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Employment & Job Quality

About Employment & Job Quality

IWPR examines the quality of jobs across a diverse range of workers and job types, with an emphasis on low-wage employment. Our research explores access to employment benefits such as paid leave, pensions, and health insurance, as well as the adequacy of governmental work supports including Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Social Security. The area also covers the use and value of "family-friendly" policies such as paid time off to care for sick family members, flextime, telecommuting, and child care assistance.

More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation.

IWPR research in workplace leave policies made an early impact. In its founding year, IWPR analyzed the costs to American workers of not having unpaid leave for childbirth, personal health needs, or family care giving in its inaugural publication, Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave. IWPR testified before the U.S. Senate with the report’s unique findings. Our research showed that—by not recognizing the need for work-life balanceestablished policies not only failed to support workers and their families, but were costly to taxpayers. Six years later, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law.

Access to paid sick leave is another important and relevant component of job quality. Having paid sick days also provides more economic security, particularly to low-income workers, who are able to take a day off to care for their own illness or for a family member without fear of losing their job. This issue is particularly important to women who tend to serve as caregivers for children and older relatives. More than 44 million Americans lack access to paid sick leave, but campaigns are underway at city, state, and national levels to pass paid sick days legislation. IWPR research on paid leave has found that employees with access to the benefit have better self-reported health and are less likely to visit hospital emergency rooms, reducing private and public health care costs.

According to a 2010 survey, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, as of late 2010, 76 percent of Americans favored laws supporting paid family and medical leave, 75 percent support policies promoting quality, affordable child and after-school care, and 69 percent support national paid sick days legislation. These policies must be accessible to those who need them most. IWPR’s research found that, during the 2009–2010 recession, 62 percent of the 15.5 million women living in poverty did not receive food stamps, and 88 percent received no TANF income.

In addition to its ongoing research, IWPR is conducting public education activities and holding forums for disseminating information about the need for and benefits of new job quality policies to policymakers, business leaders, researchers, advocates, and the general public.

For more information on this critical issue, visit our Family Leave & Paid Sick Days webpage

Media

View IWPR press releases and media citations related to Employment & job Quality.

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Visit our external resources page for links to more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

Untapped Resources, Untapped Labor Pool: Using Federal Highway Funds to Prepare Women for Careers in Construction
by Ariane Hegewisch, Jane Henrici, Elyse Gould, and Thomas Hooper (December 2014)

Women are underrepresented in highway, street, and bridge construction where employment is projected to grow by more than 20 percent until 2022. Creating sustainable pathways into construction careers fills critical hiring needs for industry while improving economic security for women, as these jobs typically provide family-supporting wages with good benefits. Activities to improve women’s recruitment and retention in skilled construction jobs are widely known, but dedicated funding for such activities is scarce. Federal highway funding offers states a stable resource that can support activities that improve women’s entry into and success in the construction trades. This briefing highlights examples of how two states, Maryland and Oregon, are using this funding to improve diversity in the highway construction workforce. The paper begins by discussing the lack of gender diversity in the construction workforce, describes the challenges and proven strategies for improving the pipeline into construction jobs for women, and outlines how federal highway dollars can be used to improve the diversity of this workforce by funding on-the-job training and support services. The briefing paper is based on a review of literature, pre-apprenticeship state-level evaluations and progress reports, and interviews with key stakeholders from Oregon, the tradeswomen community, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

 

Women in Construction and the Economic Recovery: Results from 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey
by Ariane Hegewisch and Brigid O'Farrell (August 2014)

This research-in-brief draws on the 2013 IWPR Tradeswomen Survey, an exploratory survey on the opportunities and challenges for women working in construction trades. The survey yielded responses from 219 U.S.-based tradeswomen from 33 states and presents a mixed picture for women in construction. While many respondents are earning good wages, unemployment and underemployment are still high. The majority of respondents report that they feel largely treated equally to men, yet far too many report unequal treatment in hiring, training, assignments, and promotions. Three in ten respondents report high levels of harassment. Fewer than five respondents in total reported having learned about opportunities in the trades through school or career counselors. These findings suggest that contractors, labor unions, and the government are failing to recruit, train, and ensure a safe workplace free of harassment for many women.

 

The Costs and Benefits of Paid Sick Days (Testimony before the Mayor's Task Force on Paid Sick Leave of Philadelphia)
by Jessica Milli, Ph.D. (August 2014)

Testimony of Jessica Milli, Ph.D., before the Mayor’s Task Force on Paid Sick Leave of Philadelphia (August 6, 2014)

 
Preview not available

Quality Jobs and Supports Build Strong Workplaces
by Barbara Gault, Ph.D. (June 2014)

Testimony of Barbara Gault, Ph.D.before the Joint Economic Committee June 18, 2014

 

The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation and by Race and Ethnicity, 2013
by Ariane Hegewisch and Stephanie Keller Hudiburg (April 2014)

Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. Data for both women’s and men’s median weekly earnings for full-time work are available for 112 occupations ; there are only three occupations in which women have higher median weekly earnings than men. In 101 of the 112 occupations, the gender earnings ratio of women’s median weekly earnings to men’s is 0.95 or lower (that is, a wage gap of at least 5 cents per dollar earned by men); in 17 of these occupations the gender earnings ratio is lower than 0.75 (that is, a wage gap of more than 25 cents per dollar earned by men).

 

Paid Sick Days Access in the United States: Differences by Race/Ethnicity, Occupation, Earnings, and Work Schedule
by Claudia Williams and Barbara Gault (March 2014)

Paid sick days bring substantial benefits to employers, workers, families, and communities. The economic and public health benefits of paid sick leave coverage include safer work environments; improved work life balance, reduced spread of contagion; and reduced health care costs. Access to this important benefit, however, is still too rare, and is unequally distributed across the U.S. population, with differences by race and ethnicity, occupation, earnings levels, and work schedules. Utilizing data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), IWPR finds that in 2012, approximately 61 percent of private-sector workers age 18 and older in the U.S. had access to paid sick days (Figure 1); up from 57 percent in 2009. More than 41 million workers lack access.

 

How Equal Pay for Working Women would Reduce Poverty and Grow the American Economy
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D., and Jennifer Clark (January 2014)

Persistent earnings inequality for working women translates into lower pay, less family income, and more poverty in families with a working woman, which is of no small consequence to working families. About 71 percent of all mothers in the United States work for pay. Of these, about two-thirds (68 percent) are married and typically have access to men’s incomes, but married women’s earnings are nevertheless crucial to family support. One-third (32 percent) are single mothers and often the sole support of their families. And many without children, both single and married, work to support themselves and other family members. This briefing paper summarizes analyses of the 2010-2012 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic supplement and uses statistical controls for labor supply, human capital, and labor market characteristics to estimate: 1) how much women’s earnings and family incomes would rise with equal pay; 2) how much women and their families lose because women earn less than similarly qualified men; and 3) how much the economy as a whole suffers from inequality in pay between women and men.

 

Job Growth Continues with 203,000 Jobs Added in November
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (December 2013)

According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the December employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of the 203,000 total jobs added to nonfarm payrolls in November, women gained 94,000 of those jobs (46 percent) while men gained 109,000 jobs (54 percent).

 

Defining College Affordability for Low-Income Adults
by Barbara Gault (November 2013)

PowerPoint presentation on "Defining College Affordability for low-income adults: Improving returns on investment for families and society" prepared for the Lumina Foundation's Authors Conference.

 

Women and Men in the Recovery: Where the Jobs Are; Women’s Recovery Strengthens in Year Four
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Elyse Shaw, and Elizabeth Pandya (November 2013)

While the number of jobs dropped steeply, particularly for men, in the Great Recession, slow job growth has characterized much of the recovery. In the first two years of the recovery men saw faster job growth than women. In the third year of recovery, women's job growth saw pronounced gains and had largely caught up to men's. Strong gains continued for women into the fourth year of recovery where, overall, the percentage of job’s recovered for women surpassed that of men’s. As of June 2013, men had regained 68 percent of the jobs they lost in the recession and women had regained 91 percent of the jobs they lost.

 

Spring/Summer 2013 Newsletter-25th Anniversary Edition
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (August 2013)

This special 25th Anniversary edition of the newsletter presents a review of IWPR's policy research since our founding in 1987.

 

Workforce Investment System Reinforces Occupational Gender Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (June 2013)

IWPR’s analysis of training services received by WIA clients shows stark gender segregation in the jobs and careers for which women and men receive training.

 

The Truth in the Data: How Quantifying Women’s Labor Market Experiences Changes the Conversation about the Economy
by Ariane Hegewisch, Maxwell Matite, and Youngmin Yi (May 2013)

From the outset, IWPR has highlighted the wage gap as a key indicator of women’s economic security and gender (in)equality in the workplace. Fact sheets on the overall gender wage gap were published in IWPR’s first years and document how much the earnings ratio between men and women changed over time, as well as how earnings for different groups of women varied over this period of time. From 1996 onwards, the Institute’s research program on the Status of Women in the States has made these data available on a state-by-state basis, including in the report Women's Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity, and Region (published in 2004). IWPR also provides state-by-state wage data in Femstats, a section of its website, in spreadsheet form. IWPR’s research has also linked trends in the wage gap to policy developments, changes in the economy, and ongoing changes in women’s lives. Such trends as later marriage, reduced fertility, gains in education, the growth of low-wage jobs and contingent work in the U.S. economy, and changes in the minimum wage, equal employment opportunity enforcement, and collective bargaining all affect women’s opportunities in the labor market, including their labor force participation and the amount of sex segregation they face in employment. IWPR’s studies have ranged from detailed examinations of specific industries to analyses of trends affecting the entire economy.

 

Job Growth Slows for Both Women and Men
by The Institute for Women's Policy Research (April 2013)

#Q008 updated, Quick Figures, 2 pages
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Women and the Care Crisis: Valuing In-Home Care in Policy and Practice
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., (April 2013)

The paper suggests that to improve the quality of in-home care jobs, address the industry’s anticipated labor shortage, and ensure that high-quality care is available in the United States, it is necessary to increase the value attributed to care work through critical changes in public policies and practices. These changes would benefit not only the women and men who are care workers or recipients, but also the nation overall. As a sector in which job growth is especially rapid, the care industry is integral to the U.S. economy; as a result, any changes that help to fill the gap in this industry and improve conditions for its workforce will strengthen the nation’s economy as a whole.

 

Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy: Industry, Occupation, and State-by-State Job Estimates
by Ariane Hegewisch, Jeff Hayes, Ph.D., Tonia Bui, Anlan Zhang (April 2013)

This report provides the first-ever estimates of women’s employment in the green economy, state-by-state, by industry, and by occupation. The analysis draws on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey; the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy database; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Green Goods and Services survey. The report examines women’s share of employment in the occupations predicted to see the highest growth in the green economy and includes two alternative state-by-state estimates for growth in green jobs. Focusing on investments in green buildings and retrofits, the report includes a state-by-state analysis of employment in key construction occupations by age, race, ethnicity, and gender. This report was funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Sustainable Employment in a Green US Economy (SEGUE) Program. It is the first of a series of publications investigating strategies for improving women’s access to quality employment in the green economy; future reports will address good practices in workforce development for women in the green economy.

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Job Growth Improves in October for Both Women and Men: Women Gain 53 Percent of Jobs Added, Women Now Have Net Job Growth Since February 2009
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (November 2012)

According to IWPR analysis of the October employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth improved in October with women gaining 53 percent of jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. Job growth was strong for both women (91,000 jobs) and men (80,000 jobs) for a total of 171,000 jobs added.

 

103,000 New Jobs in the Private Sector: Women Continue to Lose Government Jobs
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (September 2012)

According to IWPR analysis of the August employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private sector job growth continued in August with 103,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. However, BLS reported that there were 7,000 fewer jobs in government resulting in a net total of 96,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls in August. Of these, women gained 43,000 jobs, or 45 percent of the total, and men gained 53,000 jobs.

 

Job Growth Continues in June: Private Sector Growing Faster than Public Sector in the Recovery
by Institute for Women's Policy Research (July 2012)

According to IWPR analysis of the June employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth continued in June with 80,000 jobs added to nonfarm payrolls. In June women gained 32,000 jobs and men gained 48,000 jobs.

 

The Gender Wage Gap: 2011
by Ariane Hegewisch, Claudia Williams, and Anlan Zhang (March 2012)

The ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly full-time earnings rose by one percentage point since 2010 and reached a historical high of 82.2 percent. The narrowing of the weekly gender earnings gap from 18.8 percent to 17.8 percent, however, is solely due to real wages falling further for men than for women. Both men and women’s real earnings have declined since 2010; men’s real earnings declined by 2.1 percent (from $850 to $832 in 2011 dollars), women’s by 0.9 percent (from $690 to $684 in 2011 dollars).

 
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