It’s About Time: Researchers Document Widespread Schedule Insecurity in Service-Sector Jobs; Women, People of Color Among Hardest Hit

Daniel Schneider, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kristen Harknett, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco.

BERKELEY, CA – A new report released today by Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett, co-directors of The Shift Project at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, details the wide-ranging negative consequences of unstable and unpredictable work schedules for service-sector workers and their families. “It’s About Time: How Work Schedule Instability Matters for Workers, Families, and Racial Inequality” reveals that schedule insecurity is widespread, but disproportionately impacts workers of color. The report describes how unstable and unpredictable schedules lead to a measurable increase in material hardship for workers (greater difficulty affording food, paying the bills, visiting the doctor or hospital, and affording stable housing). Such scheduling conditions have intergenerational consequences for the children of service-sector workers, and are also linked to higher rates of turnover that impose costs on both individuals and firms.

“Our research makes clear that the time dimensions of work matter a lot for the wellbeing of workers and their families,” explained Harknett. “Chronic uncertainty about when and how much you’re expected to work is hard on anyone. For workers with few resources, this uncertainty can have dire consequences.”

“Unstable and unpredictable scheduling practices appear to perpetuate inequality. Workers of color are more likely to be exposed. The consequences are also intergenerational. Children whose parents have unstable and unpredictable schedules suffer, limiting their life chances from the starting gate,” said Schneider.

The report summarizes the findings of five working papers released today by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. The papers draw on The Shift Project’s unique dataset of surveys from 30,000 workers at the largest retail and food-service chains in the United States.

View the report.

Read the working papers:
Racial/Ethnic Inequality in Work Scheduling
Economic Consequences of Precarious Schedules
Work Schedules and Child Card Arrangements
Parental Work Schedules and Child Behavior
Consequences of Precarious Schedules for Job Turnover

The Shift Project is funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (R21HD091578), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Award Nos. 74528 and 75494), the U.S. Department of Labor (Award No. EO-30277- 17-60-5-6), the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (Award No. 39092), the Hellman Family Fund, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, and the Berkeley Population Center. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.