There are jobs which are essential since ancient times and will remain relevant in the future as well. For example, doctors and many jobs become irrelevant as they become obsolete.

Non-Essential JobEssential Job
1. The services offered by these jobs are not necessary during emergencies.1. They are always essential and become necessary during emergencies.
2. Most of these jobs are part of the informal economy.2. Most of these jobs are in the formal economy.
3. Employs mostly temporary workforce.3. Employs both temporary and permanent depending on the job sector.
4. Anyone with little knowledge about the job can do the work.4. Requires professionals or trained officials to do the job.
5. These services do not impact the critical infrastructure of a state and are not important for human survival.5. These jobs have a huge impact on the critical infrastructure and the lives of people.

The most common Non-essential jobs

The categorization of non-essential jobs might vary in different places, but many non-essential jobs are found everywhere and are important to the economy of a country.

1. Tourism: The US tourism industry generates around $1.5 trillion and supports more than 7 million jobs annually. During the Pandemic, the tourism sector saw the highest layoffs everywhere. Almost all the jobs in the tourism sector, from a cleaner to a tour guide, became irrelevant because borders were closed and people were locked in their homes. The opening up of economies will now see the tourism sector bouncing back in many countries.

2. Entertainment/Culture: The entertainment industry employs many people around the world and provides content to watch and enjoy. When there is an emergency, entertainment is the last thing on our mind, and hence, it comes under the non-essential category.

3. Beauty and cosmetics: Salons, Parlours, Cosmetic industries are closed during emergencies, and people employed in these sectors can only work when they have customers. This sector is non-essential and can be temporarily closed.

4. Library – If you are a library assistant or manager, as long as your service is not necessary during emergencies, your job becomes non-essential.

5. Real estate agent – people purchase properties when economies prosper and purchasing power increases. A realtor has no service to provide when there is a disaster or other emergency, and therefore it is non-essential.

6. Aviation: Most of the aviation sector closes during emergencies, the activities become very limited. Hence, jobs like airline ground staff, Restaurants on airports become non-essential.

7. Laundry, dry cleaning, Restaurant jobs: These services have no business during an emergency, and hence they are non-essential.

8. Non-essential product manufacturers: Manufacturing of products like clothes, cosmetics, home-decorating items, etc require a large number of people to work and can be closed during authorized business closures, and jobs are non-essential.

9. Driving jobs: When businesses are closed, an emergency is imposed. People’s movement is restricted, and hence transports are closed except for emergency services, and driving jobs are non-essential when the public can’t travel.

10. Clerical or office work in non-essential sectors: When most of the businesses are closed, employees might have to work from home, but many jobs require people to come to the office and work because work from home is not an option for them. Such work becomes non-essential during business closures and emergencies. Companies function on a limited number of essential employees.

Apart from these, jobs like mining, construction, chef, private cleaners, Restaurant, etc. are non-essential jobs, and services can be temporarily stalled.

Features of non-essential Jobs

A large number of non-essential jobs constitute the informal economy of a country. Most of these jobs are not desirable for highly-educated people. The common features of non-essential jobs are:

  • You don’t have to be a professional to get a non-essential job. Few Primary skills and understanding of the work are enough for non-essential jobs.
  • Low wages: Generally, non-essential services pay minimum or less than minimum wages to their employees. Sometimes these workers are laid off during emergencies.
  • Temporary Jobs: Non-essential jobs are temporary, and people quit their jobs when they get better opportunities.
  • Fixed schedule: Non-essential jobs have fixed schedules. You don’t have to work extra hours to impress your boss or to complete your work because once your shift finishes, you are free to leave.
  • Easy to get: Non-essential jobs are easily found compared to essential jobs because non-essential jobs hire a large number of people, and they don’t need highly skilled individuals. But you can get easily fired too.

Are non-essential jobs disadvantageous?

No, not all. The fact that non-essential jobs employ the highest number of people is enough to prove that it’s not disadvantageous. I mean, if there is a critical state emergency then, the worker is not at fault. It’s the situation. Non-essential jobs support an economy, an organization, and an industry from behind the scenes. These services are essential for the development and well-being of people. You can earn a high wage as a non-essential worker as well if you have the right temperament and skill to do the task. If you are worried that you will be laid off during pandemics if you have a non-essential job then, the digital age can help you survive. Many businesses which cannot be imagined online transitioned digitally and have been successful too. So, as long as you hold skill in your hand, you will always have a job.

How to avoid being laid-off in a non-essential job?

Non-essential jobs give us flexibility, work-life balance, and well they can be closed whenever there is an emergency because people can live without those services. If the business is closed for a long period, employers might consider laying off too. So, how can we ensure that we are not laid off in such circumstances?

  • Upgrade your skills every day: James Clear writes in atomic habits that if we improve ourselves 1% every day, we can become 37 times better than what we are. So, if you are a chef then, learn more cuisines, if you are a tour guide then, learn more languages, if you are a  waitress then, learn a little Management. Skillful employees are assets, and it’s hard to lay them off. Even if you lose your job, you will still have many others to consider.
  • Work in a Sustainable company: Many companies can’t lay off their workers because of federal laws. Hence, work for a company that is big enough to sustain pandemic blows.
  • Read your offer letter Properly: When you get a job then, read your offer letter properly and know about the company policy on lay-offs from your hiring manager and keep looking for better opportunities.


A non-essential job is work that is not absolutely necessary. People can live without non-essential services, and it does not disrupt that critical infrastructure of the job. Today every business is going online. Hence non-essential services can find ways to survive their business during closures too. Being a non-essential worker means disruption of your services during an emergency, and that does not make your job any less important.

Frequently asked questions

1.  Employees who cannot work because of lockdown or restriction, do they get paid for that period?

A: No it is not necessary. It depends upon your company or the organization you work for.

2. Are non-essential jobs not important?

A: They are important, but when activities are restricted they can be closed temporarily.

What Are Non-Essential Jobs?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top