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BRIEF: Poor Quality Jobs Must Be Redesigned

April 26, 2016

Redesigning low-quality jobs could help pull millions of U.S. workers out of poverty, a brief published by the Aspen Institute and PHI argues.

Restore the Promise of Work: Reducing Inequality by Raising the Floor and Building Ladders calls for broad reimagining of “bad jobs” — the essential yet unappreciated jobs done by so-called unskilled workers.

“To date, too much of the public narrative has been about the need for education in order for individuals to qualify for a ‘good’ job and too little about the need to value — in every sense of the word — the essential work that workers who currently have ‘bad’ jobs perform,” the brief argues.

“Their work is essential in service, caregiving and many other occupations that make up a large and growing proportion of employment,” it continues. “We need a firm goal of redesigning poor-quality jobs.”

Calls for “Pro-Work Strategy”

Written by Maureen Conway, vice president of policy programs at the Aspen Institute, and PHI founder and former president Steven L. Dawson, Restore the Promise of Work is a follow-up to their 2014 brief Build Ladders and Raise the Floor.

Like the earlier paper, Restore the Promise of Work emphasizes the need to improve job quality by offering meaningful career advancement opportunities and providing a living wage.

But Restore the Promise of Work goes further, calling on leaders from workforce development, labor, business, government, education, and philanthropy to “join together to build a cohesive, pro-work strategy.”

Five Essential Elements

In their report, Conway and Dawson outline the “five essential elements” that such a strategy would encompass. For example, leaders should work to articulate a “unified public narrative that insists on the necessity for decent, stable jobs — simultaneously benefitting the worker, the employer, and all residents within a region’s economy.”

Another element is the development of a policy agenda that includes raising the minimum wage, providing essential benefits for workers, ensuring that they have safe working conditions, and have a mechanism for self-advocacy.

The brief’s appendix highlights business practices and workforce initiatives from around the country that exemplify a pro-work strategy, including two PHI-affiliated home care agencies, Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx and Home Care Associates in Philadelphia.

— by Matthew Ozga

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