Monday, September 5, 2011

Bad Jobs Make Bad Times Worse

Paul Osterman

America confronts a jobs crisis that has two faces. The first face is obvious and greets us every morning when we read the newspapers or talk with our friends and neighbors. There is simply not enough work to go around. Following the financial crisis and the Great Recession unemployment has remained stubbornly high with devastating consequences. The second jobs crisis is more subtle but no less serious. Far too many jobs fall below the standard that most Americans would consider decent work. Last year 19.7 percent of working adults held jobs that would put a family of four below the poverty line even if they worked full time and full year. These people work in factories and hotels, in restaurants and hospitals, on construction sites and in day care centers. The problem spans all races and ethnic groups and includes large numbers of native born Americans as well as immigrants.

Thirty percent of students are African-American or Hispanic and 40 percent are first generation college students. The rates of return to degree or certification completion are very respectable but the main challenge of community colleges, and the issue that has become central in the public policy discussion, is the high drop-out rate. One big reason for high drop-out rates is that too many community college students need to work to put themselves through school. More government assistance is needed to allow these students to work less and study more. There is a public constituency for raising the floor for decent work and helping Americans build better skills. The success of minimum wage ballot measures around the country demonstrates this extends into the voting booth. A set of tested policies, from more effective employment standards to training and career ladders, could make a real difference. What is needed next is a level of political leadership to translate more of this public sentiment into concrete action.

1 comment:

  1. What a delusional idiot.

    Good grief.


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