Tracy Williams
Director, Reimagining Capitalism

Why We Invested: Gallup's Job Quality Survey

October 18, 2019

While unemployment rates are at a record low, there is an untold story. Far too many Americans are facing stagnant wages, experiencing greater job insecurity, and taking on second or third jobs just to make ends meet. Why the disconnect?

Despite dramatic changes to the workforce, the unemployment rate — the primary metric our government and economists use to track how workers are doing — has remained relatively unchanged. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics started capturing unemployment data 75 years ago, it set out to measure topline, quantitative statistics like overall unemployment numbers, nonfarm payroll jobs, and household income. But the US workforce has changed and so must our primary metrics for understanding the economic stability of individual workers.

We need to rethink the way we evaluate work. We need to move away from overly simplistic measures such as whether someone has a full-time or part-time job, how much they make, or what sector they work in. Today, someone can get a job in the gig economy with the click of a button, but that doesn’t make it a good job. And in traditional industries, we believe many low-wage workers are seeing a deterioration in aspects of their jobs, such as benefit reductions, “just in time” scheduling that leads to massive instability, outright theft of wages (costing workers billions of dollars), non-compete agreements limiting labor market mobility, and more.

In other words, we need to look not just at the quantity of jobs but also at the quality of jobs. That’s why Omidyar Network has joined Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support Gallup, a nonpartisan organization known for its authoritative opinion polls, as it embarks on the first-of-its-kind job quality survey of US workers.

This new Gallup survey, set to be released in October of this year, asked more than six thousand working Americans to define job quality with questions that rank how important various dimensions of work are: level of pay, benefit packages, scheduling control, career advancement, and so forth. Gallup will then use that input to evaluate how participants’ jobs stack up against how they define job quality, resulting in a new job quality metric to better inform researchers, policymakers, and advocates of what matters to workers and offer a more holistic view on employment data.

We believe this new survey will provide insights that will help employers, policymakers, and political candidates take action to improve job quality for US workers. And we hope this will shine on a light on the need for dignified, stable work, as defined by workers themselves.

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