« Back to Results
Job Quality for Equity and Inclusion
Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022
12:15 PM - 2:15 PM (EST)
Labor and Employment Relations Association
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Framing Job Quality: A Functional Definition
Job quality-not just the fact of having a job but the conditions of the job-is a central concern for workers individually and for US social policy. Going into the pandemic, a strong body of research showed that while the economy was generating lots of jobs, the quality of these jobs was increasingly poor, and this was especially the case for jobs held by non-white and female workers. The pandemic spotlighted not just economic inequality but work inequality, where workers vary in wages and important working conditions. Policy makers are now committing to a recovery from the pandemic that includes equitable distribution of quality jobs.
In this paper, we outline a policy-oriented framework for understanding job quality and options for improving it. First, we conceptualize a functional definition of job quality, one that defines a job less by its features than by the role it serves in people's lives. We suggest that the essential function of a quality job is that the conditions of the job itself advance worker well-being. Second, we describe the conditions that make a job a quality job, distinguishing those that are endemic to the job and those that are conventionally (though not necessarily) tied to the job in the Unites States context. Third, we advance our argument that specific and deliberate post-Fordist policy interventions shifted the ecology of our labor (and product) markets, and these shifts created incentives to drive down the quality of jobs, especially for those workers with the least social and economic power. Finally, we identify policy responses-public, private, and cross sectoral-that may increase the numbers of and equitable access to good jobs: jobs that advance worker well-being and strengthen contemporary links between worker well-being and conditions of the job.
Redesigning Work for Worker Well-Being: Lessons Learned from the Frontlines of the Pandemic
How might workplaces be redesigned to promote the health and well-being of low-wage, frontline workers? The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the centrality of healthy workplace conditions for the functioning of society and simultaneously exposed the precarious and stressful work conditions faced by many essential workers. These workers have been hard hit by the devastating economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 crisis; many are people of color, economically disadvantaged, and serve as critical nodes in their family and community networks. This moment offers an important opportunity to listen to and learn from the ordinarily marginalized voices of low-wage workers, to gain greater insight into how workplaces might innovate to enhance not only worker well-being but also health equity.
This paper will draw on longitudinal interview data to explore the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on low-wage workers and their workplaces in three critical industries â€“ health care, warehouses, and retail. Over 60 frontline workers and managers in these industries were interviewed in 2019, pre-crisis, and then again during the pandemic in early 2021. Baseline participants were diverse with respect to gender, race/ethnicity, nativity, age, family status, and worker roles. This longitudinal design enables unique insights into how pre-COVID-19 workplace conditions and culture have shaped organizational response to the pandemic. The paper will explore: 1) sources of worker agency, voice and resilience in challenging times; and 2) which types of crisis-induced workplace redesigns and innovations have succeeded or failed to safeguard workers' health, safety, and psychosocial well-being in the pandemic. The paper will conclude with lessons learned about worker and organizational resilience, and how workplaces might better protect the well-being of our most at-risk workers during times of crisis and beyond.
Seattle's Secure Scheduling Ordinance: Worker Impacts
On July 1, 2017, Seattle implemented one of the nationâ€™s first laws mandating schedule predictability for retail and food service workers employed at large firms. Seattleâ€™s Secure Scheduling legislation aims to increase schedule predictability by requiring two weeks of advance notice, to increase stability of schedules by requiring employers to pay a predictability premium for schedule changes, to increase the amount of rest between shifts by requiring extra pay for closely spaced shifts, and to increase access to sufficient work hours by requiring existing workers to be offered more hours before new hires are made. In this paper, we estimate the effects of the SSO on scheduling and on worker wellbeing. We draw on three years of data collected from workers at covered firms in Seattle and workers at the same firms in comparison cities. We estimate a set of difference-in-difference and IV models to describe the impact of the law. We find that the SSO increased the amount of advance notice of schedules, reduced schedule timing changes, and increased worker well-being along several measures.
Employee Share Ownership and Job Quality in Family-Owned Businesses
This white paper presents research evidence that employee stock ownership strengthens aspects of job quality in privately held businesses. Drawing on data from the General Social Survey, a recent survey of company responses to the 2020 economic contraction, and previous studies, it documents the empirical relationship between employee ownership and increased job stability, worker wealth accumulation, and workplace safety, among other job quality outcomes. The paper is informed by qualitative interviews with 10 privately held ESOP companies, which illuminate some of the ways that employee ownership can benefit employees, including low-wage employees, over and above other high-road employment practices. The paper argues that, in light of the growing wealth gap and the overall decline in job quality in the U.S. economy, employee share ownership represents a potent job quality tool. It argues that owners of family businesses should consider conversion to employee ownership as an exit strategy that can benefit their employees along with their families--while securing their legacies as good jobs employers.
J8 - Labor Standards: National and International
J1 - Demographic Economics