Transforming Today’s Bad Jobs into Tomorrow’s Good Jobs

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By Zeynep Ton and Sarah Kalloch

All eyes are on the future of work and the impact that automation and machine learning will have on U.S. jobs. The blizzard of conferences, initiatives, articles, and reports on how to prepare for the changes technology will bring to our economy is important. But so is today — and it feels to us like the futurists are leaving behind what’s happening now.

Work currently does not work for millions of Americans. Nearly 11.5 million people who work as retail salespeople and cashiers and in food prep and service — the three largest occupations in the United States — earn poverty-level wages and have unpredictable schedules, few opportunities for success and growth, and little meaning and dignity in their jobs. These workers have bad jobs, and they need and deserve good jobs now, regardless of who’s going to be doing what in the future.

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