HKS Authors

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• The early career period is an important time for launching one’s career trajectory. The service sector is a common setting for early career workers. The Shift Project study provides an opportunity to examine working conditions for early career workers in the service sector along multiple dimensions and to make comparisons across demographic groups, industry subsector, and across companies within industry subsectors. • Early career workers report prioritizing not just pay but also predictability in their work schedules. Yet, pay is often low and schedule predictability is often lacking. Precarious working conditions are the norm for early career workers in the service sector. • Comparing work conditions for early career workers by gender reveals that female workers are particularly disadvantaged. Conditions for early career workers are similar for parents and non-parents and across race-ethnic groups. • Working conditions are strongly related to worker well-being outcomes. Early career workers with precarious working conditions report more volatile incomes, more material hardship, and more difficulty paying bills compared with their counterparts. • Comparing across seven industry subsectors reveals a large degree of consistency in precarious working conditions across sectors. The food service sector stood out at as having particularly low wages and high levels of schedule instability. Across sub-sectors, however, low pay, lack of schedule control, and schedule instability were the norm for early career workers. • Comparing across companies within subsectors reveals a contrast between companies offering better and worse working conditions. We present four pairs of employers, which each demonstrate that companies in the same sub-sectors nevertheless offer quite different working environments for early career workers, which translate into starkly different levels of job satisfaction.


Harknett, Kristen, Daniel Schneider, and Adam Storer. "Early Career Workers in the Service Sector." Shift Project Research Brief, July 2021.