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Good Jobs, Bad Jobs

Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s-2000s

Arne L. Kalleberg
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    Good Jobs, Bad Jobs
    Book Description:

    Good Jobs, Bad Jobs provides an insightful analysis of how and why precarious employment is gaining ground in the labor market and the role these developments have played in the decline of the middle class. Kalleberg shows that by the 1970s, government deregulation, global competition, and the rise of the service sector gained traction, while institutional protections for workers—such as unions and minimum-wage legislation—weakened. Together, these forces marked the end of postwar security for American workers. The composition of the labor force also changed significantly; the number of dual-earner families increased, as did the share of the workforce comprised of women, non-white, and immigrant workers. Of these groups, blacks, Latinos, and immigrants remain concentrated in the most precarious and low-quality jobs, with educational attainment being the leading indicator of who will earn the highest wages and experience the most job security and highest levels of autonomy and control over their jobs and schedules. Kalleberg demonstrates, however, that building a better safety net—increasing government responsibility for worker health care and retirement, as well as strengthening unions—can go a long way toward redressing the effects of today’s volatile labor market. There is every reason to expect that the growth of precarious jobs—which already make up a significant share of the American job market—will continue. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs deftly shows that the decline in U.S. job quality is not the result of fluctuations in the business cycle, but rather the result of economic restructuring and the disappearance of institutional protections for workers. Only government, employers and labor working together on long-term strategies—including an expanded safety net, strengthened legal protections, and better training opportunities—can help reverse this trend.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-747-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. About the Author
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Arne L. Kalleberg
  5. Chapter 1 Job Quality in the United States
    (pp. 1-18)

    Work in America has undergone marked transformations in the past four decades. Globalization and deregulation have increased the amount of competition faced by American companies, provided greater opportunities for them to outsource work to lower-wage countries, and opened up new sources of workers through immigration. The growth of a “new economy” characterized by more knowledge-intensive work has been accompanied by the accelerated pace of technological innovation and the continued expansion of service industries as the principal sources of jobs. Political policies such as the replacement of welfare by workfare programs in the 1990s have made it essential for people to...

  6. Part I Changing Work Structures and Workers

    • Chapter 2 Economic Transformation and the Decline of Institutional Protections
      (pp. 21-39)

      Macrostructural changes in political, social, and economic institutions and structures constitute the basic drivers that have shaped the organization of work in the United States since the mid-1970s. These changes thereby largely account for the growth of polarized and precarious employment systems during this period. Forces such as the globalization of production, technological change, and the continued rise of the service sector—combined with political decisions to deregulate markets and to reduce enforcement of market standards—weakened unions and the collective power of workers while strengthening the control of employers, who consequently had relatively free rein to restructure employment relations....

    • Chapter 3 New Workers, New Differences
      (pp. 40-58)

      The labor force in the United States has changed in important ways since the 1970s. The proportion of women in the workforce grew, as did the number of dual-earner families. The share of nonwhite workers in the workforce expanded, while the percentage of foreign-born laborers nearly tripled. The workforce has gotten older on average, and education has emerged as the main divider among workers with bad jobs versus those with good ones.

      These changes in the labor force play an important supporting role in the macrostructural transformations discussed in the previous chapter that explain the growth of polarized and precarious...

  7. Part II Inequality in Job Quality

    • Chapter 4 Dimensions of Polarity
      (pp. 61-81)

      Polarizing forces operate on both the demand side and supply side of the labor market. As discussed in chapter 2, a myriad of social, political, and economic forces have contributed to the polarization of job quality, including macrostructural influences such as globalization, the growth of price competition, the expansion of the knowledge economy, and the deregulation of markets. These forces motivated employers to search for more flexible employment systems and to restructure work. They also led to the decline of union power and the removal of institutional protections. Moreover, as outlined in chapter 3, workers have become more diverse and...

    • Chapter 5 Precarious Employment Relations
      (pp. 82-104)

      The changes in macroscopic and mesoscopic work structures and contexts discussed in chapter 2 have transformed the rules, laws, and shared norms that govern the microscopic employment relationships between employers and their employees. Employment relations have become more precarious and uncertain, and workers have generally become more insecure. This trend has permeated throughout the occupational structure and the life course, affecting both young and older workers. At the same time, there are important variations in the nature and extent of this increase in precarious work and insecurity. As I discuss in chapter 3, whether these changes have been a source...

    • Chapter 6 Economic Rewards: Earnings and Fringe Benefits
      (pp. 105-131)

      Economic rewards are a key motivation for work; for many workers, they are the main basis upon which they evaluate the quality of their jobs. The economic dimension of work encompasses a variety of concepts related to wages or earnings, as well as fringe benefits. We may think broadly about economic compensation as reflecting a “social wage”—one that includes earnings as well as nonwage benefits such as health care, pension or retirement benefits, annual leave, and sickness leave. These nonwage benefits enhance the economic value of one’s job.

      This chapter provides an overview of changes since the 1970s in...

    • Chapter 7 Control over Work Activities and Intrinsic Rewards
      (pp. 132-148)

      The degree of control that workers have over their work activities is an important aspect of employment relations and a central component of job quality. This chapter examines trends in three closely related concepts that refer generally to an employee’s degree of control: autonomy over work activities, or task discretion; participation in wider group decision-making; and intrinsic rewards.

      These interrelated concepts have been of great interest to sociologists, economists, and psychologists. Their interest has been encouraged in large part by the wide array of consequences associated with control over work and intrinsic rewards for both organizational and psychological functioning. Control...

    • Chapter 8 Time at Work: Hours, Intensity, and Control
      (pp. 149-163)

      Time is a central aspect of the employment relationship and a key feature of the quality of jobs. Social scientists have long recognized that control over the use of time underlies the organization of production practices and power relations in the workplace. Questions about how much time workers spend at work and who controls what they do during this time have been fundamental to labor-management struggles concerning the restructuring of time, such as defining the length of the working day.¹

      Both scholars and the general public have raised concerns that Americans are working increasingly hard and suffering from a “time...

    • Chapter 9 Job Satisfaction
      (pp. 164-176)

      The economic and noneconomic job rewards examined in previous chapters are especially salient to workers and their employers and are useful for summarizing the broad trends in job quality. At the same time, these dimensions of work do not exhaust all the potential rewards and benefits to workers that might be available from their jobs.¹ It is difficult, if not impossible, to measure all aspects of work that might constitute job rewards, so it would be useful to supplement the assessment of specific job facets with an overview of changes in the overall quality of jobs.

      The concept of job...

  8. Part III Challenges for Policy

    • Chapter 10 Confronting Polarization and Precarity
      (pp. 179-194)

      The changes in economic and noneconomic dimensions of job quality discussed in this book result from institutional, economic, legal, political, and social transformations in employment systems and relations in the United States since the 1970s. These changes in job quality reflect structural modifications rather than simply fluctuations of the business cycle. During the past several decades, employers have had relatively free rein to implement workplace practices that were designed to increase their flexibility, cut labor costs, and maximize shareholder value in response to greater price competition, technological change, globalization, and other social and economic forces. Changes in financial and capital...

    • Chapter 11 Implementing the New Social Contract
      (pp. 195-216)

      We face vast challenges in implementing the components of the social contract described in the last chapter. The pendulum representing the second part of Polanyi’s “double movement” does not automatically swing back to create social protections and regulations that remedy the negative consequences of polarized and precarious employment systems. Nor did Polanyi provide a theory of power that would help account for the mechanisms by which countermovements would emerge in response to unregulated markets. Indeed, we now have what amounts to an ideological vacuum in which we do not have anything close to a consensus theory about how to deal...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 217-252)
  10. References
    (pp. 253-276)
  11. Index
    (pp. 277-296)