By Kristen Harknett and Daniel Schneider, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 14, 2020
What’s the Issue?
Work has become more precarious in America over the past half century as employers have transferred more of the risks and uncertainties of doing business onto workers and households. As part of this shift, many workers have experienced an erosion of job quality—reductions in the real value of their wages; a loss or cutback of fringe benefits such as retirement plans and health insurance; and an increase in job insecurity. Policymaking responses to the rise in precarious employment have commonly focused on the economic dimensions, exemplified by appeals for a living wage.
Yet, alongside changes in the economic dimension, the temporal dimension of work has also undergone seismic shifts. Unstable and unpredictable work schedules have become the new normal for many workers as the U.S. economy has shifted from manufacturing to service-sector jobs—and from steady Monday through Friday, 9–5 work hours—to a 24/7 economy. In this brief, we synthesize research findings that allow us to connect the dots between precarious work schedules and health, and we identify the gaps that remain to be filled.