Large companies can help combat poverty by investing in all levels of workforce development to accelerate job growth and access to jobs while providing access to career technical training and industry-specific apprenticeships.
Large companies may be more equipped to provide childcare services within their establishment or partner with childcare providers to offer childcare at an affordable rate. Helping working parents with childcare allows them to grow in their careers and obtain economic mobility. It sounds basic but the cost and access to reliable childcare is often the final straw that tips a family into poverty.
There are innovative ways that employers can help reduce the cost of transportation, which can have a significant impact on the lowest income employees. By partnering with transportation and other government agencies, large employers can create reliable and affordable pathways to move their thousands of employees to and from work. Currently, it is estimated that the average Angeleno pays around 22% of their income on transportation. It has been proven that access to reliable and affordable transportation is critical in ensuring a stable workforce. Moreover, Harvard University has identified that access to affordable and dependable transportation is the single most significant factor in escaping poverty and avoiding homelessness.
When the Business Roundtable announced in September 2019 a change in its Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation to include workers, suppliers, and communities in addition to shareholders, it was an acknowledgement that persistent income inequality and poverty will put pressure on the long-term prospects of the member companies. While more time is needed to evaluate whether these commitments result in higher wages and greater investment in employees, there could be significant positive spillover effects when large employers adopt good practices for front line workers that work for their companies directly, and that work for the companies in their supply chains, including higher wages and benefits, more predictable schedules, and access to training for higher paid jobs.
In Southern California, employers operating in a tight labor market need to avail themselves of a supply of trained and willing labor and be willing to invest in training that labor supply. Employment social enterprises can provide this labor force. These mission-driven, revenue-generating businesses provide paying transitional jobs and supportive services to help people stabilize their lives, develop a work history, and build skills and conﬁdence to transition back into the competitive workforce. By investing in training for individuals facing high barriers to work, employers will have a larger pool of loyal, productive employees.
Large employers can pay their workers enough not to live in poverty. Large employers can provide the benefits that workers need to survive and incentivize or offer education opportunities for upward mobility within the workplace. They can also hold those employers that cheat their workers, commit wage theft or circumvent labor law accountable so that their bad behavior is not incentivized by the market. They should not fight policies that will help them gain the educated workforce that they need to succeed.
1) We need to look more deeply into the so-called gig economy, as well as the meaning and implications of a broader and more insidious utilization of deep artificial intelligence and its impact on the low-income, low-skilled workforce.
2) Large employers should reconsider where they set up shop, keeping an eye on underserved regions where decent, well-paying jobs are scarce.
3) Invest in public-private partnership that addresses our dismal public transportation system. When you have low-wage workers traveling to Koreatown for two hours from the valley and back to get to their jobs , you know we have a problem .
Large employers can increase their entry level wages and all other wages accordingly. They can also provide pay equity, ample sick and personal days, and access to quality childcare and preschool. Additionally, large employers should ensure that health benefits have little to no coinsurance or deductibles and copays. They should advocate/lobby for more funding for CA public schools, which continue to rank at or near the bottom nationally and laws that address climate change.
We need an economic development strategy to welcome homebuilders back to the state of California (and implement it). We can plan for all the transit-oriented housing the state desires in order to satisfy climate change rules, but if builders won’t build it because of cost, regs and litigation proliferation, then there’s a problem! Small builders are gone, medium sized builders are struggling under state rules, big builders are now publicly traded and find more welcoming environments in other states.
Large employers are generous in philanthropy to non-profits and experts in reducing poverty. Keep it up. Make it part of corporate social responsibility dedication.
Large employers can work with public schools and community colleges to sponsor extension or adult-education classes to teach skills that align with available jobs in the communities in which the businesses are located. They can also offer scholarship funding for the type of certification classes that are needed to qualify for jobs in their industry or sector. Many students go through high school and college only to come out with no marketable skills. Large employers could get involved earlier and offer students a view of workplace opportunities that will be available to them after graduation. Some careers require long years of planning and education, and students might appreciate knowing that when they’re planning their education, instead of finding out on the first day that they look for a job.
Large employers need to pay a livable wage for each local area and address the high cost of living in various areas. Large employers can also integrate support for their employees such as health care clinics onsite, English Language Learner classes, other educational classes and incentives, childcare onsite, sick child care available onsite, wellness programs, tuition reimbursement, community college programs onsite, etc. We spend most of our time at work so let’s make things more accessible and convenient through partnerships. For example, partnering up with local health care systems to be onsite so employees do not have to take off large amounts of time for health care or free family access to high speed internet and technology would help families access more online resources.
Public-private partnerships are key – and so is sectoral targeting. There are many industries worthy of support, particularly those like advanced manufacturing, construction, and health care that provide strong pathways to the middle class. But many poor people are not in those sectors yet and we must look to see where early gains can be made. Research by my shop, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and the Santa Cruz Institute for Social Transformation, has lifted up the importance of the care industry. As it turns out, the big demographic transformation ahead is not the emergence of California as a majority people of color state – that happened back in the late 1990s and the ethnic shift has dramatically slowed down. Rather, it is that we will go from a state in which 11 percent of residents were seniors in 2010 to a state where 26 percent will be senior in 2050. Employment in nursing, elder, family, home health, and child care service is more than double employment in high-tech services – and it’s been growing faster as well. With the emergence of a caring economy, we need to ask how well we are caring for those workers in terms of wages, training, and working conditions – the answer is not very well and we will need a combination of unionization, government regulation, and high road employer behavior to do right by these critical employees.
Offering living-wage compensation packages and benefits including child care, health care, and retirement savings are important tools that employers can provide to allow employees to compensate for high cost of living in SoCal. Employers can also partner with local nonprofits and government to help support, expand, and connect their employees with social supports that allow them to retain employment while meeting family needs. To address community poverty, employers can contribute financially and empower employees to volunteer their time to help local nonprofits dedicated to improving the lives of low-income children and families.
Employers should learn to say no and oppose some of the more absurd state regulations. Too often California business has sought to accommodate regulators and not challenge them. This puts companies in an impossible position to create jobs that might alleviate poverty.
Stop playing nicely with candidates and public officials who are working overtime to make it impossible to conduct business. Refuse and shame all corporate welfare. Insist on top-quality education.
Most people would be very surprised to discover that in the state of California today, 90 of the 100 fastest growing occupations ban people with a past conviction. A statistic like that underscores just how difficult it is for the eoght million people in our state living with a past conviction to regain an economic foothold and place in the economy. Employers should commit to providing equal employment opportunities to all people, regardless of an applicant’s criminal background. But this is a problem that extends far beyond individual employers. Many jobs in some of our economy’s fastest growing sectors have licensing requirements, and licensing agencies often deny eligibility to anyone with a past conviction. So people are effectively shut out long before it even gets to the point of applying for a particular job. As a result, individuals, families and entire communities are relegated to remaining in poverty with little hope for economic upliftment. We need to limit and eliminate the impact a past mistake has on people looking to get back on track by securing a good job that will help them support their families.
Retraining is best done by the employers who know exactly what skills their workplaces need. The employee who has been downsized and is no longer young is at great risk of falling below the poverty level. Large employers can be incentivized by government matching a percentage of salaries they offer to persons hired off the long-term unemployment rolls. What they should not do is move out of state responsive to the cost of regulation, taxation, and living costs in California; but our state government has a great deal to do about that.
While a simple answer might be to say that large employers should pay higher wages, I think it is more important that they work to reduce the same barriers that policy needs to work on reducing. Employers can do much better in developing talent acquisition strategies that do not penalize workers with criminal backgrounds. They can also work to advocate for the changes that local and state government should make to complement the changes in HR practices that they can make.