Working in the Service Sector in Philadelphia

Posted by University of California at Berkeley on February 19, 2018

Philadelphia Service Sector workers contend with unstable and unpredictable work schedules

A new research brief released today by the Shift Project at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at the University of California, Berkeley includes first-ever data that provides a window into Philadelphia retail workers’ lives. The majority of those surveyed experience schedule instability and unpredictability, which create hardships and stress for themselves and their families.

Entitled “Working in the Service Sector in Philadelphia,” the research brief draws on survey data from 687 Philadelphia service sector workers. It documents routine instability in work schedules in the retail and food sectors in Philadelphia. For example:

  • 66% report irregular or variable work schedules
  • 62% receive their work schedules less than two weeks in advance
  • 53% worked consecutive closing/opening shifts (“clopenings”)

As a result, almost three-quarters of workers say that that their work schedule causes extra stress. Another three-quarters say their work schedule makes it hard to meet caregiving responsibilities.

“It’s common knowledge that most service sector workers have little control over their schedules,” said co-author Kristen Harknett, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Francisco. “What we learned was that schedule instability and unpredictability is very widespread and that this creates significant hardship.”

“The people we surveyed said they want more stable scheduling, and more hours,” said co-author Daniel Schneider, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Workers are very clear that their current work schedules do not work for them or their families.”

To view the Shift Project brief, go to

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