By Patrick Duggan
In today’s economy, the prevalence of “good jobs” is diminishing. Since America’s job market bottomed out at the close of the Great Recession, our economy has produced more than 14 million jobs and unemployment has dropped below 5 percent. That sounds great on paper, but the average American worker is experiencing a far different reality. Almost half of American workers make less than $15 per hour — and women and people of color are the worst off.
As the recent presidential election drove home, working Americans are awake to how policy and good jobs are tied together. When most of us think about government policy and working-class jobs these days, we think about policies that haven’t worked, and have benefited corporations and not American workers. But a slate of federal policies are already in place and already working. And with a few simple adjustments, they could be made much stronger and improve the wages, benefits, and workplaces of millions of American workers.
"More and more companies are recognizing that high-road workplace practices generate positive outcomes for workers and businesses. Jobs that provide good benefits, such as paid sick time, retirement and family leave, reduce employee turnover and create higher employee productivity and satisfaction,” says Richard Eidlin, co-founder and vice president of public policy at the American Sustainable Business Council. “However, public policies are also an essential compliment to increasing the quality of jobs.”
Our jobs problem – driven largely by globalization and technological advances that reduce the need for human labor – is too large and complex for individual businesses and investors to confront on their own. While businesses are the sources of job creation, government programs can incentive investment that leads to more jobs and to higher quality jobs.
The thing is, government doesn’t have to make massive, sweeping changes to start making a difference. The Surdna Foundation and Pacific Community Ventures released a new report on already existing, bipartisan, and common-sense federal policies and programs that can be adjusted or expanded to create more economic opportunity and more middle-class jobs in communities that have been left behind by globalization, automation, or generations of discrimination. The report explores that potential for smart, targeted public policies to encourage private sector investments in quality job creation.
“The lack of quality employment opportunities in America -- particularly for low-income people, communities of color, immigrants and women -- is a driver of widening inequality in our country. The scale and complexity of this problem requires that multiple approaches be taken to improve the availability and quality of American jobs, which will necessitate close coordination across the public, private, and social sectors,” says Shawn Escoffery, program director for strong local economies at the Surdna Foundation.
“At the Surdna Foundation we recognize that part of the solution is public policy, which is an important lever to encourage and support the growth of businesses that create quality jobs and strengthen their local economies. [This report] offers ideas for policy change at the federal level that can also be instructive for policymakers working at the state and local level. We are pleased to support this research from PCV and hope policymakers across the country will find this report helpful in improving jobs for American workers.”
The report’s recommendations are numerous and varied, and can be classified in the three categories: financial incentives for quality job creators, increased transparency pertaining to job quality, and the establishment of job quality standards for businesses and investors participating in certain government programs. Recommendations include the following:
“These are common-sense ways, that are already on our books, that Washington can unleash business to create good jobs in underserved communities,” says Mary Jo Cook, president and CEO of Pacific Community ventures. “Our report doubles-down on what’s working and lays out five market-based solutions to create good jobs and grow local economies.”
Since the end of the Great Recession, most new jobs have been in low-wage occupations and at places like strip malls and fast-food restaurants, and many parts of the country have been skipped over. By making common-sense changes to federal policies and programs that are already on the books, we can incentive better quality jobs for tens of millions of Americans in a way that helps small businesses and working people thrive and brings the American Dream to underserved communities.
Creating good jobs for working people in every community across America is one goal everyone can agree on. Doing so by making bipartisan government programs that are already working do even more for us is a recipe for success that all of our elected representatives can champion.
Image credit: Pixabay
Patrick Duggan is the Director of Pacific Community Ventures.
Pacific Community Ventures is a nonprofit social enterprise that engages small businesses, investors, and policymakers to build an economy that works for everyone. To achieve our mission we provide small businesses working in underserved communities with access to the capital and expertise needed to successfully grow their businesses and create good jobs, test new business tools and approaches which can be scaled through partnerships, and conduct research and evaluation so that impact investors will deploy more capital more effectively to underserved communities.