Research & Resources
Restore the Promise of Work: Reducing Inequality by Raising the Floor and Building Ladders (April 2016)
In America, we believe that work is the pathway out of poverty. Today, however, it is all too common to work hard and remain poor. The dynamics of low-wage jobs create a cycle of economic instability that is hard to escape. America’s “ladders of opportunity” are too often illusory, contributing to the historic levels of inequality we experience today.
The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program has long explored and promoted strategies to improve the opportunities for low- and moderate-income Americans to succeed in today’s changing economy. Over the past few years, EOP and PHI leaders have advocated for the workforce development field to Raise the Floor and Build Ladders for workers and job seekers, meaning to both improve poor quality jobs and help low-wage workers advance to better jobs. In visiting organizations involved in addressing job quality and economic mobility issues, the importance of engaging organizations beyond workforce development became clear. Restore the Promise of Work reflects this more expansive view of the range of leaders needed to address the challenge of inequality and restore the idea of opportunity and economic mobility.
Restore the Promise of Work: Reducing Inequality by Raising the Floor and Building Ladders, published by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program and PHI in April 2016, encourages a broader community beyond workforce development to engage in initiatives that redesign work to expand economic opportunity and address growing social, political, and economic inequality. Restore the Promise of Work underscores that both public and private changes, in both policies and practices, are essential. This new brief calls for leaders from workforce development, education, business, philanthropy, labor, government, and more to forge a powerful, coordinated agenda to promote better quality jobs. A coordinated effort will be critical to sustaining and expanding the successes that members of this community have already attained.