depending upon one’s point of view (Kalleberg et al., 1997; Standing, 1999). Deregulation, increasing reliance on voluntary standards, privatization of government services, and an emphasis on market forces to meet societal needs are all key aspects of a new American economy, which has grown substantially and increased employment, especially over the last decade of the 20th century, but has resulted in workplaces that still contain substantial health risks for some workers (Levenstein and Wooding, 1997).

Shift to Service Industry Employment

In the mid-20th century, about a third of the American workforce was employed in manufacturing. Today, not much more than a tenth are so employed. About 80 percent of the workforce is in the service sector. In the economic downturn after 2000, about 10 percent of manufacturing workers lost their jobs—about 1.9 million workers. On the other hand, service industry employment has continued to increase by almost 2 percent (BLS, 2003).

Table 3-1 shows the occupations with the largest expected job growth between 2000 and 2010 (Hecker, 2001). The large, high-growth occupations include a disproportionate share of low-wage service sector jobs, and 60 percent of these high-growth occupations are in the lowest quartile of median hourly earnings. However, many smaller occupations that require advanced training and pay high wages will also expand. Hence, the skill distribution of the future workforce is likely to increase somewhat faster at the high and low ends than in the middle.

These trends have important implications not only for income but for benefits received by older workers, including health and retirement benefits. For instance, after substantial increases in employer pension coverage from the end of World War II to the 1980s, primarily obtained through collective bargaining, pension coverage has remained constant at about 50 percent for all workers. Also, a significant percentage of workers are still not covered by employer health insurance. The end of this trend toward growing pension and health coverage was due in part to the shift of jobs from more heavily unionized manufacturing industries to service industries.

Nonstandard, Alternative, and Precarious Employment

One aspect of increased employment flexibility is the rise in nonstandard, alternative, or precarious work arrangements. Such arrangements include employment for a temporary help agency or contract company, independent contracting, on-call work, day labor, and several forms of self-employment (National Research Council, 1999). Nonstandard workers typically receive lower wages (or salaries) and fewer health and retirement benefits than



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement