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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.


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

To see our experts on this and other initiatives, click here.

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

Latest Reports from IWPR

Welfare to Work: The Job Opportunities of AFDC Recipients
by (March 1995)

In a frenzy to move welfare recipients off the roles through budget cuts, block grants, time limits, cries to "end welfare as we know it," and attempts to exclude children and young mothers from coverage, little attention has been paid to what works to help current AFDC recipients find work and earn wages that will help them escape poverty. The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) has conducted research and analysis on the current survival strategies of AFDC recipients. IWPR's most recent phase of this study, welfare That Works: The Working Lives of AFDC Recipients, examines the factors that increase the likelihood that single mothers receiving AFDC engage in paid employment, the kinds of jobs they obtain, and the factors that improve their prospects for obtaining better jobs (and higher incomes). IWPR's research suggests that if employment opportunities are not reformed along with welfare, efforts to reduce the rolls will likely result in increased poverty for many single mothers and their children and increased frustration for tax payers who will see yet another "reform" to go awry.


Exploring the Characteristics of Self-Employment and Part-Time Work Among Women
by (May 1993)

The quality of jobs created during the 1980s-- and whether these were "good" jobs or "bad" jobs-- has been the source of a highly charged debate. The quality of jobs is of increasing importance to women as their financial responsibility for themselves and their families has grown, and they have been seeking employment opportunities at increasing rates.

Preview not available

Raising Women's Earnings: The Family Issue of the 1990's
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D, with assistance from Deborah Clearwaters (September 1992)


Child Care Worker's Salaries
by (January 1989)


High Skill and Low Pay: The Economics of Child Care Work
by (January 1989)

In the midst of a debate over the cost and quality of child care and the appropriate public role in its provision, this paper documents the current situation of child care workers. Using available data from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and numerous salary surverys conducted by a variety of groups across the country, it describes who child care workers are, in terms of their gender, race, age, and education; the job titles, occupations, and settings in which they work; and the wages and benefits they receive.

Preview not available

Wages of Salaries of Child Care Workers: The Economic and Social Implications of Raising Child Care Worker's Salaries
by Diana Pearce (March 1988)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Drugs, and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S. Sebate, Washington, DC. Describes who are the child care workers, their salaries, reasons the salaries are so low, and teh effects of low salaries. Available by mail in limited quantities. E-mail iwpr [at] iwpr [dot] org to place an order.

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