The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a long-standing fact about the US labor market: work and wages alone do not guarantee financial security. A worker’s relationship to their employer—whether they work full- or part-time or whether they are a permanent or contract employee—may be more predictive of their financial well-being because these work arrangements determine access to workplace benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, and paid leave. Predictable and sufficient pay plus workplace benefits can lay a foundation for financial security, yet millions of workers are excluded from jobs offering these cornerstones.

How must work and benefits be redesigned so that all workers—including those earning low and moderate wages or in nonstandard arrangements and others left out of private benefit systems—can meet their expenses, withstand financial shocks, and save for the future? And how can we ensure Black and Latinx workers, who are overrepresented in low-wage and nonstandard work, have an equitable shot at building financial security?

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program (Aspen FSP) and WorkRise recently convened the following experts to explore these questions at a public event: Sheida Elmi, Aspen FSP research program manager who shared insights from a new matrix and report on work and benefit arrangements; Anmol Chaddha, who oversaw the California Future of Work Commission’s recent report on a new social compact for workers; and Debra Plousha Moore, a business executive and consultant with extensive experience advising corporate leaders on human resources, benefits, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Elisabeth Jacobs, WorkRise deputy director and Urban Institute senior fellow, moderated the discussion.

Here are three key takeaways from the discussion:

  1. Employer-driven benefit systems leave many workers without a cushion
  2. Occupational segregation contributes to unequal financial outcomes
  3. However imperfect, public supports stabilize workers without access to private benefits

Read the full article about worker benefits from WorkRise and Archana Pyati at Aspen Institute.