Last week’s release of August’s job numbers showed that women of color, women with disabilities, and single mothers are still facing alarmingly high unemployment rates. New Census Bureau data on poverty and income in 2014 will be released tomorrow.
All this new data means I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of jobs women hold, what the conditions are in these jobs, and how this shapes the day-to-day realities of the lives of women and their families. I’ve been thinking in particular about low wage workers, two-thirds of whom are women.
NWLC’s new chart book shows that these women may not be who you think. While your first thought may be of a teenager working part time, in fact, nearly nine out of ten women in the low-wage workforce are 20 or older. More than half are working full time. Nearly a third are supporting children. It is also untrue that most are in these jobs because they didn’t finish high school — four out of five women in low-wage jobs have a high school diploma or higher.
These low-wage jobs typically pay $10.50 per hour or less, leaving women struggling to make ends meet and support their families. At $10.50 an hour, a woman working full time, year round as a child care worker, fast food worker, home health care worker, or other low-wage occupation makes just $21,000 a year, thousands of dollars below the poverty line for a family of four. Let’s keep these numbers in mind when we see what this week’s Census data show about the alarmingly high numbers of women living in poverty—and the millions of poor children who live and depend on them.
Low wages aren’t the only problem. The volatile schedules that workers in low-wage jobs often face make finding quality child care, taking care of parents and children, or being a student, extremely challenging.
We need to get out the facts about women and low-wage work, so every piece of NWLC’s new chart book can be individually shared on social media. When lawmakers make decisions about issues that affect low-wage workers—like whether to raise the minimum wage or stop the sequester from cutting programs like child care and job training—they need to know they’re making decisions about women’s lives. And they need to know that we’re watching.