This report examines the characteristics of American workers in the service industry who have low literacy, numeracy, and technology skills and provides employers and policy makers with strategies for improving these skills. This report is beneficial to the gig/sharing economy.

“Across the United States, millions of men and women with limited reading, math, or digital problem-solving skills are holding down jobs across the service sector.…In the course of their jobs, these workers often need to read vital directions, follow safety protocols, calculate prices, supervise colleagues, and oversee budgets. All of these tasks are made dramatically more challenging for workers who don’t have strong literacy or numeracy skills. Many resort to creative work-arounds in an attempt to compensate for their lack of skills, but others struggle in silence. Their skill gaps carry heavy consequences for themselves, their co-workers, their employers, and our society as a whole” (p.1).

“Approximately forty-eight million Americans, or 32% of the U.S. workforce, are employed in the service sector industries of retail; health and social assistance; and leisure and hospitality. However, low wages, unpredictable schedules, and limited opportunities for promotion can constrain the ability of workers to advance within the service sector. Lack of opportunity for advancement can affect workers’ decisions about whether to stay in the sector over the long term. Conversely, workers who do see their skill gains rewarded with opportunities to advance in their chosen field have a clear incentive to stay in the sector” (p.1).

“This report offers…analysis of rigorous international data, painting a picture of the approximately 20 million American workers employed in key service-sector industries who lack foundational skills. It highlights promising practices and interventions used by U.S. employers to help their workers to upskill. And it details key policy levers that can foster economic mobility for these workers” (p.1). “[D]ata in this report is drawn from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development…Survey of Adult Skills….Within that dataset, [the author’s] analysis focuses on U.S. adults ages 16-64, who are employed, and have limited basic skills in reading, math, or technology” (p.1). 

Full title: Foundational Skills in the Service Sector: Understanding and Addressing the Impact of Limited Math, Reading, and Technology Proficiency on Workers and Employers.

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)