Job Quality Matters
The nation’s job market regained some of its momentum in March. But it’s not just getting a job that’s key to gaining financial security – it’s about getting and keeping a quality job.
In a recent report, the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University used interviews with workers around the country to identify three aspects of a job – beyond the size of the paycheck – that help people save money and bolster their financial security. [Excerpts from some of the interviews are shown.]
The report also gave some indications of how common it is for workers to go without them:
Benefits – Employer health care, disability insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan with an employer savings match, tuition credits – these benefits help workers save more, shield them against risk, and protect their paychecks by subsidizing some living costs. But the service sector, one of the largest segments of the U.S. labor force, is particularly poor in providing such benefits.
Flexibility – Without sick days and similar arrangements, workers risk losing their jobs due to an illness or unanticipated event. Here at Boston College, for example, it’s no big deal when an employee takes an occasional sick day or has a longer illness. But Brandeis reports that more than one-third of U.S. workers in the private sector lack access to even a single sick day.
Employment Stability – Consistent work and a regular paycheck mean less need to borrow or dip into savings. Consistent work helps workers build pension savings. And it’s usually a requisite for getting the raises and promotions that will lift a worker’s household income. But the number of workers in part-time employment surged after the Great Recession – and it hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels.
Three out of four U.S. workers report that their employers have taken various measures to reduce their job quality over the past two years, according to a separate survey released last month by the consulting firm Towers Watson. The workers cited an erosion of their retirement benefits, higher out-of-pocket medical costs, fewer hours of work, and similar measures.
Now that the employment numbers are more encouraging, perhaps attention can shift to measures of job quality.