It goes without saying that there aren’t enough good jobs. But this is not because of a lack of valuable work to be done. Our infrastructure is aging and needs to be repaired or replaced, we need to build affordable housing, we need care for the young, the sick, and elderly, and we need to provide each generation with the education they need to succeed. We also can grow our economy by making sure every person has an equal chance to excel in our economy. The work is there, yet somehow the good jobs are not.
Let’s define what we mean by a “good job.” A good job is one with a paycheck from an employer and a regular and predictable work schedule of 30+ hours per week. A good job pays a family-sustaining wage. A good job comes with vacation time, access to healthcare, and other benefits. Certain kinds of good jobs come with union representation and bargaining rights. A good job confers skills and allows for advancement.
We often hear that these good jobs are a thing of the past, lost to structural changes in our economy, like globalization, de-industrialization, or automation. However, my research shows there is no reason to believe we are powerless to stop the net loss of jobs due to these forces. Trade, technology, entrepreneurship, and funding vital public services could very well create as many good jobs as globalization destroys if we pursue the right policies, especially those impacting women, small businesses, and immigrants.
Last year, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that by realizing the full potential of women in the workforce, every state and local government could add at least 5% to its economic output, and half the states could increase their gross domestic product by 10%. Policies that increase availability of paid maternity leave, affordable child care, and more flexible work schedules would lead to significant increases in women’s workforce participation, and would be good for all employees, too. I urge Governor Hogan to revisit his decision to veto the paid sick leave bill passed by the General Assembly earlier this year as soon as possible. It means more good jobs.
We need to make it easier for small businesses (99% of jobs, depending on how you define “small”) to compete by enforcing and strengthening regulatory policies that limit corporations’ market concentration through mergers and acquisitions. These mergers drive major declines in the rates of entrepreneurship. For instance, from 1977 to 2013, the number of startups as a share of all businesses fell from 16.5% to 8%, and their share of net jobs dropped from 5.7% to 2%.
Investment in vital public services like healthcare, education, and transportation is critical. Take the health care sector, for example. Not only does each dollar of public funds for healthcare ensure good quality of life for citizens and ease burdens on families, it also yields good jobs in medical care, information technology, and construction. Healthcare facilities can also become community hubs around which other development can be planned – Northwest Hospital is a great example of this.
Finally, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to legally migrate and provide a rational path for them to become citizens. Why? Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup made a great point in his book, the Coming Jobs War, when he noted that a huge chunk of the internet technology boom can be traced back to just 1,000 people, of whom more than half were immigrants. Therefore, we can’t reach the level of job growth and creation we will need without, in Clifton’s words, “attracting the best talent and helping the talented become American citizens fast.”
On the campaign trail I hear over and over again that good jobs are the number one issue on peoples’ minds. We have policy tools we know we can use to create good jobs now. While I support relaxed regulations and tax incentives in certain contexts, in 2017 and we have enough evidence that these things alone are insufficient to create good jobs, and in fact can harm good job creation. Unfortunately, this “market-driven” approach is still the primary strategy for too many state government leaders. We need to get back to what works. West Baltimore County can’t wait for good jobs!