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At NWLC, the millions of women on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic are constantly on our minds. There are women who have struggled to get by as restaurant servers and bartenders, fast food workers, hotel clerks, housekeeping cleaners, retail salespersons, nail salon workers, staff at theaters and other entertainment venues, and in other service sector positions who now face a high risk of losing their jobs altogether. Many others—including the personal care and home health aides caring for people managing illness in their homes, the cashiers staffing grocery stores, and the child care workers caring for the children of health care workers and first responders—find that their work is more essential than ever, but don’t find that their paychecks are any bigger as a result.
Women are the majority in all these jobs—which are among the 40 lowest paying jobs in the United States. Our new report, When Hard Work Is Not Enough: Women in Low-Paid Jobs, examines the lives of these women and how they were faring in 2018, the most recent year for which national data on poverty and income are available. We find that in a year in which by some measures our economy was booming, millions of women in low-paid jobs faced severe economic hardship. Today, the rapid spread of coronavirus has dramatically shifted our economic landscape—and these women and their families are likely to be hit first and hardest by the recession that is sure to follow.
Here are four not-at-all-fun facts about women in low-paid jobs:
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the gaps in our economic and social infrastructure that have resulted from decades of undervaluing the work that women and people of color do and underinvesting in the supports that families with low and moderate incomes need. To mitigate the vast impact of this public health crisis and stabilize our economy, policy makers must deliver relief for women and their families now and make comprehensive public investments that remedy underlying flaws in our programs and systems. When we center the Black and brown women most likely to be in low-paid jobs in driving a policy agenda to correct these inequities, all of us will benefit—not just the wealthy few.