Good Jobs for Americans Who Help Americans: Human services is the fastest-growing labor market. Here’s how to restore middle-class earnings by making every human-service job a good job

Source: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, April 2008

For three decades, the supply of good jobs has been dwindling. The causes include globalization, deregulation, and weaker worker protections, such as minimum-wage laws and government defense of the right to unionize. Now, after three decades of stagnant incomes, we are heading for a severe recession. Higher unemployment will reduce worker bargaining power even further. The cure will require a much more active government role in the economy — both as a regulator and as a source of funds.

In the same 30 years, the service sector has exploded as a source of jobs. The American work force has gone from 28 percent factory workers and 72 percent service workers in 1978 to 16 percent factory workers and 84 percent service workers today. But the service sector encompasses tens of millions of bad jobs — in routine clerical work, retail sales, fast food, low-end human services — and a relatively small number of very well compensated professional positions, among them doctor, lawyer, scientist, and investment banker.

Here is a very straightforward proposal. Let’s have a national policy to make every human-service job a good job — one that pays a living wage with good benefits, and includes adequate training, professional status, and the prospect of advancement — a career rather than casual labor.

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