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During COVID-19, many people were laid off or faced reduced work.
Latinas suffered the biggest drop in workforce size of any demographic group, according to UCLA Latino Police and Politics Initiative (UCLA LPPI), a Latino-focused think tank.
This could have a long-lasting impact on Latina wellbeing, labor shortages, and economic recovery overall, said Sonja Diaz, the founding director of UCLA LPPI.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic really created a ripple effect of economic disruption in particular on communities by race, and then again, by gender,” Diaz told ABC News.
“The real story here is the fact that Latinas have left the labor market, which is akin to dropping out of college. It’s really hard to get those individuals back in, and [have] a pathway towards social mobility and economic opportunity. This is harmful, not just for Latino families and communities, but the American economy at large.”
Latinas Leaving the Workforce and Its Impacts
From March 2020 to March 2021, the number of Latinas in the workforce dropped by 2.74%, compared to a 1.7% drop among white women.
That means 336,000 fewer Latinas in the labor force, according to the UCLA LPPI report.
“A strong economic recovery that prepares us for a prosperous future is dependent on a stable Latino workforce made up of both men and women,” said Kassandra Hernández, a research analyst and a co-author of the report. “Yet this analysis clearly shows that Latinas are being left behind, which could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.”
The report found some driving factors behind the departures:
- Latinas are disproportionately employed in leisure, hospitality and related low-wage industries that were particularly vulnerable to pandemic-related closures.
- A lack of access to education and training opportunities for higher wage opportunities disincentivizes Latinas’ participation in the labor force overall. Latinas already faced a colossal wage gap before COVID-19.
- Latinas are disproportionately responsible for family care obligations versus Latino men, and they are more likely to stay at home than U.S. mothers of other racial backgrounds. That burden was exacerbated during the pandemic because of the closure of schools and day care centers.
Adriana Rodriguez, a widowed mother of six from Chicago, felt this burden. She lost factory jobs twice in the pandemic.
“I’m a mother and I’m a widow, so I’m the head of the family. … When they closed the schools, many women felt obligated to stay at home,” Rodriguez told ABC News in an interview conducted in Spanish. “There was no day care, there wasn’t anyone to take care of the kids. I also felt obligated to stay home, so I stopped looking for work because I have six kids here and it’s very difficult.”
The problems behind the drop, according to the report, included:
- Hyper-segregation in low-paying jobs
- Work vulnerable to pandemic shutdowns
- A lack of access to education and training opportunities
- A lack of access to move away from low-wage labor jobs
- A lack of access to childcare
“Over the course of this pandemic, we have seen women of color struggle much more than white men, often because of their overrepresentation in low-wage sectors and because of their roles as primary caregivers to their families,” said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas of the UCLA LPPI.
It’s not just Latinas that have been impacted by COVID-19. Latino families at-large have felt the pandemic’s harshest effects.
The Pandemic and Its Hardest Impacts on Latino Families
The U.S. population recently rose to 18.5% Latino.
But coronavirus is disproportionately sickening and killing Latinos.
Latinos currently comprise 28.8% of COVID-19 cases in the United States, second only to Whites (50.1%), according to CDC data on June 30, 2021. Also, 18.4% of U.S. COVID-19 deaths are among Latinos, according to a new CDC data web page, “Health Disparities: Race and Hispanic Origin.” That page was updated June 30, 2021
- Reduced physical activity
- Reduced college enrollment
- Avoidance of federal aid
- Lower COVID-19 vaccine rates
- Food insecurity
Latino parents are concerned about education for their children, their economic security, and racial justice when emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent data.
“The future of our country is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of Latino families. If we don’t act now, America will face a deeper economic depression, workforce instability, and soaring school drop-out rates,” according to a policy report by Latino Decisions and Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors.
How Can We Help Latinas and COVID-19 Recovery?
Policy change is needed to support Latinas in the workforce, said UCLA LPPI’s Diaz.
“The lack of benefits, like paid family sick leave, or health insurance that is generous, affordable and provides quality access to care, or paid time off,” she said. “Absent those, it’s hard to go back to a job that is not going to allow these women workers to thrive.”
The UCLA LPPI report suggests:
- Increase the minimum wage.
- Strengthen the social safety net by increasing childcare support, introducing mandatory paid family leave and expanding the child tax credit.
- Strengthen skills training and education programs to create greater access to higher-wage careers in which workers are less susceptible to losing jobs due to automation
“In quantifying the loss in labor for Latinas relative to other groups, the UCLA report provides evidence that inequities that existed before COVID-19 remain. Returning to pre-pandemic conditions in the U.S. workforce will still leave millions of Latinas without access to true economic opportunity and social mobility, which ultimately would diminish the nation’s long-term competitiveness,” according to the report.
You can help the nation overcome COVID-19 by getting vaccinated.
If you or anyone you know is still hesitant about getting vaccinated, read these stories from real Latinos who had a #VaccineChangeofHeart and decided to get the vaccine after initially being against it.
You can also check out the “Juntos, We Can Stop COVID-19” digital communication campaign from Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio. This campaign was made to help Latino families and workers take action to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The #JuntosStopCovid campaign features culturally relevant fact sheets, infographics, and video role model stories to encourage Latinos to change their public health behaviors.
Share the campaign with your friends, family, and colleagues!