Business Daily Media

Are low-paid jobs really a stepping stone to better pay? A new study suggests it’s not that simple

A job – any job – is generally thought of as better than no job at all. Consequently, low-paid work is often considered a “stepping stone” to a higher-paid job. But how easily do low-paid workers climb up the pay scale, really?

Our new research[1] suggests past studies may have considerably overstated the chances of moving from low to higher pay. This has significant implications for understanding labour market behaviour.

Given the NZ$3.3 billion increase in welfare payments[2] announced in New Zealand’s recent budget – dubbed the “biggest lift in a generation” – and the ongoing focus on inequality and minimum wage rates, how we measure income mobility is increasingly important.

In particular, what are some of the characteristics of the low-paid workforce? How likely or unlikely is it that an individual can transition from low to higher pay?

Past research has described low-paid work as a stepping stone if there is a greater chance of moving to higher pay relative to someone who is unemployed.

Furthermore, the data have suggested relatively high likelihoods of making the transition from low to higher pay — estimates range from 47% to nearly 90%, based on studies from the UK, Australia and Germany.

However, this research has mostly had to rely on survey data based on individual responses to an annual set of questions. This means we can only observe a snapshot of any given labour market once a year.

When determining whether an individual is unemployed, low paid or higher paid, a lot of information between those annual surveys falls into the unknown.

What traditional research misses

Why does this matter? It helps to imagine three different individuals, with different labour market experiences, answering a survey about their employment status in October 2019 and again in October 2020:

  • one was low paid in the first survey and remained in low pay every month until the second survey

  • the second oscillated between low and higher pay between surveys but happened to be in low pay at each survey point

  • the third regularly moves between low pay and unemployment but is also in low pay at the time of each survey.

Because of the lack of information between survey time points, all three individuals will fall into the same category. In turn, this may influence estimates of movement out of low pay.

Read more: NZ Budget 2021: women left behind despite the focus on well-being[3]

What more detail reveals

In New Zealand we have the advantage of the integrated data infrastructure (IDI[4]), a large research database published by Stats NZ[5].

As well as being population-wide, this provides monthly administrative tax records that reveal labour market states at a much higher frequency.

Our research uses these detailed data to look at the male low-paid workforce aged between 21 and 60 in New Zealand. The results are illuminating.

Read more: NZ's second 'Well-being Budget' must deliver for the families that sacrificed most during the pandemic[6]

First, we mimicked conventional earlier research by looking at the labour market from only one month each year. Through this lens, New Zealand looks similar to Australia, with the probability of moving from low pay to higher pay estimated to be 74%.

When we use the detailed monthly income records, however, it is clear the picture is not as rosy. Most importantly, the likelihood of moving from low pay to higher pay is much lower than traditional methods suggest.

In fact, for those who have been in low-paid work for all of the prior 12 months, we found the likelihood of them moving into higher pay in the following month was only 28%. Being continuously in low-paid work, it seems, means it isn’t easy to climb out.

A limited stepping stone

On the other hand, our research confirms the stepping-stone effect does exist in the New Zealand labour market: compared to being unemployed, you’re more likely to move into higher pay from being low paid.

Specifically, someone unemployed for the previous 12 months has only a 1% probability of moving into higher pay in the next month. That compares to 28% for those in low-paid employment for all of the previous 12 months.

Work and Income office sign Moving from low-paid work to better pay may be difficult, but moving from an unemployment benefit to higher pay is even less likely. GettyImages

Overall, our research highlights the value of detailed, high-frequency, integrated data in assessing the nuances in the labour market landscape.

On top of that, it illustrates the real difficulty in climbing the wage ladder for those in long-term low-paid work. This suggests policymakers should focus on pathways to wage growth, as well as on job creation itself.

References

  1. ^ new research (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
  2. ^ increase in welfare payments (www.workandincome.govt.nz)
  3. ^ NZ Budget 2021: women left behind despite the focus on well-being (theconversation.com)
  4. ^ IDI (www.stats.govt.nz)
  5. ^ Stats NZ (www.stats.govt.nz)
  6. ^ NZ's second 'Well-being Budget' must deliver for the families that sacrificed most during the pandemic (theconversation.com)

Authors: Alexander Plum, Senior Research Fellow in Applied Labour Economics, Auckland University of Technology

Read more https://theconversation.com/are-low-paid-jobs-really-a-stepping-stone-to-better-pay-a-new-study-suggests-its-not-that-simple-162162

Business Daily Media Business Development

Turning resolutions into short-term survival and long-term growth tactics

Few Australian industries have been harder hit by the pandemic than hospitality. After two years of lockdowns, social distancing restrictions, staff shortages and supply chain woes, 2022...

Paul Hadida, General Manager, APAC at SevenRooms - avatar Paul Hadida, General Manager, APAC at SevenRooms

The ‘baby bust’ is set to kick-off an AI-boom

The Australian workforce is set to see almost an entire generation retire within the next 15 years. Firstlinks predicts that there will be more baby boomers exiting the workforce than 15-y...

Andy Mellor Regional Vice President of Australia at Kofax. - avatar Andy Mellor Regional Vice President of Australia at Kofax.

How Microsoft's Activision Blizzard takeover will drive metaverse gaming into the mass market

Ready Player 1,000,000,0001?Sergey NivensMicrosoft was positioning itself as one of the pioneers of the metaverse even before its US$75 billion deal to buy online gaming giant Activision Bli...

Theo Tzanidis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing, University of the West of Scotland - avatar Theo Tzanidis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing, University of the West of Scotland

Some of the super-rich want to pay more tax – but society cannot afford to depend on them

Shutterstock/PilgujDemands for the super wealthy to pay more taxes are not new. But they don’t usually come from billionaires or millionaires.Yet on January 19 2022, around 100 of the ...

Peter Bloom, Professor of Management, University of Essex - avatar Peter Bloom, Professor of Management, University of Essex

A killer app for the metaverse? Fill it with AI avatars of ourselves – so we don't need to go there

Ready avatar one?Athitat ShinagowinBig numbers coming. Microsoft’s US$75 billion (£55 billion) acquisition of Activision Blizzard has landed – true to Call of Duty vernacul...

Alex Connock, Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford, University of Oxford - avatar Alex Connock, Fellow at Said Business School, University of Oxford, University of Oxford

Labelling Equipment; Prayers Have Been Heard and, Answered

If you are an instrumental part of a management team for a business that now requires labels for their products or goods, then traditionally you’d have had one of three choices, if the...

Business Daily Media - avatar Business Daily Media



NewsServices.com

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion