Policies + Practices that will require government involvement (legislative, administrative, or otherwise), implementation, or stewardship.
Governments should put forward policies that include funding and incentives to redesign community college curricula to 1) integrate remedial education and vocational training (rather than have them be sequential); 2) create shorter courses that provide usable credentials on the path to a degree; and 3) provide more financial support over shorter intervals to allow adults to focus on studies rather than work while enrolled.
Governments should consider explicitly regulating or prohibiting electronic monitoring of an employee’s activities without prior notice to all employees who may be affected.
Governments should evaluate the extent to which psychometric testing—the use of questionnaires aimed at psychologically profiling job candidates—provides accurate insights about whether someone is qualified for a job. Decision-makers should consider regulating or limiting employers' use of these tools to make employment decisions based on their potential to create discriminatory outcomes.
Governments should rigorously evaluate, and consider regulating, employers' use of predictive algorithmic software to make decisions about job recruitment, hiring, compensation, and employee evaluation. In light of the growing prevalence of these tools, which create the potential for unfair profiling and discrimination, decision-makers should have accurate information about what inputs and functionalities produce these outcomes.
Governments should create and enforce provisions to prevent platform economy companies (such as food delivery services) from retaining tips meant for workers.
Governments should take steps to address the recent proliferation of noncompete and similar provisions in employment contracts. Creating and enforcing provisions against the improper use of noncompetes and no-poach/no-hire agreements can improve working people's wages and job mobility.
Governments should support the expansion of worker-owned and -controlled job-matching services, which would give workers power in the job-matching process and allow them to establish floors for wages and benefits and otherwise improve workplace standards, all while creating an empowered worker community.
A Worker Organization Administration should be established to provide technical assistance and counseling to workers interested in starting worker organizations and organizations interested in initiating organizing campaigns. In addition, the WOA could contract with worker organizations to train workers participating in works councils, serving as workplace monitors, and serving on corporate boards.
Governments should create partnership with unions, worker centers, and other worker organizations to enforce labor standards and proactively address issues in the work environment. A partnership with a government agency can play a legitimizing role for a worker organization, encouraging workers to take the organization more seriously and encourage support for collective organizing.
Governments should pass laws to create mechanisms for digital picket lines, requiring employers to allow workers to mirror in-person collective action in online transactions. Functioning essentially as a disclosure regime, the digital picket line would require employers to allow workers to inform online customers about strikes occurring at the employer’s physical site.
Governments should allow workers to express their desire for collective representation by signing a card or petition, whether physical or digital, without the need for a formal election process administered by an external review board. Cards or petitions would be presumed valid and would trigger bargaining obligations until they are actually declared invalid by the board.
Governments should pass statutes mandating that workplaces of a predetermined size have a worker-elected workplace monitor. In workplaces with 500 or fewer workers, there would be a single workplace monitor; in workplaces with more than 500 workers, the workers would elect 1 workplace monitor for every 500 workers. The monitors would be empowered to help ensure the workplace’s compliance with all state, federal, and local employment and labor laws and receive paid time off for their monitoring work.
Governments should expressly protect the right to collectively bargain among any independent contractors who: (1) do not employ any employees; (2) who make little capital investment—roughly defined as investment that is limited to the needs of the independent contractor personally (e.g., one car, one set of tools, one computer, etc.)—in their “businesses”; and (3)who share the same economic relationship with a single company.
Governments should require employers to facilitate workers’ communication by providing workers (and/or worker organizations) with a way to contact their coworkers. This obligation could run either to everyone in the organization, a default that many companies currently use (e.g., because their internal email address books include everyone in the organization); to all of the workers in an organization who are covered by labor law; or to subsets of workers who do similar jobs. This requirement could be as straightforward as requiring employers to provide workers with a list of company email addresses or other contact information, but a communications-facilitation requirement could be more effective if workers had a private forum for online communication.
Governments should significantly increase employer penalties for intervening in organizing campaigns, including making punitive damages available. For example, if an employee is discharged or suffers other serious economic harm in violation of the substantive rights to organize provided by labor law, the new statute should require that the employee be awarded backpay (without any reduction for interim earnings) and an additional award in damages.
Governments should expand access to skills training by making workers who lose their jobs eligible for a Dislocation Reskilling Account. The account would provide public funds to invest in training through an apprenticeship or other training program, with a community organization or at a community or technical college, to prepare workers who lose their jobs for new jobs created as a result of technological shifts in the workplace.
Governments should expand learning and work opportunities for all workers by investing in broadband and entrepreneurship hubs. This would entail investing in a comprehensive approach to fostering innovation, using local institutions and infrastructure and accessing investment capital to help the entrepreneurial economy thrive in all communities, including rural areas.
Governments and and higher education systems should develop and delivers services to ensure that all learners, including those with preexisting personal barriers, have pathways to credential attainment.
Governments should remove obstacles to participating in work and learning by closing gaps in access to medical and mental health care, including for those recovering from substance use disorders. Policies should work toward an ecosystem in which all workers, including those with disabilities, can participate in work and learning opportunities.
Governments should develop a regulatory framework to ensure tha new financing tools, such as income sharing agreements (ISAs), do not further predatory student debt collection practices. Policies can reduce risks associated with emerging financing models by limiting stacked ISAs, shifting risk from students to funders, and banning discriminatory and predatory practices.
Governments should allocate funding for rigorous professional development to prepare teachers from diverse backgrounds to integrate technology into their teaching.
Governments should make available in cross-state wage data exchanges (such as the State Wage Interchange System) information that employers report quarterly to measure the outcomes of postsecondary education and training programs. States can also use this data to regularly evaluate whether schools should be included on their ETPLs.
Governments should support returning veterans and their spouses transitioning to the civilian labor market by removing barriers to recognition of occupation-specific training completed as part of military service.
Governments should collect information about credentials and their value through an assessment of credentialing options and their alignments with industry demands to ensure that programs are ready to evolve to meet future needs.
States should collect more data from employers to improve outcomes tracking for those participating in the UI system. Additional data points may include hours worked, occupational codes and position titles.
Law- and policy makers should consider new regulations that interpret anti-discrimination laws in light of predictive hiring tools. Predictive or algorithmic hiring technology, increasingly in use by major employers across the world, are subject to human bias and can affect equity throughout the entire hiring process. Current laws and enforcement frameworks must be updated to hold vendors of such technology accountable and ensure that workers and job applicants continue to be treated with fairness in recruiting, interviewing, and selection.
As the number of middle-skilled and middle-paying jobs decline in the years ahead, other jobs like home health aides and personal care aides are projected to grow at an even faster pace. Despite their growth in number, care jobs rank very poorly on various important job quality markers, such as flexibility and safe working conditions. Policy makers can enact steps to improve the quality of these jobs, such as addressing wages, regulating to improve working conditions and safety, and enhancing opportunities for upward mobility and training.
Given the difficulties identified by workers in transition of changing careers, internal pathways to management provide an accessible path toward greater economic stability and resilience to automation. However, women are much less likely to desire and pursue these internal promotions, due to factors such as less scheduling flexibility, greater presumed childcare and family responsibilities, and bad experiences in more demanding roles. Employers should address these concerns directly via scheduling and management changes to make management opportunities attractive and possible for women.
While some automated technologies raise productivity and deliver economic benefits that can help offset the impacts of displacement, others (labeled by some researchers as “so-so technology") may deliver limited benefit while adversely impacting workers. Governments and employers need more investigation and a more nuanced understanding of the merits of specific types of automation and technology, such as self-checkout. Defining “good” and “bad”—or, perhaps, “worse”—automation can be useful in regulating change, determining policy priorities, and deploying employer or worker incentives.
Policymakers and employers must address the question of what good jobs will be created to replace the lost jobs in administrative and clerical work, especially those that do not require an advanced degree to earn a family-sustaining wage. They should conduct further investigations to understand how clerical workers weathered transitions and job dislocation during the last several decades, when automation shrank the number of administrative jobs. The resulting lessons can be useful in connecting this workforce to new opportunities and in helping administrative workers keep pace with technological changes.
Labor unions should include wage coordination and sectoral agreements in their collective bargaining strategies to help companies and workers adapt to the new world of work. Governments should also intervene to provide better access to collective bargaining rights and to make these changes possible. Ideal outcomes for employment, productivity and wages are measurably reached when sectoral agreements set broad conditions for worker's rights, and when social partners negotiating for different groups of workers establish common wage targets.
If new technology will eliminate or fundamentally change an individual worker’s current job, governments should legislatively require employers to give them a minimum advance notice of that change, and to take on some of the responsibility for helping them transition into a new job. The employer could fulfill that responsibility by paying for that worker to train for a new position at their current company—including any remedial training needed to meet the minimum qualifications of the new position—or by providing a minimum severance payment and training voucher that the worker could use at a community college or a certified training provider. Workers facing technological change should have either a path to a new job at their current company or a chance to succeed at a new company with their economic security intact.
Policymakers should consider the “ABC Test” as a legal standard for evaluating whether workers must be classified as employees (as opposed to independent contractors or other non-standard arrangements). Under this test, the default assumption is that workers are employees unless certain conditions are satisfied. Wide adoption of the ABC test for determining employee status would lead to greater compliance and would benefit workers, employers, and enforcers alike. The test would provide a more clear and comprehensible method for all parties to determine status, in contrast to the plethora of overlapping yet distinct tests that exist in many jurisdictions.
Government agencies should collaborate and share data where possible to locate violators of worker misclassification laws. In many states, individual agencies often operate in silos, each with its own internal culture and method. Because most misclassification and payroll fraud violations consist of multiple infractions – wage and hour, unemployment, tax and insurance fraud – enforcement will be that much more effective if the appropriate agencies share information and strategies.
Lawmakers should provide an express legal designation for the misclassification of workers who should be employees as independent contractors. In many states, there is no express prohibition on misclassification, but the issue arises through the enforcement and case law development under wage and hour, unemployment, and other laws. Creating this designation can streamline enforcement efforts and allow jurisdictions to impose specific penalties for misclassification.
Governments should invest in education and skills training not only for workers who risk losing their jobs to augmentation or automation, but also for middle-skill workers. The number of such workers in healthcare professions, such as respiratory therapists, dental hygienists, and clinical laboratory technicians, as well as production workers in operative, technical, and administrative positions, is expected to shrink in the next decade due to retirement. This presents the opportunity to hire millions of new workers to replace these vacant positions, which will require investment in accessible training paths such as community college education and sectoral training programs.
Governments should establish tax credits for employers who hire individuals with criminal records, based on a percentage of qualified wages. The credits should be phased in over time to encourage long-term and stable employment, and should accompany a push to provide apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and work-based learning arrangements for these individuals. Obtaining meaningful employment early after returning from prison is one of the key factors in reducing recidivism and promoting independence.
Governments should ease restrictions and expand access to quality college educations in prisons. Steps could include expanding tuition assistance and scholarships, allowing the use of computers in prison education programs, and streamlining and updating clearance procedures for college professors to teach in these programs. Maintaining access to college education in prisons has shown to improve employment outcomes and prevent recidivism.
Corrections and labor departments should partner to expand access to effective vocational and training programs for incarcerated people. Research into best practices for corrections-based training shows that longer and more extensive programs focused on in-demand skills, preferably determined with input from employers, and that include follow-up with individuals upon release, are most effective. Employability is a major component of successful reentry and prevents recidivism, but only a small percentage of incarcerated people are able to participate in vocational or other training programs while in prison.
Governments, educational institutions, and employers should collaborate to explore the potential for formalized verified resumes. A verified resume is a document that records the skills and knowledge that people acquire through their lives, both as students and workers. Interest in verified resumes has grown in recent years with developments in blockchain technology that can reliably document skill verification by a distributed network of actors.
Governments and educational institutions should prioritize the development, validation, and promotion of a broader ecosystem of stackable skills-oriented credentials, such as microcredentials, badges, and short-term certificates. Stackable skills-oriented certifications can fill the signaling problem for workers without diplomas or degrees by capturing employability skills and other noncognitive skills. They also benefit students by not penalizing program noncompletion as harshly and offering credit and certifications for obtaining intermediate skills.
Workers and labor unions should be partners in the process of implementing electronic health records, and policymakers can promote or require such participation. One approach could be to model work councils in some European countries, where worker representatives are elected and the committees are given certain powers over a range of decisions related to technology. Alternatively, workers and unions could be granted greater influence over existing labor-management safety and health committees in some states in the U.S. Research documents superior outcomes in the implementation of electronic health records when workforce planning was integrated in the policy, operations, and design process.
Governments should pass regulations to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of new data collection and surveillance tools on job quality and human dignity. In addition to a general default legislative framework, unions should also push for tailored regulation through collective bargaining, since optimal rules for data collection and use may vary considerably among workplaces.
Governments should create “transportation workforce funds” paid for by mileage-based user fees on highly automated vehicles. Eligibility for the use of these funds should include but not be strictly limited to wage supplements, health care premiums, retirement benefits, extension of unemployment insurance benefits, and training or retraining programs. These funds will ease job transitions and bolster economic security for workers as automated transit and ride-hailing services enter communities.
Governments should broadly define the joint employers liable for compliance with labor and employment laws. This includes penalizing lead companies when their contractors violate labor and employment laws; regulating temp and staffing agencies and raising standards for their workers; and holding global corporations and governments accountable for labor standards in their supply chains, including public procurement. Employers, joint employers, and lead firms all must be held accountable for ensuring decent work.
Governments should create support mechanisms to increase youth employment participation rate. This would include reducing structural barriers in labor market regulations, creating incentives to encourage the hiring of youth, and reducing tax burdens. Such measures would help facilitate the transition of youth workers between informal and formal employment.
Policymakers should respond to changing demographics by promoting diversity of labor contractual arrangements. Fostering more flexible and destandardized working conditions will allow increase labor market participation and inclusion by attracting vulnerable groups, such as women, people with a disability, ethnic minorities. For example, population ageing calls for longer working lives but also the need to develop more flexible working arrangements that fit the abilities and preferences of older people.
Governments should facilitate the transition and secure the ability of workers to move between jobs. Policies should follow best practices for social innovations that protect workers, such as the social and training funds managed jointly between employers and unions. This will prioritize the protection of labor market security over individual job security.
Governments should expand occupational licensing to include lower-skilled jobs. By allowing workers to signal their level of skill, they could raise their status and potentially charge higher prices for their work. There is evidence to suggest that the introduction of occupational licenses for security guards and nursery assistants could potentially raise their earning power.
Policymakers and social partners should facilitate workers' occupational mobility by establishing new premiums. This could involve a moving allowance (fully deductible business expense for tax purposes) but also continuing education courses. This would make it easier for workers in transition to undergo a change of location, occupation, or professional status.
Governments should fully assess the impact of workforce changes occurring due to technological disruption, demographic changes and business innovation. Measures should take into account the impact of such changes on participation rate, new forms of work, skill gaps, sector obsolescence, and sector growth. Such measurements will allow policy makers to create timely, evidence-based policies.
Discussions on decent work should go beyond distinctions between standard and non-standard forms of work to consider the quality of jobs; governments should develop measures to assess this quality based on objective and measurable dimensions. This will focus solutions on improving the quality of jobs rather than simply the nature of the contract.
State governments should incentive job creation in the care economy via voucher based work solutions. An employer would receive a voucher from a public authority to be used as payment for a worker’s service. This would help to legalize undeclared work in casual work industries such as agriculture and household services.
Governments should recognize the wide variety of forms of modern self-employment and consider the potential of digital platforms to offer support to self-employed people. While self-employment is growing in popularity, this group of the labor force lacks access to the benefits of employed workers and is less likely to have savings for retirement. Government-supported digital platforms could make it easier for workers to make the correct tax payments, pay into pensions, and give self-employed workers a stronger voice.
Government should implement a right for workers on a zero-hour contract to request a fixed-hour contract after a certain period of time. This would provide workers a consistent set of hours, beginning, for instance, at the average weekly hours worked over the past 12 months. Such a policy would provide workers better income security and allow them to better plan for their future.
Policymakers should develop legislation that makes it easier for workers to receive basic details about their employment relationship up front, such as requiring employers to provide a written statement of terms to the employee upon hiring. as well as updating the rules on continuous employment to make it easier to accrue service. This would include basic information about the workers' weekly hours and wages, sick pay, pension, healthcare benefits, and whether the employee begins receiving these on day one or must first work for a period of time. Such a notice should be written in simple language that is understandable and not filled with legalese, such that there is little chance for misunderstanding between the worker and employer about what the terms and expectations of employment are.
The state government should consider a higher minimum wage for hours worked that are not guaranteed in a workers' contract. While this would allow employers to offer zero-hour contracts to workers who want them, employers would be incentivized to schedule more of workers' guaranteed hours in advance. If set at a proper rate to accomplish this, with consideration for the effect on minimum wage law compliance, such a policy would provide additional compensation to workers for the flexibility demanded of them.
Government should reform the tax system to make it easier for self-employed workers to understand. As employment taxes are often handled by employers, including income tax withholding, the tax system can be difficult for self-employed workers to navigate and plan for. Digital tools and payment systems could help workers to comply with tax laws by helping them to determine the proper amounts owed.
Governments should create regulations that require companies of a certain size to report on their contractual agreements with workers. Companies would be required to report the number of zero-hour contract workers who request and obtain fixed hour contracts, as well as the number of temporary employment agency workers who request and are granted permanent positions. This would make public company policies for outside observers that would otherwise be kept behind closed doors.
Governments can enact legislation to develop and oversee the establishment of a portable benefits system. With a portable system, essential benefits would be tied to the individual worker rather than the employer. A wide range of benefits could be made portable, including health insurance, retirement, training programs, and childcare allowances. These "portable, prorated, and universal" benefits would provide more financial security to formal and informal workers alike.
Governments should use labor market data to develop new digital tools which make insights easier for job seekers to interpret. Such tools could help young people to make more informed training and skills development decisions, for instance, based on which jobs are likely to be at most risk of disappearing in the next two decades and the skills required for them. Such tools would help to match current skills development with future skills needs.
Governments should reform Pell Grants to include eligibility for short-term training programs. Pell Grants, which are the primary source of grant funds for adults seeking to enhance their workforce skills, can only be used for programs that exceed 600 hours or 15 weeks of coursework. Policy makers should expand Pell Grants to include the many short-term skills training and certificate programs that can help workers maintain and update their skills as the economy changes.
States should provide displaced workers with training benefits in the form of vouchers that could cover tuition for two-year community colleges or vocational training programs. They could also provide benefits in the form of stipends to cover living expenses. The vouchers should be worth up to $10,000 and the stipend should be equal to a portion of the worker’s pre-displacement wages plus an additional $150 a week.
States should provide a wage insurance program for displaced workers over 50 years old who find new jobs at lower pay. Such workers who earn less than $50,000 per year would be eligible for up to $10,000 in short term subsidies over the course of two years. This would help offset wage loss while encouraging workers to remain in the workforce.
Governments should use state data systems to evaluate training programs. States could combine administrative data from Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records with educational data via a state longitudinal data system (SLDS) to the measure the effectiveness of training programs. This increase in transparency would help workers and students to make more informed choices about training programs.
Policymakers should expand place-based policies for economic development to support struggling regional or local economies, with a focus on strategies that create and leverage resources that can be shared across employers and regions. Infrastructure investments, such as improving rural broadband and pursuing universal high-speed wireless connectivity, are key to improving the competitiveness of local economies and businesses, and supporting entrepreneurship and workforce participation.
Employers should develop industry and sector partnerships to create regional jobs and career pathways. Sector partnerships bring together local stakeholders—employers, colleges, education and training providers, labor representatives, and workforce development experts—to address challenges by developing education-to-employment talent pipelines and developing coursework and training that meet relevant skill needs. Workers benefit from instruction in in-demand skills, awareness of emerging job opportunities, and guidance on which degrees and certifications to pursue based on what local employers look for when hiring.
Governments can incentivize businesses to take a more active role in investing in worker training through the establishment of a Worker Training Tax Credit. Firms could create a base expenditure level for training expenses, and the credit would be a percentage of the difference between the current year qualified training expenditure and the base expenditure. The credit would only cover training for non-highly compensated workers (less than $120,000 per year), the standard currently used in the Internal Revenue Code.
State policymakers should add new data fields to state Unemployment Insurance wage records, including occupational titles, work hours, credentials, and work sites. Most states currently do not include enough data in records to analyze training programs’ effectiveness, and some states do not link this employment data to educational data at all. A 2014 BLS survey found that states that collected enhanced wage records reported that the data were extremely helpful in estimating hourly earnings, understanding career progression from occupation to occupation, assessing the effectiveness of workforce training, and making occupational projections.
States should offer tax credits to employers that hire apprentices. Business should be encouraged to develop apprenticeship programs to keep up with the changing needs of the market, and research has demonstrated that apprenticeships are effective in placing workers in well-paying jobs.
Policymakers should provide additional funding for community colleges to provide high-quality, in-demand skills training. This funding should be based on 1) characteristics of the student body (with greater funding allocated to schools with greater shares of students from disadvantaged backgrounds); 2) the labor market conditions in the local community, such as the local employment rate; and 3) demonstrated improvements in student retention and completion.
When laying off workers, employers should give their employees a warning with enough time to ease the transition of employees looking for new work. Policymakers can mandate this via legislation like The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires businesses to notify workers and the government of at least 60 days in advance of a mass layoff event. Layoffs cannot always be avoided, but transition planning should include as many stakeholders as possible to mitigate negative impacts and to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Governments should guarantee sufficient funding for job centers, so that they have the resources to guide workers through transitions, as well as train counselors to better use technology and data to advise workers. Career counseling and other reemployment services, such as job listings, job search assistance, and referrals to employers, has been shown to effectively assist displaced workers in transitioning back to work.
Policymakers should create worker-elected work councils and require a certain level of worker representation on corporate boards. Employers should be pushed to give workers a greater voice in decision-making that affects them, and workers need to be part of strategizing how to ensure automation decisions are made to benefit not only shareholders, but also workers and communities.
Policymakers should create worker-controlled Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts to be funded jointly by workers, employers, and government. Workers can use these funds to pay for learning programs over the course of their careers. All workers should have financial assistance and a portable system to help them access new education and training opportunities.
Governments should expand paid leave programs for self-employed, part-time, independent, and gig workers as part of a plan for universal access to paid family and medical leave. Benefits should be portable—not tied to any particular job, but rather linked to the worker who can take the benefit from job to job or project to project—to accommodate for the frequency of changes in employment and alternative work arrangements.
Governments should promote policies encouraging employers to reduce working hours, which would grant workers additional leisure time and redistribute productivity gains more equitably. More leisure time, combined with increased income and purchasing power, generates demand for new activities and products and grows the economy.
Governments could establish personal human capital accounts for workers and designate a pool of resources for everyone to use throughout their careers. The resources could be used for training and retraining purposes related to work assignments. A fraction of worker' salaries could go towards the account, and workers could benefit from tax-free contributions to their schemes from employers and/or public and private partners. The scheme could be relevant for all workers, including those holding fixed contracts or the self-employed, further leveling the field in the world of work.
Governments should pass legislation clarifying the classification of emerging types of employees, as well as the enforcement of workers' rights for currently unprotected employees. Legislators should focus on a clearer outline of the tests for employment status, setting out key principles in primary legislation and using secondary legislation and guidance to provide more detail.
Governments could look to consumers to play a more active role in supporting and funding portable benefits. The government could create legislation that holds consumers responsible for funding benefits to self-employed workers. For example, passengers of self-employed car services could be required to pay a percentage fee on every journey to contribute to funding benefits for these workers.
Governments should partner with big firms to provide workers with some ownership of company assets to supplement their wages. This might be achieved via taxation or with an "inclusive ownership fund" formed by taking a percentage of shares from large companies. Asset equity offers a means to ensure that workers share in the benefits of new technology, and that they stand to gain a larger share of the economic growth driven by higher productivity.
Governments can test out Universal Basic Income (UBI) with regional, state, or municipal pilots. UBI allows workers to be more selective by eliminating the need to accept poor working conditions to make ends meet, and can allow unemployed individuals to more time to gain skills needed to re-enter the workforce.
Employers and governments should commit resources to developing new online analytical tools for a more effective matching process among jobs, workers, and training programs. These tools can employ data on required competencies, resumes, online job ads, and occupational demand to connect job seekers to jobs and postsecondary education and training programs that meet their needs. They can also assist mid- and late-career adults who need additional education, training, and career services to remain in the workforce.
Policymakers should use projections of education demand to inform workforce development planning. Proprietary analytical information and college administrative data can also be linked with state wage records in the process of retaining and attracting employers and industries to the state. Employer demand for talent has elevated the importance of workers with specific skills gained through postsecondary education and training.
Education and training systems must prepare workers to be flexible and to develop new skills in response to rapid changes brought by new technologies. Governments should collaborate with these institutions to provide incentives and means for workers to obtain training and education not only in technical areas but also in creativity, management, and social and communication skills. These are among the least automatable tasks, according to a task-oriented framework for categorizing skills developed by the McKinsey Global Institute.
Governments should use active labor market policies to help transition unemployed workers into the workforce, targeting structural issues rather than cyclical trends. These could be public employment services, job search assistance, training, employment subsidies, and targeted assistance programs to encourage entrepreneurship among unemployed persons. ALMPs help workers acquire new skills that increase their earnings and hiring prospects in the long term.
Governments should explore new models of workforce development that provide workers with individualized skills forecasting, career coaching tools, and information about skills in demand. Funding should be targeted at mid-skill, mid-wage earning workers (those employees whose jobs will be most threatened by automation and technology).
Governments should increase funding for apprenticeship and training programs that teach skills relevant to emerging industries. Further, policymakers should explore the potential to incorporate new instructional technologies, such as e-learning and massive open online courses (MOOCs) that democratize and enrich vocational and technical education, into these programs. These programs can contribute to a sustainable workforce as technology and automation change the sets of skills demanded by employers.
Governments should create lifelong learning programs and, along with labor unions, subsidize workers’ access to them. This can be done in the form of pilot "personal learning accounts" that give every worker a budget to spend on training modules. Lifelong learning programs allow workers to upgrade their skills throughout their working lives and remain competent through changing workforce demands.
State governments should implement Pay for Success strategies to expand career and technical education for low-skilled workers. Pay for Success is a contractual arrangement that ties payment for delivery of services to specific, measurable outcomes. This public policy tool may be used to test new workforce development programs guided by predetermined outcomes for a target population or a community, such as sustained employment or demonstrable wage increases for participants. Because payment is contingent on achievement of the intended outcome, taxpayers do not bear the risk of paying for programs or services that may not be effective.
Government agencies should partner with local governments and non-profits to target training programs to disadvantaged groups, including disconnected youth. If these populations are redirected to education, training, and gainful employment, potential cost savings in public assistance, incarceration, and lost wage costs accrue both to individuals receiving training and to taxpayers.
State governments should incentivize companies to locate their R&D projects in their regions through intellectual property protections and tax breaks. Sector-specific tax incentives can be offered to companies to create jobs in these underemployed regions, though they should include provisions to ensure that companies deliver on their promise of job creation (including evaluation criteria and the possibility of withdrawal and reimbursement of incentives). Consistent support for private-sector R&D is critical for maintaining leadership in innovation and technology and for creating high-skill opportunities for workers.
Governments need to attract human capital to distressed regions—places in which the cost of housing can be attractive to recent college graduates looking to start families. The provision of low-cost housing or student-loan forgiveness can be an effective incentive for moving to smaller or older industrial cities and towns.
Municipal and state governments should cooperate with other states’ and municipalities' licensing qualifications to make it possible for workers to move around and enter different job markets with transferable credentials. Many jobs are going unfilled because of restrictions related to credentialing, mobility, and hiring practices: one study suggested that licensing restrictions resulted in teachers near the Oregon border in Washington State being three times as likely to move teaching jobs elsewhere in Washington as to make the much shorter move across the border to teach in Oregon. The lack of cross-state cooperation in recognizing these credentials is a major obstacle to mobility.
Governments should raise the minimum wage and subsequently make targeted minimum wage increases consistent with local conditions. A higher minimum wage boosts earnings for workers with little effect on overall employment.
Employers should extend benefits frequently enjoyed by full-time employees to their part-time and contingent workers.These workers are often ineligible for many taxpayer-supported programs that are designed to provide them with basic protections on the job and in retirement, and they have limited prospects for career advancement. If workers were eligible for benefits on a prorated basis, the incentive for businesses to expand the use of contingent work would also be reduced or eliminated.
Employers need to be more transparent about what skills and knowledge they need in their future employees. Governments can assist in this effort by providing open, consistent standards for hiring announcements that would make the information easy to access and query, and easy for third-party providers to share through targeted applications. Achieving this goal will require close cooperation among governments, employers, and companies that offer online job listings or aggregate labor market data. This transparency and consistency will allow job seekers—including those pursuing educational and training opportunities—make more informed decisions.
The US is currently in the bottom 5 of developed countries in terms of public spending on transition assistance and retraining programs. Governments should fortify and increase transition assistance for people in between jobs. This can be achieved through the provision of counseling and guidance, retraining, and business start-up support for displaced workers, among other mechanisms.
Governments can create job registries that provide information to students, employees, and educational institutions about credentials and skills that are in demand. Such initiatives encourage employers to collaborate in forecasting their future workforce needs and create common definitions to signal those needs. That information in turn can help educational institutions develop or expand programs that lead to higher-quality jobs.
Governments should launch open data initiatives to encourage the sharing of public and private labor market data. Unleashing the full potential of labor market data though the creation of open public-private data infrastructures can empower students and employees and reduce labor market frictions.