Public Release: 

National Studies Find 30 Percent Of Workers Hold Nonstandard Jobs, Lack Benefits, Security

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

By DAVID WILLIAMSON
UNC-CH News Services

CHAPEL HILL -- Most Americans working in "nonstandard" jobs such as part-time, temporary and contract work suffer severe wage and benefit penalties because of their nontraditional employment, according to two new studies based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

The studies, titled "Nonstandard Work, Substandard Jobs" and "Managing Work and Family," found that nearly 30 percent of U.S. workers are employed in non-traditional jobs. Those include independent contracting, temporary-help services, on-call work, day labor, self-employment and regular part-time employment.

The majority of non-traditional workers -- 58 percent -- are in the lowest quality work arrangements, doing jobs with substantial pay penalties and few benefits compared with full-time workers, the studies showed. This group includes 81 percent of all women working as retail cashiers, restaurant wait and kitchen staff and custodial workers.

"'The Teamsters' strike against UPS highlighted the importance of addressing worker concerns about part-time and contract work," said Dr. Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan professor and chairman of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Given that a large and growing share of the labor force is employed in nonstandard work, and the majority of those workers are in the lowest-quality jobs, public policies are needed to improve job quality and provide greater workplace protection for these workers."

Kalleberg is a co-author of both reports, which are being published by the Economic Policy Institute and the Women's Research and Education Institution.

Key findings of "Nonstandard Work, Substandard Jobs" are that:

  • Lack of equity in wages and benefits disproportionately hurt women and minorities because they hold most non-traditional jobs.
  • Compared to similar women with comparable regular jobs, women in less formal work arrangements make 20 percent less per hour for part-time labor, 17 percent less for temporary work, 25 percent less if they are self-employed and 14 percent less if they are independent contractors.
  • Compared to similar men with comparable regular jobs, men in nonstandard jobs make 24 percent less for part-time work, 21 percent less if they are temps, 13 percent less if they are self-employed and 5 percent less if they are independent contractors.
  • Fifty-two percent of women and 33 percent of men in nonstandard jobs do not earn enough to lift a family of four out of poverty even if working full-time, year-round. That contrasts with about 28 percent of women and 18 percent of men with traditional work.
  • Only 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men in nonstandard jobs receive either health insurance or pensions from their employers, compared to 80 percent of workers in regular jobs who receive either.
  • Most of the small percentage of workers who clearly benefit from nonstandard employment are white men.

"Managing Work and Family" analyzes executive, managerial and professional workers in nonstandard arrangements.

Men in managerial and professional nonstandard work on average work about 10 percent more hours per week than their regular full-time counterparts. Women in such positions work fewer hours, however, possibly by choice because of family demands.

"Among our policy recommendations are that pay discrimination based on part-time status be prohibited and that benefits for part-time workers be prorated," Kalleberg said. "Also, child care ought to become available and affordable for workers in non-traditional jobs. Employers should be encouraged to offer more flexible schedules to regular full-time workers so employees are not obligated to accept nonstandard jobs to balance competing demands."

The Ford Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation supported the studies.

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Note: Kalleberg can be reached at (919) 962-0630 (w) or 942-7610 (h). Over the Labor Day weekend, he will be at (910) 597-2544. For copies of the reports, call the Economic Policy Institute at 1-800-EPI-4844. Executive summaries are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.epinet.org.
Contact: David Williamson

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