From Harvard Business Review
America is losing its one-time healthy middle class and desperately wants it back. But how? Some say reviving manufacturing jobs. Some say redistributing existing wealth. Some say a universal basic income. Academics are fond of upskilling and lifelong education. Even U.S. CEOs are now saying that they need to create more higher-paying jobs.
But what almost no one talks about is how we can improve the low-wage jobs — mostly in the service sector — that already exist. Even enlightened business and thought leaders often view these jobs only as a stepping stone to better jobs or assume that they are not “real” jobs that could ever qualify as middle-class work. But we can’t build a large enough middle class without improving these jobs.
Last year, nearly 42 million Americans, almost 30% of the workforce, had jobs in retail, food service, personal care, health care support, and cleaning and maintenance — all with a median hourly wage below $15. That’s a lot more people than the 9.1 million in production and the estimated 4.7 million holding technology jobs. For the last 10 years, the largest occupation in the United States has been retail sales, with a median hourly wage in 2018 of only $11.33. It is expected that between now and 2026, two of the fastest-growing job titles will be home health aide and personal care aide — with median hourly wages of only $11.63 and $11.55.