Future of Work Initiative State Policy Agenda

Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative
State Policy Agenda
February 2019
Governors and state legislators have a unique
opportunity to help prepare their constituents for the
many ways that work is changing. Outsourcing, global
competition, and rapid advances in technology are
transforming jobs and industries, leading to economic
disruption as old products, jobs, and industries are
replaced by new ideas and companies. While these
changes have brought economic benefits, they have
also contributed to stagnant wages, declining benefits,
weakening workplace protections, and, in some cases,
job loss. Policymakers, employers, education and
training institutions, and other critical stakeholders
must work together to create an economy that helps
workers take advantage of new and changing jobs,
while providing the necessary supports that workers
will need to weather the disruptions from changes in
technology, trade, and organizational structure.
As governors and state legislators explore measures
responsive to the changing nature of work, the
Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative State Policy
Agenda highlights a set of policy options that would
help address this challenge. These proposals focus on
three approaches: modernizing worker benefits and
protections, building a skilled and resilient workforce,
and aligning and prioritizing future of work policy.
Our country needs forward-looking state policymakers
to develop new ideas, pilot innovative programs, and
forge partnerships that help workers and businesses
in the U.S. adjust to a changing economy. In doing
so, policymakers can encourage both innovation and
economic security. We hope that these policy ideas
can serve as a starting point for state leaders as they
build a vision for the future of their states.
Modernize Worker Benefits and
Create a System of Portable Benefits
Expand Paid Leave
Limit Non-Competes and No-Poach
Update Unemployment Insurance
Build a Skilled and Resilient
Boost the Incentive for Employers to
Invest in Workers
Empower Workers to Invest in Their
Own Training
Expand Access to High Quality
Increase Quality Apprenticeship
Expand Career Counseling and
Reemployment Services
Improve State Labor Market Data
Align and Prioritize Future of Work
Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative | Washington, DC | [email protected]
www.aspeninstitute.org/futureofwork | @AspenFutureWork
Modernize Worker Benefits and Protections
Over the course of the 20th century, workers came to rely on their employers to serve as the access point for
a range of worker benefits and legal protections. These benefits and protections include the minimum wage,
workers compensation, the right to organize, healthcare, retirement, disability insurance, and harassment and
discrimination protections, among others. These benefits and protections developed individually, the product of
historically specific circumstances and legal battles, and were often tied to particular employment arrangements
most commonly traditional, full-time work.
Yet in the last few decades, the traditional employer-employee relationship has weakened. Businesses are less
inclined to offer benefits to their employees, and in many cases have created business models that rely on the use
of non-traditional workthat is, work done through a temp or contracting agency, on-call work, and independent
contracting. For more information on these trends, see the Future of Work Initiatives publication, Toward a New
Capitalism: The Promise and Opportunity of the Future of Work.
As a consequence, even though the U.S. is described as being near full employment, work for many does not
include vital benefits and protections, and economic insecurity is on the rise. A decline in employer-provided
benefits has been matched by stagnant wages. For most workers, real wages have held steady for decades; the
average hourly wage in 2018 had about the same purchasing power that it did in 1964.2
As wages have held steady,
costs of livingincluding medical costs, housing, and educationhave risen.
Over the past thirty years, workers access to benefits has declined. The share of workers
covered by employer-sponsored health plans has fallen from 75 percent in 1991 to 62 percent
in 2018, even as the Affordable Care Act applied a penalty on medium and large businesses
that fail to provide coverage to their workers.3
For retirement, employers have shifted from
providing defined benefit pension plans to offering less secure defined contribution plans, to
which only a third of workers contribute.4
The decline in benefits is felt most acutely among the millions of Americans who work as
independent contractors, including freelance journalists, adjunct professors, real estate agents,
hair stylists, and those who work for the rapidly growing online labor platforms like Uber,
Lyft, TaskRabbit, and Upwork. This work rarely includes employer-provided benefits, exposing
independent contractors to high out-of-pocket costs or economic risks of sickness, aging, and
on-the-job injuries.
State policymakers should work to extend benefits to more people through portable models
that: (1) are not tied to any particular job, but rather linked to the worker who can take
the benefit from job to job or project to project; (2) support contributions from multiple
employers or clients that are proportionate to dollars earned, jobs done, or time worked; and
(3) cover any worker, including independent contractors and other non-traditional workers.
Create a System of Portable Benefits
EXAMPLES There is already momentum in several states around portable benefits. Legislators in
Washington, New Jersey, Georgia, and Massachusetts have introduced bills to either create
portable benefits systems or start innovation funds to experiment with different portable
benefits models.5
New Yorks Black Car Fund, established in 1999 and expanded to the
entire state in 2017, serves as an example of an existing portable benefits model. The
Fund allows professional passenger car driverstraditionally independent contractors
to access workers compensation coverage, and more recently vision and telemedicine
benefits, through a mandatory passenger surcharge. In the retirement space, ten states have
implemented programs, often called Secure Choice, that attempt to make retirement
plans more portable and universally accessible.6
Balancing work and family responsibilities is a significant challenge for millions of American
families. Fully two-thirds of households today include two working parents, and the percentage
of households that are led by single mothers or fathers is rising.7
And with an aging population,
American families face increasing eldercare needs.8
However, just 17 percent of the workforce has access to paid family leave.9
This is partly the
result of the U.S. being the only high-income countryand one of only a few countries in the
worldthat does not provide workers at least some guaranteed paid family leave. The federal
1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures that employees cannot be fired for taking
unpaid leave, and recent estimates suggest just 59 percent of employees are FMLA eligible.10
Moreover, there is no federal guarantee for paid leave.
State level paid leave programs are often designed for workers in traditional, stable, full-time
employment. Work history requirements, firm size restrictions, and limiting eligibility to those
in traditional employment ends up excluding self-employed workers, employees at small
businesses, and many part-time workers.11 Ensuring universal access to paid family and medical
leave should be a key component of a future of work agenda to update the social contract for
workers in the 21st century.
State policymakers should create paid leave benefit programs to improve economic security
for workers when they need to care for themselves and their families. These programs should
be portable so that earned benefits can be taken from one job to the next without a lapse
in coverage, and allow contributions across multiple income sources. They should include
independent contractors. This can be done by allowing independent contractors to opt into
the system, or, to encourage uptake, requiring businesses who rely heavily on independent
contractors to auto-enroll their workers and pay the cost of their contractors paid leave
Expand Paid Leave
EXAMPLES In 2018, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a new paid leave law, guaranteeing
eligible workers up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a sick family
member or stay home with a newborn child, and up to 20 weeks of paid leave for a serious
illness. The new legislation, which will take effect in 2021, makes Massachusetts the seventh
state to mandate access to paid leave. California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode
Island have created programs in the past 20 years, while new programs in the District of
Columbia and Washington will take effect in 2020.13
Many jobs do not provide economic security or a clear pathway to increased earnings. To
find better pay and benefits, workers may need to find a new employer. Through the use of
non-compete clauses and no-poach agreements, though, businesses are making it increasingly
difficult to switch jobs.
Non-competes are clauses in employment contracts that restrict a worker from joining or
founding a rival company for a certain period of time after leaving the company, while nopoach agreements are agreements between employers promising not to poach each other’s
workers. These contracts were initially introduced to protect legitimate business interests,
such as trade secrets and intellectual property.
But the usage of these contracts has exploded in recent years. Surveys find that between 20
and 25 percent of the workforce is bound by a non-compete restriction, either from their
previous job or current job, while nearly 60 percent of major franchises are covered by nopoach agreements.14 Because taking a new job is the primary way that workers achieve wage
growth, these restrictions depress lifetime earnings and contribute to the experience of wage
To support a more dynamic economy, workers should be allowed to move more freely between
jobs and companies. State policymakers should prohibit non-compete clauses for low-income
workers and ban no-poach agreements, including those between separate franchises with a
single chain.16
EXAMPLES California has a long-standing ban on the enforcement of non-competes (which many
economists credit for the success of the states tech industry). In the last three years, four
other statesHawaii, Utah, Idaho, and Illinoishave passed laws that restrict the usage of
non-compete clauses, while New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont have considered
legislation.17 Similarly, a coalition of 11 state attorneys general is investigating no-poach
agreements at several chains, and under threat of legal action, numerous fast food chains
recently agreed to end no-poach agreements.18
Limit Non-Competes and No-Poach Agreements
Unemployment Insurance (UI) was designed for traditional, full-time work and does not
adequately cover workers in non-traditional jobs. Workers must have a W-2 employment
relationship with their employer to have UI coverageexcluding independent contractors
entirely. Non-traditional workers who are W-2 employeessuch as temp-agency workers,
on-call workers, subcontracted workers, multiple job holders, and part-time workersare
covered by UI, but they typically receive less coverage compared to traditional workers.
In addition, UI does not help unemployed workers move into non-traditional jobs. Nontraditional work can provide a path back to stable earnings, by helping workers maintain existing
skills, acquire new skills, and earn vital income as they search for traditional employment; or
by helping them transition into a permanent career in self-employment. But UI eligibility rules
often discourage unemployed Americans from seeking and engaging in non-traditional work,
and the workforce system rarely trains workers foror helps them findthis type of work.
UI coverage is also shrinking. The percent of unemployed workers who receive unemployment
benefits fell from an average of about 50 percent in the 1950s, to about 35 percent in 1990s,
to under 30 percent since 2010.19 These coverage gaps leave todays workers vulnerable and
State policymakers should create new protections for workers who are ineligible for UI by
experimenting with expansion to cover independent contractors with a history of consistent,
stable earnings. UI should also be reformed to allow unemployed workers to start a business
or participate in non-traditional work if these opportunities are available. In addition, state
policymakers should consider creating a jobseekers allowance to provide a financial support
to low- and middle-income workers looking for work, including independent contractors,
new labor market entrants, and other workers ineligible for UI.20 The Aspen Institute Future
of Work Initiative published a reportModernizing Unemployment Insurance for the Changing
Nature of Workthat explores a variety of policy solutions to reform UI so that it can better
serve a broader population of workers.21
EXAMPLES Nine states currently have active Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) programs, which allow
unemployed workers to continue receiving UI benefits while starting a business rather than
seeking full-time W-2 employment.22 Many states already allow UI recipients to seek parttime work, but 21 states still require UI beneficiaries to pursue full-time work to remain
eligible for benefits, even if their benefits were earned through part-time work.23
Update Unemployment Insurance
Build a Skilled and Resilient Workforce
Technology, outsourcing, and global competition will continue to change and disrupt work, causing some jobs to
decline, others to increase, and new roles to emerge in new or existing industries. Automation alone could partially
automate over 90 percent of occupations over the next twelve years.24 As these trends become more widespread,
the task makeup of jobs will shift, often requiring workers to develop new skills.
These changes present challenges as well as opportunities. To keep up with the pace of change, workers will need
to be lifelong learners, adapting to the shifting demands of the labor market, and employers will need to play a
larger role in helping their employees access learning opportunities. Workers who can learn new skills stand to
benefit from higher wages and more meaningful work. Policymakers have an important role to play in helping
workers accessand employers offereffective, affordable, and skills-based training and new career pathways.
Employers are uniquely positioned to play an important role in preparing the workforce
for lifelong learning: they have the scale, the resources, and the insight into changing skills
needs. Unfortunately, the available data suggest that employer investment in worker training
is declining.25
In part, the decline in employer-provided training can be explained by changes in the employeremployee relationship over the past 40 years. Because the benefits of training reside primarily
with the worker rather than with the business, there will always be a portion of the investment
that benefits the overall economy but not the business itself. If businesses plan to retain
employees over a long period, they will benefit directly from their training investments. But
as relationships between workers and businesses become less stable and more short-term,
businesses have a more difficult time capturing the return on their training investments. The
result is less investment in training even as employers are in need of a more highly-skilled
State policymakers should create a business tax credit to offset a portion of the cost of
new training activities for non-highly compensated workers. The Worker Training Tax Credit
would mirror the policy design of the popular federal R&D Tax Credit. To ensure that lowand middle-income workers are the primary beneficiaries, it should restrict eligibility above
a certain wage threshold. See the Future of Work Initiatives issue brief, Worker Training Tax
Credit: Promoting Employer Investments in the Workforce, for more policy details.27
Boost the Incentive for Employers to Invest in Workers
Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Virginia provide businesses
with tax credits for training investments that range from 5 percent to 50 percent of
training expenses.28 In New Jersey, State Senator Troy Singleton has introduced a version
of a worker training tax credit, and in Virginia, a proposal by House Delegate Kathy Byron
to reform the states existing Worker Retraining Tax Credit to better conform to this
proposal recently passed both legislative chambers.29 Federal legislation to create a Worker
Training Tax Credit was also introduced in the U.S. Senate (S.2048) and House (H.R.5516)
in the last Congress.30
Employers play a unique and vital role in workforce training. But while some workers will
be able to rely on employers to help them acquire new skills, others will not have access to
employer-provided training. All workers should have financial assistance and a portable system
to help them access new education and training opportunities.
State policymakers should create worker-controlled Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts
(LLTAs). These accounts would be funded by workers, employers, and government, and
could be used by workers to pay for education and training opportunities over the course of
their career. They should target their benefits to low- and middle-income workers through a
government matching contribution that phases down as income rises. See the Future of Work
Initiatives issue brief, Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts: Helping Workers Adapt and Succeed
in a Changing Economy, for more policy details.31
EXAMPLES Lifelong Learning Account demonstration programs have been implemented in several states
and cities, including Maine, Washington, Chicago, and New York City. Washington states
Lifelong Learning Program is a voluntary employee benefits program where employers
agree to match their employees contributions to a Lifelong Learning Account. The fund is
portable and can be used for any education or training investment.32 In Massachusetts, State
Senator Eric Lesser has proposed legislation to establish a Lifelong Learning and Training
Account program.33 Federal legislation was also proposed in the U.S. Senate (S.3145) and
House (H.R.6250) last session.34
Empower Workers to Invest in Their Own Training
Community colleges are well positioned to provide in-demand skills training. There are 1,047
public community colleges across the country, and the education and training they provide
contributes to better economic outcomes.35 For example, an analysis of California community
college programs found that their career and technical programs raised earnings by 14 percent
(for certificates of less than 18 units) to 45 percent (for associate degrees).36 Unfortunately,
community college funding has been sharply cut over the past two decades. Since 2001, state
and local funding per full-time equivalent student has declined by 30 percent (after adjusting for
inflation).37 Federal funding has risen over this time period, but not enough to fill the funding
At the same time, private and non-profit training providers are playing an important role
in offering innovative and flexible training programs. Similar to community colleges, the
effectiveness of these providers can vary. Organizations such as Year Up, Per Scholas, and
General Assembly appear to show positive results for their participants.38 Other research,
however, that has focused on students who attend for-profit certificate programs has shown
no discernable increase in earnings after graduation compared to similar students who do
not attend a training program at all. An analysis of for-profit certificate programs found that
after taking into account the cost of the program, the majority of students were worse off
State policymakers should identify strategies to increase funding for community colleges to
provide high-quality, in-demand skills training. The funding should be based on (1) characteristics
of the student body (with greater funding allocated to schools with greater shares of students
from disadvantaged backgrounds); (2) the labor market conditions in the local community, such
as the local employment rate; and (3) demonstrated improvements in student retention and
completion.40 The Aspen Economic Strategy Group has proposed increased federal funding
for community colleges to boost educational attainment, expand opportunities for mid-career
skills development, and provide better career pathways for workers without four-year college
In addition, state policymakers should explore ways to improve the quality of private training
by encouraging private training providers to design tuition systems based on outcomes rather
than fixed prices. Some training providers have established outcome-based payment systems
known as Income Share Agreements (ISAs), in which the provider will forego a portion of the
tuition, and in return, the students promise to pay a percentage of their future earnings back to
the provider for a period of time after graduation. Moving the private training market toward
greater use of ISAs would reward effective training programs and disadvantage providers of
poor-quality training, while maintaining the incentive for private providers to develop innovative
This policy approach could begin by providing regulatory guidance. In many states, ISAs are
often unregulated. In response, policymakers could clarify what regulations apply to private
ISAs in order to provide certainty to users of ISAs regarding how the terms and conditions of
an ISA could work and to ensure that students are protected from potential abuse.
Expand Access to High Quality Training
In the last decade, many states have developed free or debt-free tuition programs for their
public institutions, often community colleges. These free college policies, often known as
College Promise programs, have proliferated in conservative and liberal states alike. Early
adopters include Delaware and Tennessee, and as of July 2018, nineteen states across the
country have such programs.42 Eight of these have been enacted in the last two years,
and many other states, including California, Rhode Island, Washington, and Michigan are
considering either adopting new programs or expanding their existing programs.43
Virginia recently incorporated outcome-based payments into how it funds community
college training. Under the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant (NEWCG), which
was adopted in 2016, the state pays a portion of the cost for a student to obtain an
eligible credential.44 Eligible training is non-credit but leads to a workforce credential in a
high-demand field.45 The student pays one-third of the cost, and the state will pick up the
remaining two-thirds of the cost (up to $3,000) if the student graduates and receives the
Many educational institutions have adopted ISAs. Holberton School in San Francisco offers
a two-year training program in software engineering, while Kenzie Academy in Indianapolis
offers coding and computer science courses that are coupled with on-the-job training
through paid apprenticeships.46 The courses are tuition-free, with students instead required
to pay back a percentage of their income over time through an ISAand if they make
below a certain income threshold, they are not required to make payments. Traditional
higher education institutions have also adopted this model: Purdue University launched
its ISA program (Back a Boiler) in 2016, while the University of Utah, Colorado Mountain
College, and others have since followed suit.
Apprenticeships can offer clear advantages over other forms of training. First, the involvement
of local employers in developing apprenticeship programs ensures that curricula are aligned
to the specific needs of the employer. Second, apprenticeships pay workers while they are in
the program, reducing the cost of pursuing training. Third, the work-based instruction method
can be an effective form of teaching, especially for those who have difficulty with traditional
classroom learning. And finally, because apprenticeships incorporate employment, workers
who have completed an apprenticeship program already have a job when they graduate.
Studies have shown that apprenticeships are effective in training workers for and placing them
in well-paying jobs. A 2012 study found that registered apprentices earned roughly $240,000
more over their lifetimes than similar workers who had not gone through such programs,
with the benefits to society exceeding the costs by nearly $50,000.47 Nearly nine out of ten
apprentices are employed after completing their apprenticeships with an average starting wage
of over $50,000.48 Unfortunately, apprenticeships are relatively scarce in the U.S., representing
only 0.3 percent of the labor forcefar below Canada (2.2 percent), Britain (2.7 percent),
Australia (3.7 percent), and Germany (3.7 percent).49
Increase Quality Apprenticeship Opportunities
PROPOSAL State policymakers should consider three complementary approaches to encouraging
apprenticeship programs: (1) create a state department or office dedicated to actively
encouraging and assisting businesses in establishing apprenticeship programs; (2) provide a tax
credit to encourage businesses to establish apprenticeship programs; and (3) provide marketing
assistance to boost awareness of apprenticeship opportunities.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 12 states currently offer tax credits to
employers that hire apprentices, and another 12 states offer tuition support for registered
apprentices.50 For example, in Montana, employers who hire workers through the Montana
Registered Apprenticeship unit are eligible for a $750 tax credit.51 In 2018, Massachusetts
adopted a tax credit for employers who sponsor apprenticeship programs equal to $4,800
or 50 percent of wages paid to each apprentice.52
South Carolina has adopted a comprehensive and successful approach to encouraging
apprenticeships: through a combination of tax credits, apprenticeship consultants that
work with businesses to facilitate the registration process, and an engaged community
college system, South Carolinas apprenticeship enrollment has expanded from roughly
800 in 2007 to nearly 30,000 in 2018.53
In todays economy, transitioning to a new job can involve a number of challenges, including
identifying new opportunities, understanding what skills or job experiences are needed for
a new job, and where to acquire those skills if needed. This type of transition is particularly
difficult if one has lost a job and needs to find work quickly. Though challenging, these
transitions are possible: according to a recent analysis by the World Economic Forum and the
Boston Consulting Group, 96 percent of workers currently holding jobs at risk of technological
disruption should be able to find other jobs that fit their skill set.54 But most of these new jobs
are outside the original jobs cluster of related professions, meaning that displaced workers may
not be aware of them.
Career counseling and other reemployment servicessuch as job listings, job search assistance,
and referrals to employersare delivered to workers through more than 2,500 American
Job Centers (AJCs) across the country. A study commissioned by the U.S. Department of
Labor found that these reemployment services represent a fast and cost-effective approach
to helping displaced workers find work, and result in savings to the Unemployment Insurance
program that exceed the cost of the services.55 The 2016 Gold Standard Program Evaluation
of the federal workforce development program found that workers who used staff-supported
services, which includes career counseling, experienced 17 percent higher earnings compared
to workers who only accessed self-service resources.56 However, federal funding has been
decreasing over time: federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants to states
which form the core of the national public workforce system and fund AJCshave been cut
by over 40 percent since 2001.57
Expand Career Counseling and Reemployment Services
State policymakers should boost funding for AJCs, in particular to support additional career
counselors. Moreover, states should provide robust training to counselors to better use
technology and data to improve their ability to guide workers through career transitions and
find them effective and quality jobs.
EXAMPLES Colorado and Indiana have invested in improving the quality of job coaching by working
with the Markle Foundations Skillful Initiative to develop the Career Coaching Corps.58 This
program connects counselors from AJCs, community colleges, high schools, and nonprofit
organizations in a community of practice to ensure high-quality standards and best
practices are disseminating through a train the trainer approach, allowing coaches across
the state to better serve workers in transition. Participating counselors also learn how to
better use new technologiessuch as SkillsEngine, mySkills, myFuture, edX, LinkedIn, and
CSMlearnand labor market data to help workers find training and well-paying jobs.
Some states have emphasized career counseling outside of the public workforce system.
For example, Pathways to Prosperity provides middle and high school students with early
and sustained career counseling and workplace-learning opportunities. Launched in 2012
by Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it now operates at
schools in 14 states.59
Labor market data help workers, students, employers, workforce investment boards, and state
agencies make informed decisions. Workers need accurate and timely information on how
industries and occupations are changing, which skills are increasingly in demand, where skill
mismatches exist, and how to find new job opportunities. Education and training providers,
in collaboration with employers, need to understand how skill needs are changing to better
design training programs. And finally, government and community leaders would benefit from
an improved understanding of how automation and other technologies are changing the
economy and what populations are at greatest risk of disruption in order to ensure training
systems and safety net programs can provide workers the tools they need to stay employed.
Detailed data on local and regional economies is often nonexistent or inaccessible. Better data
would benefit local, state and national stakeholders as it would improve understanding of how
economic forces like automation are affecting local and regional economies, to best target
policymaking, service offerings, and delivery.
Moreover, students often have difficulty assessing the quality of education and training programs
because they frequently lack standardized and verifiable information about program outcomes.
But state data systems are often not prepared to provide this information. The most reliable
data source for post-graduation employment outcomes is workforce administrative data
usually from the Unemployment Insurance programs wage recordsbut most states do not
include enough data elements to allow for full analysis of the effectiveness of training programs,
and some do not link this employment data to educational data at all.
Improve State Labor Market Data
State policymakers should take steps toward improving their data collection and usage.
First, state policymakers should add new data elements in state UI wage records, such
as occupational title (using standardized occupational codes), hours worked, credential
completion, and work site. Asking employers to report this type of information would enable
the production of detailed state and local area data and provide a clearer picture of local and
regional labor markets.60
Second, this newly enriched UI data and other administrative data can then be used to create
training program effectiveness data if they are matched with education program data through
state longitudinal data systems (SLDS). States should establish an SLDS and ensure the
agency running it has a close working relationship with the state agencies that are providing
administrative data. If presented in a simple and standardized format, this training effectiveness
data could help students make informed decisions about which training to seek.61 If they are
not already doing so, states should also prioritize sharing their UI data with other states and
the federal government.
Third, state policymakers should increase funding for state labor market information systems.
These systems produce, disseminate, and analyze state and local labor force statistics, including
the identification of in-demand occupations and industries, and enable employers, students,
workers, workforce investment boards, government agencies, education providers, and other
state and local labor market participants to make informed decisions.
And fourth, states should develop a more effective and transparent skills-based labor market.
By working with employers and educational institutions to make skills a common language and
currency for job postings and education and training programs, workers can more easily show
what skills they have, learn what skills employers are looking for, learn which programs will help
them acquire those skills, and better match with jobs.
EXAMPLES Louisiana, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska currently collect additional data elements,
including occupational title.62 A 2014 BLS survey found that states that collected enhanced
wage records reported that the data were extremely helpful in estimating hourly
earnings, understanding career progression from occupation to occupation, assessing the
effectiveness of workforce training, and making occupational projections.63
A number of states have taken steps toward a more skills-based labor market. For instance,
Colorado, and more recently Indiana, have worked with the Markle Foundations Skillful
Initiativein partnership with Microsoft, LinkedIn and other partnersto develop a more
effective and transparent skills-based labor market.64 In February 2019, 20 Governors
helped launch the Skillful State Network in an effort to scale the model.65 But achieving that
level of transparencyand linking the theory up with actual hiring decisions in practice
can be quite difficult without the underlying data and information on skill needs and gaps.
Align and Prioritize Future of Work Policy
Policymakers face significant challenges in responding to the rapidly changing nature of work. Development and
evaluation of additional policy solutions will require input and participation from a range of key stakeholders,
including business, labor, workforce, education, researchers, and policymakers. States should consider designating
a responsible body or party to build better awareness of the challenges and involve these stakeholders in the
development of solutions.
Several different approaches could bring together stakeholders and help inform future policy. The goal of any
approach should be to build a composite view of the challenges ahead, develop a shared understanding of existing
data and future trends, and identify potential policy and programmatic solutions. The designated body or party
could also ensure that any new proposals align with and build on existing infrastructure and programming, and help
foster connections between stakeholders that will be necessary to successfully carry out agreed upon strategies.
One approach is to create a short-term commission or task force. States could convene short-term bodies
bringing together a range of stakeholdersworkers, advocates, employers, and other policymakersto answer a
set of core questions. Indiana initiated a Future of Work Taskforce through action of the states standing Workforce
Innovation Council in 2017, and Washington created a Future of Work Task Force through the passage of legislation
in March 2018. New Jersey also created a Future of Work Task Force through Executive Order of the Governor
in 2018.66 Similar legislation was introduced in California last year and in Massachusetts this year.67
A second option is to create a standing council or board. States could create a permanent organization to
hold responsibility for future of work policy issues. Similar to a short-term commission or task force, this body
would coordinate research and policy as it relates to the future of work. For example, Indiana has established a
new Governors Workforce Cabinet with ongoing responsibility for future of work and related issues. Similarly,
policymakers in Washington are considering a bill that would create tri-partite wage and standards boards in four
sectors with a high concentration of independent contractors. The boards would examine conditions in those
sectors and address pressing challenges in a time-sensitive manner.
The focus of the commission or task force should be tailored as narrowly as possible to drive toward concrete
solutions. Example areas of focus include (1) the impact of technology on the labor market, (2) the prevalence
of non-traditional work and shifts in work arrangements, (3) education and training approaches to future-proof
the workforce, and (4) changes to the strength and nature of the social contract. The commission could come
to a clear understanding of the issues through data, share insights with key stakeholders, and develop and submit
recommendations on a policy framework to the Legislature and Governor.
A third option is to create a dedicated future of work position. A state could create a full- or part-time
position focused on how to prepare for the future of work, either as an advisor to the Governor or as a part
of a states Department of Labor. For example, in 2017 the Virginia General Assembly elevated the states Chief
Workforce Development Advisor to a Cabinet-level position, with the responsibility to help coordinate efforts
across various agencies and to address the needs of a changing workforce.68
State policymakers can also engage organizations that work across states to better inform future of work policy
initiatives: for example, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices started a multi-state
collaborative to understand and support the on-demand workforce in 2018.69
1 Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. 2017. Toward a New Capitalism: The Promise of Opportunity and the Future of Work. January.
2 DeSilver, Drew. 2018. “For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades.” Pew Research Center. August.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Compensation Survey. U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/ncs/.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics. National Compensation Survey.
Bhattarai, Abha. 2017. Two-thirds of Americans arent using this easy way to save for retirement. The Washington Post. February 22.
5 State of Washington. 2019. HB 1601 – Creating the universal worker protections act. 66th Legislature. Introduced January 25, 2019.
State of New Jersey. 2018. S67 – Establishes system for portable benefits for workers who provide services to consumers through contracting
agents. 218th Legislature. Introduced January 9, 2018. https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S0500/67_I1.HTM.
State of Georgia. SB 475 – Independent Contractors; certain employment benefits; funding; administration; and eligibility; provide. 2017-2018
Regular Session. Introduced February 21, 2018. http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/en-US/display/20172018/SB/475.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SD 1100 – An Act establishing a portable benefits for independent workers innovation fund. 119st General
Court. Introduced January 17, 2019. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD1100.
6 These states are Oregon, Illinois, California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Washington, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts.
7 Parker, Kim, and Gretchen Livingston. 2018. 7 facts about American dads. Pew Research Center. June. http://www.pewresearch.org/facttank/2017/06/15/fathers-day-facts/.
Pew Research Center. 2015. Parenting in America. December. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/.
8 Houser, Ari, Mary Jo Gibson, and Donald L. Redfoot. 2010. Trends in Family Caregiving and Paid Home Care for Older People with Disabilities in
the Community. AARP Public Policy Institute. September. https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/ppi/ltc/2010-09-caregiving.pdf.
9 Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2018. Leave benefits: Access. From the Employee Benefits Survey. U.S. Department of Labor. March.
10 Based on Employee Survey data from 2012. Per 2.2.1, an estimated 59.2 percent of current employees are eligible for FMLAthose whose
worksites had 50 or more employees within 75 miles, had continuously worked for the same worksite for the past 12 months, and were always a
full-time employee or worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
Klerman, Jacob Alex, Kelly Daley, and Alyssa Pozniak. 2012. Family and Medical Leave in 2012: Technical Report. Abt Associates. September.
11 To be eligible for FMLA coverage, a worker must: 1) be an employee as defined under the FLSA; 2) work for an employer with at least 50
employees; 3) have worked for that employed for the past 12 months; and 4) have worked at least 1250 hours for that employer over the past
12 months. This explicitly excludes self-employed workers and those working for small employers, and implicitly excludes many of those who
work temporary, seasonal, and part-time jobs.
12 Recent history suggests that opt-in systems suffer from low utilization rates. For example in California only 413 self-employed workers accessed
paid leave over the past ten years (2007-2017).
PL+US. 2018. Left Behind: How Californias Paid Family Leave Program is Failing People in Low-Wage Jobs and the Gig Economy. September.
Massachusetts, in contrast, decoupled contributions from coverage by requiring contributions from businesses that are heavily reliant on
independent contractors. The independent contractors still must enroll, but many will already have had their contribution paid by the business
they work for.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 2019. Paid Family Medical Leave for employers FAQ. https://www.mass.gov/info-details/paid-family-medicalleave-for-employers-faq.
The Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative is a nonpartisan effort to identify concrete ways to address
the challenges American workers and businesses face due to the changing nature of work in the 21st century
Established in 2015, the Initiative is driven by the leadership of Honorary Co-Chairs Senator Mark R. Warner
and Purdue University President and former Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, and Co-Chairs John Bridgeland
and Bruce Reed. Executive Director Alastair Fitzpayne leads an Aspen Institute staff, based in Washington, DC.
To learn more, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/futureofwork.
About the Future of Work Initiative
13 Washington, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts will begin collecting premiums in 2019, 2019, and 2020 respectively, with paid leave
benefits beginning to be paid out in 2020, 2020, and 2021 respectively.
14 Starr, Evan. 2019. The Use, Abuse, and Enforceability of Non-Compete and No-Poach Agreements. Economic Innovation Group. February.
Krueger, Alan, and Eric Posner. 2018. A Proposal for Protecting Low-Income Workers from Monopsony and Collusion. The Hamilton Project,
Brookings Institution. February. http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/a_proposal_for_protecting_low_income_workers_from_monopsony_
15 Balasubramanian, Natarajan, Jin Woo Chang, Mariko Sakakibara, Jagadeesh Sivadasan, and Evan Starr. 2017. Locked In? The Enforceability of
Covenants Not to Compete and the Careers of High-Tech Workers. U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper. January.
16 Krueger and Posner. 2018. A Proposal for Protecting Low-Income Workers from Monopsony and Collusion. Brookings Institution.
Walter, Karla. 2019. The Freedom to Leave: Curbing Noncompete Agreements to Protect Workers and Support Entrepreneurship. Center for
American Progress. January. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2019/01/09/464831/the-freedom-to-leave/.
17 Marx, Matt. 2018. Reforming Non-Competes to Support Workers. The Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution. February.
Schwarz, Daniel, Martha Van Oot, Erik Winton, and Colin Thakkar. 2018 Three States May Restrict Use of Employment Noncompete
Agreements. Society for Human Resource Management. January. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-localupdates/pages/states-may-restrict-use-of-employment-noncompete-agreements.aspx.
18 Abrams, Rachel. 2018. No Poach Deals for Fast-Food Workers Face Scrutiny by States. The New York Times. July 9.
Walter. 2019. The Freedom to Leave. Center for American Progress.
19 McMurrer, Daniel, and Amy Chasanov. 1995. Trends in Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
September. https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1995/09/art4full.pdf.
McHugh, Rick, and Will Kimball. 2015. How Low Can We Go? State Unemployment Insurance Programs Exclude Record Numbers of Jobless
Workers. Economic Policy Institute. March. http://www.epi.org/publication/how-low-can-we-go-state-unemployment-insurance-programsexclude-record-numbers-of-jobless-workers/.
The lowest rates of annual average insured unemployment in the U.S. have all come since 2011.
U.S. Department of Labor. 2019. Unemployment Insurance Chartbook. Last accessed February 11, 2019. https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/
20 West, Rachel, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Kali Grant, Melissa Boteach, Claire McKenna, and Judy Conti. 2016. Strengthening Unemployment
Protections in America. Center for American Progress, National Employment Law Project, and Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality.
June. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/poverty/reports/2016/06/16/138492/strengthening-unemployment-protections-in-america/.
21 McKay, Conor, Ethan Pollack, and Alastair Fitzpayne. 2018. Modernizing Unemployment Insurance for the Changing Nature of Work. Aspen
Institute Future of Work Initiative. January. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/modernizing-unemployment-insurance/.
22 These states include Delaware, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. As of this
papers writing, Louisiana also has an SEA program in law, however it is non-operational.
U.S. Department of Labor. 2017. Comparison of State Unemployment Insurance Laws. https://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/pdf/
23 U.S. Department of Labor. 2017. Comparison of State Unemployment Insurance Laws.
24 According to McKinsey Global Institute, at least 10 percent of work hours are automatable in 91 percent of jobs.
Manyika, James, Susan Lund, Michael Chui, Jacques Bughin, Jonathan Woetzel, Parul Batra, Ryan Ko, and Saurabh Sanghvi. 2017. Jobs Lost, Jobs
Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation. McKinsey Global Institute. December. https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/futureof-organizations-and-work/what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages.
25 Council of Economic Advisors. 2015. Economic Report of the President. February. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/
Waddoups, C. Jeffrey. 2016. Did Employers in the United States Back Away from Skills Training during the Early 2000s? ILR Review 69, no. 2
(March): 405-434. http://ilr.sagepub.com/content/69/2/405.
26 As economist Lisa Lynch writes, Employees who are perceived to have higher turnover rates, such as low-wage and low-skilled workers, are less
likely to receive employer-provided training.. in addition, training itself may contribute to employee turnover: if new skills are of value to other
employers, then firms risk having their trained employee hired away.
Lynch, Lisa. 2004. Development Intermediaries and the Training of Low-Wage Workers. In Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First
Century, edited by Richard B. Freeman, Joni Hersch, and Lawrence Mishel. University of Chicago Press. December. https://www.nber.org/chapters/
27 Fitzpayne, Alastair, and Ethan Pollack. 2018. Worker Training Tax Credit: Promoting Employer Investments in the Workforce. Aspen Institute
Future of Work Initiative. August. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/worker-training-tax-credit-update-august-2018/.
28 Fitzpayne and Pollack. 2018. Worker Training Tax Credit. Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative.
29 State of New Jersey. S3337 – Provides credits against corporation business and gross income taxes for certain employers that invest in human
capital. 218th Legislature. Introduced January 17, 2019. https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S3500/3337_I1.HTM.
Commonwealth of Virginia. HB 2539 – Worker training investment tax credit. 2019 Session. Introduced January 9, 2019.
30 U.S. Senate. S.2048 – Investing in American Workers Act. 115th Congress. Introduced October 31, 2017. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115thcongress/senate-bill/2048.
U.S. House of Representatives. H.R.5516 – Investing in American Workers Act. 115th Congress. Introduced April 13, 2018.
31 Fitzpayne, Alastair, and Ethan Pollack. 2018. Lifelong Learning and Training Accounts: Helping Workers Adapt and Succeed in a Changing
Economy. Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. May. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/lifelong-learning-and-trainingaccounts-2018/.
32 Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board. Where can Lifelong Learning Lead You? State of Washington.
33 Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SD.1155 – An Act to establish a Lifelong Learning and Training Account Program. 191st General Court.
34 U.S. Senate. S.3145 – Skills Investment Act of 2018. 115th Congress. Introduced June 27, 2018. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/
U.S. House of Representatives. H.R.6250 – Skills Investment Act of 2018. 115th Congress. Introduced June 27, 2018.
35 Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. Community College Facts at a Glance. U.S. Department of Education. Last accessed February
10, 2019. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cclo/ccfacts.html.
36 Huff Stevens, Ann, Michal Kurlaender, and Michel Grosz. 2015. Career Technical Education and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from
California Community Colleges. Working Paper 21137, National Bureau of Economic Research. April. https://www.nber.org/papers/w21137.pdf.
37 Aspen Economic Strategy Group. 2019. Expanding Economic Opportunity for More Americans. February. https://www.aspeninstitute.org/
38 General Assembly. 2018. General Assemblys Student Outcomes Report. May. https://ga-core.s3.amazonaws.com/cms/files/files/000/004/774/
Fein, David, and Jill Hamadyk. 2018. Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year Up
Program. May. Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. https://www.yearup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Year-Up-PACE-Full-Report-2018.pdf.
Weise, Michelle, Andrew Hanson, Allison Salisbury, and Kathy Qu. 2019. On-ramps to Good Jobs: Fueling Innovation for the Learning Ecosystem
of the Future. https://go.stradaeducation.org/on-ramps.
39 Riegg Cellini, Stephanie. 2018. Gainfully employed? New evidence on the earnings, employment, and debt of for-profit certificate students.
Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution. February. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/02/09/
40 A version of this proposal was originally proposed by the Aspen Economic Strategy Group in a recent report.
41 Aspen Economic Strategy Group. 2019. Expanding Economic Opportunity for More Americans.
42 Mishory, Jen. 2018. Free College: Here to Stay?. The Century Foundation. July. https://tcf.org/content/report/free-college-stay/.
43 Hart, Angela. 2019. Newsom proposes free community college in California. Politico. January 4. https://www.politico.com/states/california/
Borg, Linda. 2019. Raimondos budget plan would extend free tuition to Rhode Island College. Providence Journal. January 17.
Office of Washington Governor Jay Inslee. 2019. Inslee details plan to create a statewide free college program for Washington students. January
11. https://www.governor.wa.gov/news-media/inslee-details-plan-create-statewide-free-college-program-washington-students.
Hardwich, Reginald. 2019. Gov. Whitmer Touts Tuition-Free College Plan. WKAR. February 12. http://www.wkar.org/post/gov-whitmer-toutstuition-free-college-plan#stream/0.
44 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. New Economy Workforce Credential Grant. http://www.schev.edu/index/institutional/grants/
45 Elevate Virginia. 2018. 2018-2019 Virginia Demand Occupations List. http://www.elevatevirginia.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/2018-2019-
46 Bailey, John. 2018. Income Share Agreements Are an Innovative Way of Financing Tuition and an Investment in the Workplace of Tomorrow.
The 74. October 29. https://www.the74million.org/article/bailey-income-share-agreements-are-an-innovative-way-of-financing-tuition-and-aninvestment-in-the-workplace-of-tomorrow/.
47 Reed, Debbie, Albert Yung-Hsu Liu, Rebecca Kleinman, Annalisa Mastri, Davin Reed, Samina Sattar, and Jessica Ziegler. 2012. An Effectiveness
Assessment and Cost-Benefit Analysis of Registered Apprenticeship in 10 States. Mathematica Policy Research. July. https://wdr.doleta.gov/
48 The White House. 2015. President Obamas Upskill Initiative. April. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/docs/150423_
49 Lerman, Robert. 2014. Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States. The Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution. June.
50 Office of Apprenticeship. Learn about Tax Credits. Education and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. Last updated July 20,
2018. https://www.doleta.gov/oa/taxcredits.cfm.
51 Office of Montana Governor Steve Bullock. 2017. Governor Bullock Highlights Tax Incentive for Montana Businesses to Grow and Create Jobs.
June 1. https://governor.mt..
52 Harpel, Ellen. 2018. New incentive program encourages apprenticeships. Smart Incentives. September. https://smartincentives.org/new-incentiveprogram-encourages-apprenticeships/.
53 Moore, Thad. 2017. South Carolinas apprenticeship initiative cracks growth milestone as new U.S. labor secretary advocates for on-the-job
training. Post and Courier. May 18. https://www.postandcourier.com/business/south-carolina-s-apprenticeship-initiative-cracks-growthmilestone-asnew/article_72157c86-3c05-11e7-9514-7bb6c3409ac9.html.
54 World Economic Forum. 2018. Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All. January. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOW_
55 Michaelides, Marios, Eileen Poe-Yamagata, Jacob Benus, and Dharmendra Tirumalasetti. 2012. Impact of the Reemployment and Eligibility
Assessment (REA) Initiative in Nevada. January. https://wdr.doleta.gov/research/FullText_Documents/ETAOP_2012_08_REA_Nevada_Follow_up_
56 McConnell, Sheena, Kenneth Fortson, Dana Rotz, Peter Schochet, Paul Burkander, Linda Rosenberg, Annalisa Mastri, and Ronadl D’Amico.
2016. Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers: 15-Month Impact Findings on the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs.
Mathematica Policy Research. May. https://www.mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/publications/providing-public-workforceservices-to-job-seekers-15-month-impact-findings-on-the-wia-adult.
57 National Skills Coalition. 2018. Americas workforce: We cant compete if we cut. August. https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/
58 Bryson, Donna. 2018. Colorado Connects Career-Seekers With Contemporary Coaches. U.S. News & World Report. August 27.
Skillful. 2019. Skillful Indiana Names William D. Turner, Jr. Executive Director; Launches Skillful Governors Coaching Corps with Indiana
Governor Eric J. Holcomb. Markle Foundation. January. https://www.skillful.com/press-release/indiana-governors-coaching-corps.
59 Jobs for the Future. 2019. Pathways to Prosperity Network. https://www.jff.org/what-we-do/impact-stories/pathways-to-prosperity-network/.
60 The Workforce Information Advisory Council, the National Skills Coalition, and The Institute for College Access & Success have all made similar
recommendations to states.
Workforce Information Advisory Council. 2018. Recommendations to Improve the Nations Workforce and Labor Market Information System.
Submitted to Secretary Acosta, U.S. Department of Labor. Draft for the January 25, 2018 WIAC Meeting. https://www.doleta.gov/wioa/wiac/
National Skills Coalition. 2019 Saying Yes to State Longitudinal Data Systems: Building and Maintaining Cross Agency Relationships. January.
Dalal, Neha, Beth Stein, and Jessica Thompson. 2018. Of Metrics and Markets: Measuring Post-College Employment Success. The Institute for
College Access & Success. December. https://ticas.org/sites/default/files/pub_files/of_metrics_markets.pdf.
61 Loewenstein, George, Cass R. Sunstein, and Russell Golman. 2014. Disclosure: Psychology Changes Everything. Annual Review of Economics 6
(August): 391-419. https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/DisclosureChgsEverything.pdf.
62 Texas Workforce Commission. 2016. Report to the Sunset Advisory Commission: Study on the Collection of Occupational Data.
63 Administrative Wage Record Enhancement Study Group. 2014. Enhancing Unemployment Insurance Wage Records: Potential Benefits, Barriers,
and Opportunities. Prepared for the Workforce Information Council, U.S. Department of Labor. September. https://www.bls.gov/advisory/bloc/
64 Ober, Andy. 2018. ’Game-Changer’ Skillful Program Coming to Indiana. Inside Indiana Business. October 11. http://www.insideindianabusiness.
65 Markle Foundation. 2018. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, the Markle Foundation, and 20 States Launch the Skillful State Network;
Introduce Skillful State Playbook. February 14. https://www.markle.org/about-markle/media-release/skillful-state-network.
66 Office of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. 2018. Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Creating Future of Work Task Force. October 5.
67 State of California. 2018. SB 1470 – Commission on the Future of Work. 20172018 Regular Session. Introduced February 16, 2018.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts. SD 1067 – An Act establishing the Massachusetts future of work commission. 191st General Court.
Introduced January 17, 2019. https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/SD1067.
68 Martz, Michael. 2018. Northam names Megan Healy as first Cabinet-level adviser on workforce development. Richmond Times-Dispatch. January
3. https://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/government-politics/general-assembly/northam-names-megan-healy-as-first-cabinet-level-adviser-on/
69 National Governors Association. 2018. States collaborate to deliver results for the on-demand workforce. August 21.
Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative | Washington, DC | [email protected]
www.aspeninstitute.org/futureofwork | @AspenFutureWork

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