Private enterprise has shown an unparalleled capacity to generate prosperity and produce goods and services that meet people’s needs and improve their lives.
The same attributes that drive business success — innovation, ingenuity and the ability to efficiently marshal human and financial capital — also offer tremendous promise to help solve pressing societal challenges.
The private sector has not only a moral obligation but also a deeply vested interest in delivering on this potential for public good. Why? Because businesses cannot outgrow the economy of their communities.
The private sector plays an essential and positive role in society — and it is one we should embrace. Of the 145 million people who work in the United States, 125 million of them work for private enterprise. It is the private sector that generates the jobs and economic growth that fuel progress, underpin opportunity and support the critical public services on which we all depend.
Like other businesses, JPMorgan Chase creates opportunities through jobs, fair wages and benefits and investing in our 240,000 employees around the world. Starting in February 2017, as part of a three year plan, we began to raise the minimum salary of our U.S. employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour, up from $10.15 an hour. This pay increase impacts 18,000 of our bank tellers, customer service representatives and other hardworking employees across the country. Giving these individuals a raise is both the smart thing to do — it helps our firm attract and retain talented people in a competitive environment — and the right thing to do. Wages for too many Americans have gone nowhere for too long.
Indeed, from stagnating wages and growing income inequality to a lack of quality education and failure to arm our young people with job skills, there are clear signs that many of our communities are struggling. The net result is that too many people are not getting a fair shot at getting ahead. Clearly, the private sector cannot solve this alone, but it is uniquely positioned to contribute by driving economic growth and creating more opportunity.
The private sector’s ability to be a positive force extends well beyond the four walls of our firms. Companies can actively leverage the capacity of their core business to strengthen the communities where they operate. This will look different for different companies, of course, but every enterprise can and should do its part. As a bank, JPMorgan Chase’s societal value proposition is clear: We enable and catalyze economic growth by providing the capital that businesses, government and nonprofits need to expand, create jobs and fulfill their vital missions.
Our firm has also always supported our communities through philanthropy, another important tool the private sector can apply to make a difference. But over many years of giving, we have refined our approach to more fully draw on and leverage all of our resources. Our model combines financial commitments with capable partners, evidence-based solutions and direct investments of our people’s time and expertise.
We are using this model to help solve critical social and economic challenges. For example, we are investing $325 million in career-oriented education to help young people and adults develop the skills they need to get on a stable career path and move up the economic ladder. We are putting the model into practice in Detroit where, alongside our $100 million philanthropic investment, we are directly leveraging our firm’s expertise in areas such as community development, small business lending and workforce readiness to help support and accelerate the city’s turnaround.
Reducing inequality, creating well-paying jobs, supporting vibrant and resilient communities — all these challenges are as daunting as they are essential to address. But by harnessing the unique capabilities of the private sector, alongside the nonprofit and public sectors, I believe we can drive the change at the scale and pace our communities deserve.