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InsiderOnline Blog: September 2012

Should Making It Harder to Fire Workers Be a Goal of Public Policy?

Only if you like two-tiered systems that make some workers less secure, explains Virginia Postrel:

Imagine a career in which once you had worked somewhere for a long time – say, seven years – and you couldn’t be fired unless you did something really horrible. To make the picture even more appealing, imagine further that your industry was largely immune from foreign competition, had been enjoying increasing consumer demand, was subsidized by the state and federal governments, and rarely experienced any bankruptcies.

As you have probably realized, this career exists. It’s the professoriate. But while outsiders imagine higher education as a sheltered enclave of secure jobs, the actual state of American faculty members is much more uncertain. Tenure-track employment is no longer the norm. Part-time work is.

About 30 percent of faculty members are either tenured or on the tenure track, compared with about 57 percent in 1975. The rest are “contingent faculty”: About 19 percent work full time, usually on contracts lasting one to three years, and more than half work part time. (These figures omit graduate students who also teach classes.) Along with a lack of job security, contingent faculty members receive lower pay and fewer, or no, benefits. They frequently don’t have offices and may not even get library cards. [Bloomberg, September 16]

Posted on 09/17/12 04:01 PM by Alex Adrianson

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