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Low-Wage Workers and Low- Income Families: The Role of the Private Sector Donna S. Lero, Ph.D. Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work Centre for Families,

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Presentation on theme: "Low-Wage Workers and Low- Income Families: The Role of the Private Sector Donna S. Lero, Ph.D. Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work Centre for Families,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Low-Wage Workers and Low- Income Families: The Role of the Private Sector Donna S. Lero, Ph.D. Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being University of Guelph Global Strategies: Improving the Labour Conditions of the Working Poor McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy November 16, 2007

2 Concerns, Caveats Focusing on low wage workers excludes consideration of individuals who are self-employed, precariously employed, and individuals who are often invisible or excluded from basic labour standards and social protections Low-wage workers are heterogeneous – responses must address different situations, different groups A focus on low-wage workers (and their families) must be complemented by an analysis of conditions of low-wage work Private sector responses must be complemented by comprehensive public policies and community support.

3 Who Are Low-Wage Workers? Young people – students, young people in entry- level positions Disproportionately women – why? Individuals with less education (less than high school, or only a high school education)* Recent immigrants, particularly visible minorities* Individuals with health problems, work limitations Less consistent work experience, job skills Proportion in low-income families; mobility

4 Low Wage Work, Working Conditions Full-time…. Part-time…. Casual and Insecure More part-time, temporary, contracted out May have shorter job tenure, unstable work patterns Unpredictable hours, Nonstandard work hours * More often in private sector, in small businesses non-unionized More often in low-wage sectors of the economy, occupations that are underpaid

5 Disadvantaged at Work 1 May not qualify for public protections for workers EI in the event of job loss Job-protected Maternity or Parental Leave Compassionate Care Leave Insurance in the event of disability, illness, injury * Family Responsibility Leave May not be eligible for, or entitled to paid leave benefits, paid sick leave, vacation * Unpaid leave is problematic and costly

6 Disadvantaged at Work 2 Less likely to have access to non-wage benefits Source: Marshall, 2003

7 Job Quality and Supports for Work-Family Integration Control over work hours, work schedule Flexibility in scheduling Opportunities for training, skill development Health and safety concerns, physically demanding work Child Care – costs, access, quality Work-related expenses, logistical issues Research on positive effects of flexibility and support re: job satisfaction, commitment for workers at all income levels Access to education and training, benefits related to retention particularly among low-income workers (Bond & Galinsky, 2006)

8 3 Models re: Employer Support Proactive, strategic approach to enhance opportunities and performance for low-wage employees – individually or in partnership Limited attention to low-wage workers – treat all employees similarly May be unaware of needs or concerns May be reluctant to take on major commitments or ambivalent about role and potential costs Informal support may be provided to individual employees Low-wage workers as expendable

9 Examples of Employer Supports and Initiatives Flexible scheduling * Free uniforms On-site literacy programs, skill development programs Scholarship programs Discounts Incentive and recognition programs Support in accessing financial assistance, services * Health and dental benefits (selective) Partnerships with community colleges, state agencies or intermediaries re: recruitment, hiring, training, promotion and career ladders; also case management on or off-site Partnerships in community capacity building

10 Conclusions 1 Very limited Canadian research, best practices Larger workplaces in urban areas could be leaders Key challenge for small businesses, small non-profits …..creative opportunities Private sector may not respond unless labour shortages push them, and/or incentives and resources support them Public policy affects workers and workplaces Systemic concerns about underpaid care work

11 Conclusions 2 Improvements in income, benefits, working conditions a legitimate concern re: job performance and retention, but also health, parenting, inclusion Improvements at work should be accompanied by a focus on development of human capital (education and skills training), recognition of credentials Evidence of importance and value of asset building approaches Other public policy issues – transportation, child care, housing, affordable and accessible PSE and adult training

12 References Bond, J.T. & Galinsky, E. (2006). How Can Employers Increase the Productivity and Retention of Entry-level, Hourly Employees? New York: Families and Work Institute. Holzer, H.J. & Martinson, K. (2005). Can We Improve Job Retention and Advancement among Low-Income Working Parents? Institute for Research on Poverty. Discussion Paper no Litchfield, L.C., Swanberg, J.C. & Sigworth, C.M. (2004). Increasing the Visibility of the Invisible Workforce: Model Programs and Policies for Hourly and Lower Wage Employees. Boston College Center for Work & Family. Marshall, K. (2003). Benefits of the job. Perspectives on Labour and Income (Statistics Canada, Catalogue no XIE) 4, no. 5, Saunders, Ron. May Does a Rising Tide Lift All Boats? Low-paid Workers in Canada. Document No 4, Vulnerable Workers Series, Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Network. The Finance Project. (2005). Work Supports and Low-Wage Workers: The Promise of Employer Involvement. Winston, P. (2007). Meeting Responsibilities at Work and Home: Public and Private Supports. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

13 For More Information and Additional References: Donna S. Lero Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work Centre for Families, Work and Well-Being University of Guelph


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