|THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN WORKPLACE|
September 3, 1997
in this forum:
What role will orgnaized labor play in the new workplace? How has technology changed the way we work? What is driving the increase in contingent workers? How prevalent are the golden parachutes given to CEOs? How do we improve the workplace atmosphere? Why do service jobs still pay so little?
August 22, 1997:
The NewsHour reports on Teamsters' President Ron Carey's election troubles.
August 20, 1997:
Paul Solman explores the fallout from the UPS strike on labor/management relations.
February 20, 1997:
John Sweeney, the newly elected president of the AFL-CIO, discusses the state of the labor movement.
February 20, 1997
Paul Solman leads a discussion on whether an unfettered economy is best.
October 21, 1996
Paul Solman explores the bud vase economy and the wage gap.
September 2, 1996:
The Online NewsHour and the NewsHour's regular panel of historians explore the history of labor day in separate reports.
May 14, 1996
The NewsHour reports on the debate in the Senate over the Teamwork Act.
March 25, 1996
The NewsHour historians examine the history of economic insecurity and economist Harris Sussman on coping with the modern workplace.
A question from Laura Gourley of Grosse Pointe, MI
State of the workplace
"Job Shift," William Bridges published in '94 clearly defines the changes happening in the labor market. In your opinion, what is the largest factor that will help people and corporations make the shift to the contingent work force?
Edward Potter responds:
Bridges argues that traditional workplaces are disappearing, and that because of technological change traditional jobs are headed for extinction. Bridges argues that workers will market themselves to employers (even to their current employers), and manage themselves as independent "companies." However, reports of the demise of "traditional" jobs are premature. Job tenure rates have remained unchanged for 30 years, the share of the workforce in part-time jobs has remained unchanged for almost 20 years (it increase from 12 to 20 percent during the 1950s-1970s), and multiple job holding has increased by only one percentage point in the last 15 years. And, although there is a lack of reliable data on the growth of workers in "non-traditional" arrangements (i.e. temporary help workers, independent contractors, workers provided by contract firms, etc.), only 10 percent of the workforce are in such arrangements.
Some recent reports have argued that part-time work and other forms of "non-traditional" work arrangements should be considered substandard. However, those who are employed in these positions overwhelmingly report being satisfied with their jobs. Eighty percent of part-time workers would not prefer a full-time job, and more than two thirds of "non-traditional" workers prefer their arrangements.
One labor-market truism that will remain unchanged is that those who find the best jobs and enjoy the most flexibility are those with the best skills and experience. Whether employed in a contingent, alternative or traditional job, skills, education and experience will remain a vital part of labor market success for all workers, and the most important determinant of wages and job opportunities.
Dr. Walter Licht responds:
The expansion in part-time and temporary work stints is mostly driven by costs--firms are seeking to lower the number of long-term, vested employees (on the supply side, there are also growing numbers of people who choose intermittant employment). I am not sure anything will cushion the shift, short of expanded public services, such as day-care, and access for all to decent health care. There are probably more public than private answers here, but the country is not politically in the mood right now for more public initiatives.