Lousy Jobs in the Rich World: What Happened to Shared Growth?

Thursday 01 October, 2015
4 - 6pm, $0

CUNY Center for the Humanities
365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5318

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The US experienced a dramatic ideological shift towards ‘neoliberalism’ around 1980, which featured deregulation of labor, product and financial markets; shrinking or eliminating social protection and redistributive programs to the nonelderly; and giant tax cuts for top income households. Predictably, income and wealth inequality skyrocketed, the middle class share of total income collapsed, and worker pay stagnated or fell. Shared growth all but disappeared.

The Decent Jobs Project, funded by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, aims to carefully describe, and begin to explain, one critical dimension of this post-1980 neoliberal performance that has had profound effects on the vast majority of American households -- the increasing incidence of lousy jobs, especially for young workers. We identify lousy jobs as those with very low hourly pay and/or inadequate hours of work (other important dimensions of job quality are closely correlated). To better understand the US case, we look closely at the experiences of other rich countries, relying on data from each country’s main household survey (directly for the US and four other large affluent countries, and via LIS for a larger and more harmonized sample). To interpret the data, we are developing country case studies of the institutional sources of changes in worker bargaining power. The project is framed by the view that the conventional story – skill-biased technological change and globalization – cannot explain cross-country patterns in the translation of economic growth into decent jobs (defined simply as not ‘lousy’ ones). Rather, the underlying vision is that the evolution of cross-country patterns of lousy jobs is best explained by local political choices and institutional structures. This talk will outline the project and present some initial results.

David R. Howell is a Professor of economics and public policy at The New School (New York City). Recent publications have focused on the effects of labor market institutions and social policy on unemployment across OECD countries; the importance of minimum wage policies for the comparative employment performance of the US and France; and the consequences of rising inequality for economic growth. Current work is focused mainly on a cross-country examination of the effects of alternative policy and institutional regimes on the translation of economic growth into decent jobs, and is aimed at generating lessons for improving US labor market decent job performance. This research is funded by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (for more details on publications).

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