Workers in low-wage jobs often struggle not only with inadequate income but also with difficult working conditions that undermine their best efforts to both provide and care for their families. Women make up the majority of workers in these jobs, and they also shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities. Given the rapid growth in low-wage jobs, and the continued strong growth projected in low-wage female-dominated occupations, there is an urgent need to examine and address working conditions in these positions that are incompatible with family life, including making it extremely difficult to access high-quality child care. The Ms. Foundation is supporting an effort by six worker justice organizations – Adhikaar for Human Rights and Social Justice, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Garment Worker Center, the Retail Action Project and Center for Frontline Retail, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United – and the National Women’s Law Center to identify and call attention to these challenges, and develop strategies for addressing them.

Over the course of 10 months, the organizations (which represent workers from retail, agriculture, restaurant and fast food, nail and beauty, domestic work, and garment industries) conducted survey and focus group research that examined workers’ child care needs, and how the often challenging and sometimes abusive working conditions in low-wage jobs – including very low pay, difficult scheduling practices, lack of supports like paid sick days and family leave, and discrimination – affect parents’ ability to find and maintain high-quality, affordable, and stable child care. The research also focused on the special challenges facing immigrant workers, including language barriers and their often precarious immigration status.

This interim report provides preliminary information about the organizations’ findings, including challenges shared by working parents across low-wage occupations, as well as some specific to particular industries. The report also offers some initial recommendations for policies and practices to address these challenges.  A forthcoming report will describe the findings and recommendations in further detail.