Giving Compass' Take:

• Maureen Conway and Alex Swartse explain how dedicated funding to improve job quality can make an impact. 

• What role can you play in improving job quality? What can high-quality jobs look like in your community? 

• Read about assessing job quality and equity in your local labor market.

As unemployment rises and the low quality of many “essential” jobs becomes more and more apparent amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more urgent to ensure that work truly works for everyone. This paper is based on a survey of organizations about their efforts to improve job quality, which was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. It is also informed by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program’s longstanding work to illuminate the implementation of economic opportunity strategies in communities across the United States and to support effective practice.

Many organizations across the US — more than two in three of those responding to our survey —work on a wide variety of elements of job quality within their own organizations, and one in four work to improve the quality of jobs beyond those in their organizations. Respondents noted that gaps in data availability or accessibility, staff capacity, funding, stakeholder buy-in, public policy, and employer engagement presented challenges to their efforts to improve job quality, both within their organizations and in their communities. They are eager for more tools and resources to support their efforts. Information about effective practice and increased financial support for job quality work could encourage organizations at every level to make improving job quality a priority in their work.

Understanding the perspectives on job quality of a diverse set of organizations that are concerned about economic opportunity, and the barriers and opportunities that they see to improving the quality of jobs for a variety of different types of workers, provides insights into how local efforts can contribute to the important national goal of improving the lives and livelihoods of working people and building an economy that works for all.

Many respondents are working on aspects of job quality, though respondents more commonly reported that they are working to improve job quality within their own organizations rather than working to influence the quality of jobs offered by companies or other organizations in their communities

Respondents across a variety of organizations reported using several different job quality tools and resources (many of which are now cataloged in EOP’s Job Quality Tools Library), though pluralities of respondents — often majorities — indicated that additional tools are needed. Many respondents reported using published tools or resources in combination with “homegrown” tools designed by themselves or their organizations.

Job quality work was constrained by gaps in data, capacity, funding, stakeholder buy-in, public policy, and employer engagement even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing dedicated funding for job quality work could help unlock existing staff capacity and encourage organizations at every level to make it a priority.