According to a 2021 report from Gallup, less than half of U.S. workers say they have a "good job." To help employers improve job quality, the Good Jobs Champions Group, which includes more than 100 business leaders across different sectors, outlined the three hallmarks of "good" jobs, as well as nine signs of "bad" jobs.
How many workers have a 'good job'?
For the Gallup report, researchers surveyed 7,768 U.S. adults between Oct. 20 and Dec. 7, 2020, about their current employment situations and the quality of their jobs.
To measure job quality, researchers asked participants to rate their job situations last year on a 0-10 scale. Based on the scale, jobs that scored between 0 and 4 were considered "bad jobs," jobs that scored between 5 and 7 were considered "mediocre jobs," and jobs that scored 8 and above were considered "good jobs."
Overall, 44% of all respondents said they were working in good jobs, while 40% said they were working in mediocre jobs, and 16% said they were working in bad jobs. Both male and female respondents reported similar numbers across the three types of jobs.
Among different racial and ethnic groups, the share of those working in good, mediocre, or bad jobs was largely similar. The exception was from Hispanic respondents, who reported a slightly higher share of individuals working in bad jobs (24%).
Across different income brackets, workers in the top 90th percentile for labor income distribution in 2020 had the highest share of people with good jobs at 59% and the lowest share of those with bad jobs at 4%. In comparison, 36% of workers in the bottom 20% for labor income distribution said they had a good job, and 28% said they had a bad job.
What makes a job 'good' or 'bad'?
In response to what it called the "job quality crisis," the Good Jobs Champions Group, which was formed by the Aspen Institute's Economic Opportunities Program and the Families and Workers Fund, released a statement that provides a "shared definition of good jobs — a north star to guide action toward good jobs and a touchstone that provides a common language to discuss priorities."
Although the group acknowledged that "jobs are not easily separated into 'good jobs' and 'bad jobs,'" it said that setting specific standards can help job quality improve. Currently, more than 100 leaders across different sectors, including health care, have signed the statement.
According to the statement, there are three general hallmarks of a good job, including:
- Economic stability, including stable pay that can sustain a family, broad and accessible benefits, reliable schedule, and safe working conditions
- Economic mobility, including equitable hiring practices and clear opportunities for advancement, paid training and development, and chances to build wealth
- Equity, respect, and voice, including the ability to improve your workplace, a transparent and accountable work culture that addresses discrimination, supports purpose and belonging and more
"It's not just about pay—many low-wage workers also place a high value on having the voice and power to improve their workplace, feeling a sense of purpose on the job, or having advancement opportunities," said Rachel Korberg, executive director of the Families and Workers Fund. "On the flip side, people who work in highly-compensated jobs could be overlooked for advancement opportunities due to their race, gender, or other identity characteristics, or might not be supported to meet their caregiving responsibilities."
Speaking to the TIME affiliate "Charter," Korberg also outlined nine signs of a "bad" job, such as:
- Inadequate pay
- Workers being unable to care for their children or themselves
- Disrespectful or bullying supervisors
- Being passed over for training opportunities
- Unsafe working conditions
- Workers not having a voice
- A bad commute
- Feeling that your personal values down align with the job's values
- Feeling that your work is dull or boring
"Everyone should have access to a good job, whether you're someone who wants to make the job your identity or just wants to work, earn a paycheck, and then go home at the end of the day and not think about work," Korberg said. "Both relationships with work have a place in our society, but seeking a sense of purpose at work shouldn't provide an excuse for offering low-quality jobs." (Kayser, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/4; Rothwell/Crabtree, Gallup, accessed 10/5; Good Jobs Champions Group statement, accessed 10/5; Kalita, "Charter," TIME, 10/4)