October 2009, Eileen Appelbaum and John Schmitt

This report provides an overview of low-wage occupations in five industries (nursing assistants and cleaners in hospitals, cashiers and stock/sales clerks in food and electronics retail trade, process operatives in meat processing and confectionary, housekeepers in hotels, and in-coming sales/service operators in call centers) in six countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and the United States), based on a large-scale, multi-year research project funded and coordinated by the Russell Sage Foundation in New York. Low-wage work varies substantially both across and within countries, with large increases in the 1980s and 1990s in the Netherlands and the UK and, since the mid-1990s, in Germany. The U.S. has the highest incidence of low-wage work, with Germany close behind. Denmark and France have much less low-wage work. Institutions (and their deterioration) play a large role in explaining these and other differences.

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