By Indivar Dutta-Gupta & Kali Grant, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality
The job market continues to bounce back from the economic downturn, but Americans’ feelings about job opportunities remain the same. Despite months or even years searching for jobs, two million Americans—more than a quarter of all unemployed workers—are long-term unemployed, meaning they’ve been searching for work for six months or longer. Unemployment is in no uncertain terms a waste of economic and human potential in our communities, demanding attention from philanthropists, advocates, service providers, and policymakers alike. Subsidized employment is a proven, promising, and underutilized approach to solving this problem.
By Chris Warland, Associate Director for Field Building, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
Job quality for entry-level workers in the US is pretty dismal. The minimum wage is historically very low when adjusted for inflation, wage theft and other violations of wage and hour laws are commonplace, and employers often limit workers to part-time status or misclassify them as independent contractors in order to avoid offering benefits or paying overtime. New scheduling software allows employers to assign workers for short, unpredictable shifts in a way that maximizes profit but makes it difficult to plan transportation, arrange for childcare, or work more than one job (which is often necessary when you’re limited to part-time work).
We know that just getting a job is often not enough to allow an individual or family to escape poverty in America. There are millions of “working poor” Americans for whom the promise of hard work as a means to stability and security has not materialized. Over sixty-five percent of households living in poverty contain at least one working adult.
If transitional jobs programs succeed only in moving job seekers from chronic unemployment into low-wage, low-quality jobs, we have failed. We are merely adding to the numbers of the “working poor”—and we can do better.