March 2, 2021 at 9:28 pm PST | by Brody Levesque
New report says Californians making under $40K impacted worse by pandemic
Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

SACRAMENTO – A new report released Tuesday found that California residents making less than $40,000 a year, especially in minority communities and notably women in low-income households, suffered the worst job losses through layoffs or furloughs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The California’s Future of Work Commission  spent 18 months meeting and listening to workers, employers, researchers, and other residents to understand the current state and future of work and workers in California.

In its report, the Commission noted that the scope of its work surpassed common topics of technological change and automation and included shifts in growing sectors and job types, the evolving nature of work arrangements, the increasing costs of many basic necessities such as health and housing, national and global trends, demographic and regional trends, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as anticipated future shocks such as public health crises and climate change.

A year ago this month, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order. Following that order spanning the next 10 months, nearly all of the state’s 58 counties went through multiple business closures and reopening’s.

According to the Commission’s report only 22% of California workers are consistently able to work remotely, making most workers unable to spend most time at home as officials urged them to do.

“That puts everybody else in this really weird position of either needing to go on unemployment, which is only going to be 60% to 70% of your income, or putting yourself in the line of fire,” Tia Koonse, legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center told the Associated Press.

For example, the report notes that approximately 55% of Latino workers serve in essential jobs — making them most vulnerable to coronavirus exposure — compared to 48% of Black workers and 35% of white workers.

More so the report detailed that workforce inequalities occur across race, gender, and vulnerable populations. These vulnerable populations face wage gaps, employment gaps, exclusion from the workforce, and disproportionate employment in low-quality jobs.

These workers face inequalities across race, gender, age, education level, sexual orientation, disability status, military service history, housing status,
citizenship status, and criminal record. Working people of color are over three times more likely than white workers to live in poverty.

This past February the University of California Los Angeles School Of Law’s Williams Institute reported from data collected from the fall 2020 COVID-19 surge that LGBTQ Californians were more likely than non-LGBTQ residents to be laid off (12% vs 8%) or furloughed from their jobs (14% vs 10%), report problems affording basic household goods (24% vs 17%), and report having problems paying their rent or mortgage (20% vs 12%).

Williams also reported that both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ people of color were twice as likely to have been laid off or temporality furloughed from work when compared to non-LGBT white adults. 

Additionally, LGBTQ people of color were over twice as likely to report having less ability to pay for household goods in the two weeks before the survey (29% vs 14%) and over three times as likely to report being unable to pay their rent or mortgage (26% v. 9%) than non-LGBTQ white adults.

Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

The report found that low-income women were bearing the brunt of job losses during the pandemic. From August to October of 2020, California’s unemployment rate for women in households making less than $30,000 rose to 29% from January through March. Meanwhile, women in households making more than $150,000 annually saw their employment rate rise by 6%, the report found.

Koonse, from the UCLA Labor Center, also tells the Associated Press that women dominate many low-wage jobs such as domestic and custodial work. Others many have needed to exit the workforce to take care of children when schools shut down.

Beyond the pandemic, the 55-page report also urges the state to address California’s inequality and create better conditions for workers by 2030 saying that the state needs to build a greater system to have workers acquire needed skills to prepare for jobs of the future.

Workers should be empowered with the skills to meet future needs in the labor market, including greater demand for critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity, in sectors from care work to climate mitigation to digital technology and beyond.

The full report is available here: LINK

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