Just What Is a ‘Good Job’?

This essential question needs to be answered, but it's complex
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2011 7:36 PM CDT
Just What Is a ‘Good Job’?
What, exactly, qualifies a job as "good"?   (Shutterstock)

We toss around the phrase all the time, but how do we define what makes a “good job” good? It’s a key question—and a complex one—as we look to the future of our economy, writes Michael Lind in Salon. Among the factors:

  • Unions: We often call manufacturing jobs “good” ones, but that wasn’t the case until they were unionized. Service-sector jobs, meanwhile, are often seen as "bad" jobs, but they might see huge benefits from unionization.

  • Employer-provided benefits: Sounds like a feature of a good job, and both unions and large corporations support them. But on the other hand, progressives prefer “universal, portable government programs like Social Security and Medicare that are identical and available to all citizens.”
  • Wages: The question of wages is essential to defining a good job, but the definition of a good wage has changed over time. What is a “living wage” today—one that allows an individual to support a family, or one that effectively allows each individual to support one child, while a spouse supports another?
  • Full- or part-time? We value full-time work for its association with good benefits, thus making it a seemingly essential part of a good job. But if the government took care of benefits, would full-time jobs be so important?
These questions need answers if we’re to define a “good” 21st-century job. “But before they can be answered, the questions need to be asked.” Click through for more on what makes a good job. (More job stories.)

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