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Together We Can Help Employers Create Quality Jobs

September 1, 2022

At A Glance

It’s time to do more than bemoan the oversupply of low-wage, low-quality jobs in our country. JFF is developing a Quality Jobs Framework that offers a new, modern approach to securing what all workers deserve—not just a living wage and benefits but also stability, flexibility, autonomy, and equitable economic advancement.

I’ve been rooting for the millions of workers of the Great Resignation who left low-pay, low-quality jobs during the pandemic in search of something better. But I can’t stop thinking about the many millions more who stayed in the exact same positions—plagued by low wages, unpredictable schedules, unsupportive cultures, and limited opportunities for advancement.

Nearly 1 of every 3 working Americans earns less than $15 an hour—many without basic decent working conditions—and the reality for most won’t change anytime soon. The industries with the highest numbers of job openings, such as retail and restaurants, are those with the lowest pay and benefits, so there aren’t a lot of alternatives.

But it’s time to do more than bemoan poor job quality. Jobs for the Future (JFF) is developing a Quality Jobs Framework that identifies a comprehensive definition of a quality job, based on what’s important to workers today, and a new, modern approach to securing what all workers deserve—not just a living wage and benefits but also stability, flexibility, autonomy, and equitable economic advancement.

Rather than putting the problem on employers alone, we call on multiple stakeholders to take shared responsibility to improve job quality.

Employers clearly play a pivotal role, because they control wages, benefits, and working conditions. But policymakers, public institutions, industry groups, and workers themselves must also step up to ensure that millions more people have access to quality jobs and that more quality jobs are created.

Rather than putting the problem on employers alone, we call on multiple stakeholders to take shared responsibility to improve job quality.

Tameshia Bridges Mansfield

At JFF, as part of our mission to transform the nation’s workforce and education systems to drive equitable economic advancement for all, we are excited to launch an innovative approach to advancing one of our foundational priorities.

The learn and work ecosystem has long operated on the idea that economic advancement consists of transitioning people from low-wage jobs to higher-wage occupations. We say this analysis is incomplete, as demonstrated by the challenges that people across the country are facing in achieving the economic stability necessary for advancement.

High wages alone—without key elements of a quality job, such as predictable scheduling, paid leave to care for family members, clear advancement pathways, and an equitable workplace—are insufficient to help workers advance economically.

As our Quality Jobs Framework highlights, a living wage is essential to worker well-being. While 32 percent of all U.S. workers earn less than $15 an hour, close to half of Black (47 percent) and Latinx workers (46 percent) earn that little. The rate is far lower for white workers (26 percent).

And yet a living wage is just one part of what makes a quality job. Our framework identifies these four components of a quality job (see the graphic below for the full list):

  • Compensation: the financial rewards people receive for the jobs they perform, including a living wage, access to quality health insurance, retirement benefits, and paid leave that includes sick leave and family leave.
  • Agency and culture: the extent to which people are able to exercise choice in their individual work, have a voice in organizational decision-making, and feel they belong to a workplace that fosters diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.
  • Structure: the ways a job is arranged to ensure stability, safety, and predictability, including fair, consistent, and transparent scheduling—this includes following all laws regarding workplace health, safety, discrimination, and harassment.
  • Advancement: the mechanisms by which people advance to jobs with greater compensation, autonomy, and authority, including defined career ladders for all roles and access to professional development with labor market value.

While recognizing that employers play a key role in creating quality jobs, we emphasize in the framework that other stakeholders also need to help expand the availability of quality jobs. Here are some examples:

  • Policymakers can enact new laws, or enforce existing ones, that set standards for quality jobs and give employers incentives for creating jobs that meet those standards.
  • Industry groups can set expectations and standards for entry-level jobs and advancement in their fields.
  • Public institutions and systems, such as workforce boards, economic development agencies, and community colleges, can focus employer engagement on increasing family-sustaining jobs that enable workers to contribute fully to their communities.
  • Workers can raise their voices and provide their input about the conditions they believe are needed to do their jobs well and support the success of the organization.

This is an exciting time of renewed energy and opportunity to take action to improve job quality in the United States, as some longtime advocates are deepening their work.

For example, the Good Jobs Initiative, spearheaded by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Commerce, is laying out principles of a shared vision of good jobs to be used by the federal government and a range of stakeholders. And the Families and Workers Fund, a coalition of more than 15 major philanthropic institutions, is organizing funders to use their resources and influence to advance the growth of good jobs.

A living wage is just one part of what makes a quality job.

Tameshia Bridges Mansfield

JFF is excited to add to this momentum and put our Quality Jobs Framework into practice. Our initial steps will include the following:

  • Identifying metrics and indicators of job quality for the public workforce system and using them as a tool to inform people about better options.
  • Developing tools and resources to help workforce systems and community colleges offer quality jobs to program participants and productively engage with local employers to encourage them to improve job quality.
  • Building on JFF’s Impact Employer Model to apply lessons learned from our analysis of small and midsize businesses and identify supports and metrics to establish changes in employer practice that support employee stability and advancement.

You, too, can play a part in moving this critical work forward. Together we can help the millions of people without quality jobs—people who work hard every day but don’t enjoy the dignity, agency, compensation, or other benefits that everyone deserves.

If you’re passionate about driving these changes, please connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, or subscribe to our mailing list to find out about opportunities to learn, collaborate, and invest as JFF begins implementing our Quality Jobs Framework—and moving quality jobs from theory to practice.

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