Low-Income and Low-Skilled Workers Involvement in Nonstandard Employment. Benefits

10/01/2001

The final piece of the puzzle in assessing job quality is assembled by examining the availability and coverage of employer-provided benefits--particularly health and pension benefits.

As one would expect, very few workers in alternative work arrangements are either covered by health insurance or have it available to them. As Table 3.11 shows, the proportion of temporary help workers who have health insurance available is roughly one in four; fewer than one in ten are actually covered, compared with almost two out of three regular workers. If we examine at-risk workers, the availability is not markedly different, but the coverage is roughly half an already low rate--about one in twenty at-risk workers in temporary work are actually covered by health insurance. There does appear to be some upward trend over the sample period, although the sample size is so small that these numbers should be treated with caution.

Table 3.11
Employer-Provided Health Insurance Availability and Coverage
(Weighted % for Whom Health Insurance is Available from Employer, and % Covered)

Work Arrangement

1995 1997 1999
Available Covered Available Covered Available Covered

All Workers

Agency Temps 21.1% 6.5% 24.8% 8.1% 25.6% 9.8%
On-Call Workers 24.0 16.8 31.4 22.6 31.2 22.2
Regular Workers 75.5 64.6 75.8 64.4 76.7 65.2

Public Assistance Recipients

Agency Temps 21.3% 1.2% 19.7% 4.2% 26.7% 6.1%
On-Call Workers 15.2 8.9 28.1 19.9 25.1 14.3
Regular Workers 56.5 44.3 56.9 45.9 57.3 44.5

Workers Below 150% Poverty

Agency Temps 18.3% 3.9% 17.7% 3.8% 15.9% 3.7%
On-Call Workers 17.8 12.2 19.2 9.8 18.1 8.6
Regular Workers 47.8 35.4 48.3 36.6 48.6 37.6

Source: Current Population Survey, matched February to March

A very similar picture emerges for employer-provided pensions. As a comparison of the first set of rows of Table 3.12 to the second and third sets of rows shows, the availability of pensions to at-risk temporary help workers is under one in ten, compared with seven out of ten for all regular workers. Most of this discrepancy is, in fact, due to the fact that temporary work in general is rarely in an agency where pensions are available--if we examine the first set of rows in Table 3.12, it is clear that the availability of pension coverage goes from seven out of ten regular workers to just over one out of eight temporary help workers. When we turn to examining the second and third sets of rows--those for at-risk workers--it is evident that about one in ten at-risk temporary help workers has pension benefits available, and about one in twenty has pension coverage. Again, it is difficult to make a judgement about the trends over time, primarily because the small sample size leads to quite high volatility.

Table 3.12
Employer-Provided Pension Plan Availability and Coverage
(Weighted % Indicating a Pension Plan is Available Through their Employer,
and % Participating)
Work Arrangement 1995 1997 1999
Available Covered Available Covered Available Covered

All Workers

Agency Temps 13.3% 3.4% 16.3% 4.5% 20.8% 6.7%
On-Call Workers 55.8 20.8 55.6 24.2 57.1 25.7
Regular Workers 69.5 56.5 71.0 57.4 73.5 59.7

Public Assistance Recipients

Agency Temps 8.0% 5.5% 8.3% NA 19.3% 3.2%
On-Call Workers 38.7 7.3 39.3 14.9 37.2 18.1
Regular Workers 50.0 33.6 52.8 34.5 55.1 35.4

Workers Below 150% Poverty

Agency Temps 5.3% NA 8.0% NA 11.8% 2.5%
On-Call Workers 40.4 11.4 40.1 8.0 32.7 11.3
Regular Workers 41.7 23.4 44.6 24.8 47.3 25.5

Source: Current Population Survey, matched February to March.
Note: 'NA' indicates that there were fewer than 3 affirmative responses.