WIP Maureen Conway

What makes a job a good job and does your job make the cut?

A conversation with Maureen Conway, Aspen Institute VP and Executive Director of the Institute's Economic Opportunities Program

In this episode of the Work in Progress podcast, I’m joined by Maureen Conway, Aspen Institute VP and Executive Director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program to discuss what makes a job a good job.

The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program is focused on policies, strategies, and ideas that help people across the county build better livelihoods and better lives. One of the primary areas it focuses on is how do people do that in the context of the labor market and getting good jobs.

So, what makes a job a good job? Conway says there are three pillars to the framework.

“A good job should provide basic wages and benefits, giving you a stable standard of living. They should also provide opportunity to grow – so opportunity to learn new skills, opportunity to advance, opportunity to build wealth – this idea of opportunity for more, should you choose to pursue it,” says explains.

The third pillar is a sense of equity, dignity, and respect.

This means building a “workplace in which your access to the job, or your access to advancement, is not contingent on your race, your gender, your orientation, your ability status, your religion, any of those kinds of things. And that you know are respected in your workplace and that means that your ideas and are listened to taken into account,” Conway continues.

She says that these three pillars have been been at the heart of what workers have described as a good job for decades, and they also have been echoed by businesses themselves.

But, how close are we to achieving that ideal of a workforce made up of good jobs?

“The reality is a little bit far from the aspiration. Gallup did a survey of working people and found that only 44% of people said that they had a good job based on the things that were important to them. We know that too many jobs really don’t provide that basic wages and benefits that do provide that stable livelihood,” Conway says.

She cites Brookings Institution research that found that 53 million working adults were in jobs with low hourly wages. “This is a not insignificant number of people. It was about a third of the workforce in these jobs.”

So what are the contributing factors for this state of the workforce?

“We know that the economy has changed, technology has changed, the mix between production and service has changed. We have fewer unions. The ways that labor market is regulated has changed. There’s lots of things that have been pushing and you can pick whichever one you want.

“And in some ways I feel like it does matter in terms of understanding where we’ve been to help us understand where we need to go. But it also is not that productive to try to just pick a villain, because I think really we need everybody kind of figuring out what’s their role to getting towards this shared aspiration of people being able to be productively employed in good jobs,” she concludes.

So how do we get there?

Listen to Conway’s thoughts on that question in the podcast. You can listen here or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 256: Maureen Conway, Aspen Institute VP and Executive Director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts