Employment and Jobs

Strategies to Advance Job Quality

August 7, 2018  • Maureen Conway

I’m pleased to share “Strategies to Advance Job Quality”, a chapter released today from the forthcoming book Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers. The chapter outlines the challenges workers face in making a living through their work today and practical approaches that governments, businesses, nonprofits and other civic actors can take to improve the quality of jobs for all who work.

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American families rely on their earnings from work. On average, wage and salary income constitutes more than three quarters of income for households in the US, with retirement income and self-employment income being a very distant second and third in terms of contribution to household income. But decades of slow wage growth combined with more rapidly increasing costs of major expenses such as health care, housing, and higher education have left households in a budgetary bind, making their economic lives increasingly difficult and uncertain. This situation is unsustainable, and demands strategies that can improve the quality of work. The chapter covers three major points:

There is no one solution—multiple strategies are needed.

Public policy, business practice, education and training, social supports, and access to capital and credit all have a role to play. While education and training have helped some individuals move into better jobs, these strategies alone are unlikely to lead to widespread improvements in the functioning of local labor markets and in the quality of jobs available.

Better jobs can make for better business.

Innovative businesses are already reimagining low-wage jobs to make them more rewarding for workers and better for their businesses. Improvements in wages, schedules, health benefits, and employee ownership opportunities can engage workers more fully in the business yielding improvements in business outcomes as well as better jobs and lives for employees. But market pressures alone won’t move all businesses to adopt strategies built around better jobs.

Government has a role to play.

Governments play key roles in local labor markets—as regulator, as major purchaser of goods and services, as benefits provider. All of these roles can be envisioned with an eye toward encouraging inclusive economies with quality work and shared prosperity.

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Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers will be released on November 9, 2018. The book includes the voices of over 100 contributing authors who share research, best practices, and resources on workforce development. The book is part of a two-and-a-half-year initiative of the Federal Reserve System, the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. See investinwork.org for more information on the initiative and the upcoming book release.

I hope you find “Strategies to Advance Job Quality” of interest and useful to your work. The chapter draws on the Economic Opportunities Program’s work on job quality and the changing nature of work that has been supported over the years by the Ford Foundation, the Hitachi Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. We’re grateful to them for their support and thought partnership as we explore this critical challenge. But, of course, the chapter should not be taken as representative of the views of our supporters—the responsibility for the content of the chapter and the views expressed rests with the author.


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