In order to build wealth and create opportunities in and across America’s underserved communities, and reverse the troubling trends we’re seeing in our economy, we no longer find it defensible to focus on job creation alone. It’s clear that job creation does not itself equate to lasting economic change. And so, we must shift our focus to the creation of higher quality jobs — jobs that are good for workers and their families, good for businesses, and good for communities — enabling us to build an economy that works for everyone.
Each month, we bring you the latest roundup of news from the fight for quality jobs for working people.
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″]Raise The Wage – There Is No Excuse Not To[/custom_headline]
The minimum wage has been in the news a lot this month – both for good and for ill. The minimum wage’s buying power is less today than it was in 1950 – and the millions of working families who can’t find jobs that pay better are falling further and further behind. While the Federal government has failed to act on raising the minimum wage above a poverty-level one, many local governments are stepping up.
One of the biggest knocks against raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is the talking point that “it will cost jobs.” Now that several cities have actually done that, though, we can have a look and see exactly what a higher minimum wage does. Michael Reich, Director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley, has conducted extensive research into just that, and he and his team have found major minimum wage increases in states like Arizona and cities like Seattle and Chicago have led to no discernible loss of jobs or slowing of job growth.
So what would raising the minimum wage actually do for working families? The Economic Policy Institute has a new report this month answering that question: Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would lift wages for 41 million American workers. 41 million! The National Employment Law Project details how affected workers who work year-round would receive a raise on the order of $3,500 a year—enough to make a tremendous difference in the life of a preschool teacher, bank teller, or fast-food worker who today struggles to get by on around $20,000 a year.
It would disproportionately benefit women and people of color and would provide additional income to the families of nearly one-quarter of the nation’s children. Fifty-five percent of the workers who would benefit come from families with incomes currently lower than $50,000 a year, and these are families that generally rely on those workers for the bulk of that money.
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″]Quality Jobs: More Than Just The Paycheck[/custom_headline]
While a living wage is essential to creating quality jobs for all working Americans, there’s a lot more to it. Benefits, career-building opportunities, and a fair and engaging workplace are also necessary to look at. While we often put the onus on businesses to improve the jobs they offer, they can’t do it alone – policy needs to create a supportive marketplace.
Among the world’s most economically advanced countries, only one fails to mandate paid maternity leave: the United States. When new parents are able to take paid time off to care for their children, both the American family and the American economy benefit. Bustle has a great roundup of some of the major reasons why paid maternity leave is an essential policy for a 21st-century democracy.
This isn’t just a progressive business drive, either. A better balance between work and family could boost the entire American economy. Women’s participation in the U.S. workforce peaked two decades ago. And today, women are making big changes to when, and whether, they have children. Since the demands of parenting are a key factor keeping women out of the workforce, the Federal Reserve and other economists are focusing on the barriers that parents, especially mothers, face—among them the high cost of child care and a lack of workplace flexibility.
Improving the quality of jobs also improves the bottom-line of businesses. The recently-released eighth annual Employer-Sponsored Health and Well-Being Survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found that 84 percent of large- and mid-sized companies surveyed now have financial wellness programs, up from 76 percent a year ago. Aside from potentially increased productivity and less absenteeism, this kind of benefit can build goodwill that can not only attract new employees, but help retain workers as well.
[custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″]Geography Is Destiny[/custom_headline]
We’re seeing this play out in front of our eyes. Retail stores at malls in suburban areas are shutting – and the malls themselves are starting to die. These changes in spending habits have big implications for the counties and towns that depend on retail for sales- and income-tax revenue.
Suburban office parks are also suddenly emptying out, and the jobs are moving into more urban cores. Think about that in the context of cities getting more and more expensive, forcing working people and people of color further into the suburbs in a reverse of “white flight”. The jobs have moved away, but the workers have been forced to stay, negotiating long commutes with their own time and money.
New research this month from the Economic Innovation Group finds that if you’re born poor in the United States, and you’re hoping to climb the economic ladder, you’re better off growing up in an urban area than a rural one.
And the results are sobering: 3 of every 5 American children are growing up in counties that hinder the chances of anyone not born rich; and Rural areas are proving to be the only places where children have a greater chance of out-earning their parents. If the American Dream is to become more accessible, the country needs a more geographically inclusive pattern of growth, and it needs to tackle the determinants of mobility at their roots, neighborhood by neighborhood, at the same time.