Do plummeting welfare caseloads and rising employment prove that welfare reform policies have succeeded, or is this success due primarily to the job explosion created by today's robust economy? With roughly one to two million people expected to leave welfare in the coming decades, uncertainty about their long-term prospects troubles many social scientists. Finding Jobs offers a thorough examination of the low-skill labor market and its capacity to sustain this rising tide of workers, many of whom are single mothers with limited education. Each chapter examines specific trends in the labor market to ask such questions as: How secure are these low-skill jobs, particularly in the event of a recession? What can these workers expect in terms of wage growth and career advancement opportunities? How will a surge in the workforce affect opportunities for those already employed in low-skill jobs? Finding Jobs offers both good and bad news about work and welfare reform. Although the research presented in this book demonstrates that it is possible to find jobs for people who have traditionally relied on public assistance, it also offers cautionary evidence that today's strong economy may mask enduring underlying problems. Finding Jobs shows that the low-wage labor market is particularly vulnerable to economic downswings and that lower skilled workers enjoy less job stability. Several chapters illustrate why financial incentives, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are as essential to encouraging workforce participation as job search programs. Other chapters show the importance of including provisions for health insurance, and of increasing subsidies for child care to assist the large population of working single mothers affected by welfare reform. Finding Jobs also examines the potential costs of new welfare restrictions. It looks at how states can improve their flexibility in imposing time limits on families receiving welfare, and calls into question the cutbacks in eligibility for immigrants, who traditionally have relied less on public assistance than their native-born counterparts. Finding Jobs is an informative and wide-ranging inquiry into the issues raised by welfare reform. Based on comprehensive new data, this volume offers valuable guidance to policymakers looking to design policies that will increase work, raise incomes, and lower poverty in changing economic conditions.
The American economy is in danger of leaving its low-skilled workers behind. In the last two decades, the wages and employment levels of the least educated and experienced workers have fallen disastrously. Where willing workers once found ready employment at reasonable wages, our computerized, service-oriented economy demands workers who can read and write, master technology, deal with customers, and much else. Improved education and training will alleviate this problem in the long run, but educating the new workforce will take a substantial national investment over many years. In the meantime, we face increasingly acute questions about how to include low-skill workers in today's economy. Generating Jobs takes a hard look at these questions, and asks whether anything can be done to improve the lot of low-skilled workers by intervening in the labor market on their behalf. These micro demand-side policies seek to improve wages and employment levels—either by lowering the costs of hiring low-skilled workers through employer subsidies, or by raising wage levels, benefit levels, or hours of employment, or by providing employment via government jobs. Although these policies are not currently popular in the U.S., they have long been used in many countries. Generating Jobs provides a clear-eyed assessment of this history, and asks if any of these policies might be applicable to the current problems of low-skilled workers in the United States. The results are surprising. Several recently touted panaceas turn out to be costly and ineffective in the American labor market. Enterprise zones, for instance, are an expensive way of moving jobs into areas of high unemployment, costing as much as $60,000 per job. Similarly, job-sharing, which has had uneven success in Europe, turns out to be ill-suited to conditions in the U.S., where wages are relatively low and workers need to work long hours to maintain income. On the other hand, a number of older, less flashy policies turn out to have real, if modest, benefits. Wage subsidies have increased employment among qualifying workers, and public employment policies can increase the number of workers from targeted groups working during the program. While acknowledging that many solutions are counterproductive, this definitive review of active labor market policies shows that many programs can offer real help. More than any rhetoric, Generating Jobs is the best guide to future action and a serious response to those who claim that nothing can be done.
About 27.5 million Americans—nearly 24 percent of the labor force—earn less than $8.70 an hour, not enough to keep a family of four out of poverty, even working full-time year-round. Job ladders for these workers have been dismantled, limiting their ability to get ahead in today's labor market. Low-Wage America is the most extensive study to date of how the choices employers make in response to economic globalization, industry deregulation, and advances in information technology affect the lives of tens of millions of workers at the bottom of the wage distribution. Based on data from hundreds of establishments in twenty-five industries—including manufacturing, telecommunications, hospitality, and health care—the case studies document how firms' responses to economic restructuring often results in harsh working conditions, reduced benefits, and fewer opportunities for advancement. For instance, increased pressure for profits in newly consolidated hotel chains has led to cost-cutting strategies such as requiring maids to increase the number of rooms they clean by 50 percent. Technological changes in the organization of call centers—the ultimate "disposable workplace"—have led to monitoring of operators' work performance, and eroded job ladders. Other chapters show how the temporary staffing industry has provided paths to better work for some, but to dead end jobs for many others; how new technology has reorganized work in the back offices of banks, raising skill requirements for workers; and how increased competition from abroad has forced U.S. manufacturers to cut costs by reducing wages and speeding production. Although employers' responses to economic pressures have had a generally negative effect on frontline workers, some employers manage to resist this trend and still compete successfully. The benefits to workers of multi-employer training consortia and the continuing relevance of unions offer important clues about what public policy can do to support the job prospects of this vast, but largely overlooked segment of the American workforce. Low-Wage America challenges us to a national self-examination about the nature of low-wage work in this country and asks whether we are willing to tolerate the profound social and economic consequences entailed by these jobs. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
Low-Wage Work in Denmark
Niels Westergaard-Nielsen Russell Sage Foundation, 2008 Library of Congress HD8544.L69 2008 | Dewey Decimal 331.79809489
The Danish economy offers a dose of American labor market flexibility inside a European welfare state. The Danish government allows employers a relatively high level of freedom to dismiss workers, but also provides generous unemployment insurance. Widespread union coverage and an active system of collective bargaining help regulate working conditions in the absence of strong government regulation. Denmark's rate of low-wage work—8.5 percent—is the lowest of the five countries under analysis. In Low-Wage Work in Denmark, a team of Danish researchers combines comprehensive national registry data with detailed case studies of five industries to explore why low-end jobs are so different in Denmark. Some jobs that are low-paying in the United States, including hotel maids and meat processors, though still demanding, are much more highly compensated in Denmark. And Danes, unlike American workers, do not stay in low-wage jobs for long. Many go on to higher paying jobs, while a significant minority ends up relying temporarily on income support and benefits sustained by one of the highest tax rates in the world. Low-Wage Work in Denmark provides an insightful look at the particularities of the Danish labor market and the lessons it holds for both the United States and the rest of Europe. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
Low-Wage Work in France
Eve Caroli Russell Sage Foundation, 2008 Library of Congress HD8431.L69 2008 | Dewey Decimal 331.7980944
In France, low wages have historically inspired tremendous political controversy. The social and political issues at stake center on integrating the working class into society and maintaining the stability of the republican regime. A variety of federal policies—including high minimum wages and strong employee protection—serve to ensure that the low-wage workforce stays relatively small. Low-Wage Work in France examines both the benefits and drawbacks of this politically inspired system of worker protection. France's high minimum wage, which is indexed not only to inflation but also to the average increase in employee wages, plays a critical role in limiting the development of low-paid work. Social welfare benefits and a mandatory thirty-five hour work week also make life easier for low-wage workers. Strong employee protection is a central characteristic of the French model, but high levels of protection for employees may also be one of the causes of France's chronically high rate of unemployment. The threat of long-term unemployment may, in turn, contribute to a persistent sense of insecurity among French workers. Low-Wage Work in France provides a lucid analysis of how a highly regulated labor market shapes the experiences of workers—for better and for worse. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
Low-Wage Work in Germany
Gerhard Bosch Russell Sage Foundation, 2008 Library of Congress HD8451.L69 2008 | Dewey Decimal 331.7980944
In recent years, the German government has intentionally expanded the low-wage work sector in an effort to reduce exceptionally high levels of unemployment. As a result, the share of the German workforce employed in low-paying jobs now rivals that of the United States. Low Wage Work in Germany examines both the federal policies and changing economic conditions that have driven this increase in low-wage work. The new "mini-job" reflects the federal government's attempt to make certain low-paying jobs attractive to both employers and employees. Employers pay a low flat rate for benefits, and employees, who work a limited number of hours per week, are exempt from social security and tax contributions. Other factors, including slow economic growth, a declining collective bargaining system, and the influx of foreign workers, also contribute to the growing incidence of low-wage work. Yet while both Germany and the United States have large shares of low-wage workers, German workers receive health insurance, four weeks of paid vacation, and generous old age support—benefits most low-wage workers in the United States can only dream of. The German experience offers an important opportunity to explore difficult trade-offs between unemployment and low-wage work. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
The Dutch economy has often been heralded for accomplishing solid employment growth within a generous welfare system. In recent years, the Netherlands has seen a rise in low-wage work and has maintained one of the lowest unemployment rates in the European Union. Low-Wage Work in the Netherlands narrows in on the causes and consequences of this new development. The authors find that the increase in low-wage work can be partly attributed to a steep rise in the number of part-time jobs and non-standard work contracts—46 percent of Dutch workers hold part-time jobs. The decline in full-time work has challenged historically powerful Dutch unions and has led to a slow but steady dismantling of many social insurance programs from 1979 onward. At the same time, there are hopeful lessons to be gleaned from the Dutch model: low-wage workers benefit from a well-developed system of income transfers, and many move on to higher paying jobs. Low-Wage Work in the Netherlands paints a nuanced picture of the Dutch economy by analyzing institutions that both support and challenge its low-wage workforce. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
The United Kingdom's labor market policies place it in a kind of institutional middle ground between the United States and continental Europe. Low pay grew sharply between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s, in large part due to the decline of unions and collective bargaining and the removal of protections for the low paid. The changes instituted by Tony Blair's New Labour government since 1997, including the introduction of the National Minimum Wage, halted the growth in low pay but have not reversed it. Low-Wage Work in the United Kingdom explains why the current level of low-paying work remains one of the highest in Europe. The authors argue that the failure to deal with low pay reflects a policy approach which stressed reducing poverty, but also centers on the importance of moving people off benefits and into work, even at low wages. The U.K. government has introduced a version of the U.S. welfare to work policies and continues to stress the importance of a highly flexible and competitive labor market. A central policy theme has been that education and training can empower people to both enter work and to move into better paying jobs. The case study research reveals the endemic nature of low paid work and the difficulties workers face in escaping from the bottom end of the jobs ladder. However, compared to the United States, low paid workers in the United Kingdom do benefit from in-work social security benefits, targeted predominately at those with children, and entitlements to non-pay benefits such as annual leave, maternity and sick pay, and crucially, access to state-funded health care. Low-Wage Work in the United Kingdom skillfully illustrates the way that the interactions between government policies, labor market institutions, and the economy have ensured that low pay remains a persistent problem within the United Kingdom. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Case Studies of Job Quality in Advanced Economies
Social scientists, politicians, and economists have recently been taken with the idea that the advanced welfare states of Europe face a “New Social Question.” The core idea is that the transition from an industrial to a postindustrial environment has brought with it a whole new set of social risks, constraints, and trade-offs, which necessitate radical recalibration of social security systems. A New Social Question? analyzes that question in depth, with particular attention to the problem of income protection and the difficulties facing Bismarckian welfare states. It will be necessary reading for anyone interested in understanding the future of European social policy.
A very important contribution to the field of labor economics, and in particular to the understanding of the labor market forworkers with relatively low skill levels. I think we have the sense that the market looks bad, but haven't been clear on how bad it is, or how it got that way. What Employers Want provides some of the answers and identifies the important questions. It is essential reading. —Jeffrey S. Zax, University of Colorado at Boulder The substantial deterioration in employment and earnings among the nation's less-educated workers, especially minorities and younger males in the nation's big cities, has been tentatively ascribed to a variety of causes: an increase in required job skills, the movement of companies from the cities to the suburbs, and a rising unwillingness to hire minority job seekers. What Employers Want is the first book to replace conjecture about today's job market with first-hand information gleaned from employers about who gets hired. Drawn from asurvey of over 3,000 employers in four major metropolitan areas—Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, and Detroit—this volume provides a wealth of data on what jobs are available to the less-educated, in what industries, what skills they require, where they are located, what they pay, and how they are filled. The evidence points to a dramatic surge in suburban, white-collar jobs. The manufacturing industry—once a steady employer of blue-collar workers—has been eclipsed by the expanding retail trade and service industries, where the vast majority of jobs are in clerical, managerial, or sales positions. Since manufacturing establishments have been the most likely employers to move from the central cities to the suburbs, the shortage of jobs for low-skill urban workers is particularly acute. In the central cities, the problem is compounded and available jobs remain vacant because employers increasingly require greater cognitive and social skills as well as specific job-related experience. Holzer reveals the extent to which minorities are routinely excluded by employer recruitment and screening practices that rely heavily on testing, informal referrals, and stable work histories. The inaccessible location and discriminatory hiring patterns of suburban employers further limit the hiring of black males in particular, while earnings, especially for minority females, remain low. Proponents of welfare reform often assume that stricter work requirements and shorter eligibility periods will effectively channel welfare recipients toward steady employment and off federal subsidies. What Employers Want directly challenges this premise and demonstrates that only concerted efforts to close the gap between urban employers and inner city residents can produce healthy levels of employment in the nation's cities. Professor Holzer outlines the measures that will benecessary—targeted education and training programs, improved transportation and job placement, heightened enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, and aggressive job creation strategies. Repairing urban labor markets will not be easy. This book shows why. A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality
The majority of new jobs created in the United States today are low-wage jobs, and a fourth of the labor force earns no more than poverty-level wages. Policymakers and citizens alike agree that declining real wages and constrained spending among such a large segment of workers imperil economic prosperity and living standards for all Americans. Though many policies to assist low-wage workers have been proposed, there is little agreement across the political spectrum about which policies actually reduce poverty and raise income among the working poor. What Works for Workers provides a comprehensive analysis of policy measures designed to address the widening income gap in the United States. Featuring contributions from an eminent group of social scientists, What Works for Workers evaluates the most high-profile strategies for poverty reduction, including innovative “living wage” ordinances, education programs for African American youth, and better regulation of labor laws pertaining to immigrants. The contributors delve into an extensive body of scholarship on low-wage work to reveal a number of surprising findings. Richard Freeman suggests that labor unions, long assumed to be moribund, have a fighting chance to reclaim their historic redistributive role if they move beyond traditional collective bargaining and establish new ties with other community actors. John Schmitt predicts that the Affordable Care Act will substantially increase insurance coverage for low-wage workers, 38 percent of whom currently lack any kind of health insurance. Other contributors explore the shortcomings of popular solutions: Stephanie Luce shows that while living wage ordinances rarely lead to job losses, they have not yet covered most low-wage workers. And Jennifer Gordon corrects the notion that a path to legalization alone will fix the plight of immigrant workers. Without energetic regulatory enforcement, she argues, legalization may have limited impact on the exploitation of undocumented workers. Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum conclude with an analysis of California’s paid family leave program, a policy designed to benefit the working poor, who have few resources that allow them to take time off work to care for children or ill family members. Despite initial opposition, the paid leave program proved more acceptable than expected among employers and provided a much-needed system of wage replacement for low-income workers. In the wake of its success, the initiative has emerged as a useful blueprint for paid leave programs in other states. Alleviating the low-wage crisis will require a comprehensive set of programs rather than piecemeal interventions. With its rigorous analysis of what works and what doesn’t, What Works for Workers points the way toward effective reform. For social scientists, policymakers, and activists grappling with the practical realities of low-wage work, this book provides a valuable guide for narrowing the gap separating rich and poor.
Over the last three decades, large-scale economic developments, such as technological change, the decline in unionization, and changing skill requirements, have exacted their biggest toll on low-wage workers. These workers often possess few marketable skills and few resources with which to support themselves during periods of economic transition. In Working and Poor, a distinguished group of economists and policy experts, headlined by editors Rebecca Blank, Sheldon Danziger, and Robert Schoeni, examine how economic and policy changes over the last twenty-five years have affected the well-being of low-wage workers and their families. Working and Poor examines every facet of the economic well-being of less-skilled workers, from employment and earnings opportunities to consumption behavior and social assistance policies. Rebecca Blank and Heidi Schierholz document the different trends in work and wages among less-skilled women and men. Between 1979 and 2003, labor force participation rose rapidly for these women, along with more modest increases in wages, while among the men both employment and wages fell. David Card and John DiNardo review the evidence on how technological changes have affected less-skilled workers and conclude that the effect has been smaller than many observers claim. Philip Levine examines the effectiveness of the Unemployment Insurance program during recessions. He finds that the program's eligibility rules, which deny benefits to workers who have not met minimum earnings requirements, exclude the very people who require help most and should be adjusted to provide for those with the highest need. On the other hand, Therese J. McGuire and David F. Merriman show that government help remains a valuable source of support during economic downturns. They find that during the most recent recession in 2001, when state budgets were stretched thin, legislatures resisted political pressure to cut spending for the poor. Working and Poor provides a valuable analysis of the role that public policy changes can play in improving the plight of the working poor. A comprehensive analysis of trends over the last twenty-five years, this book provides an invaluable reference for the public discussion of work and poverty in America. A Volume in the National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy