Longstanding inequalities in the U.S. labor market have worsened during the coronavirus pandemic with working from home fueling the divide, according to a report released this week.
Gallup surveyed more than 7,700 U.S. adults in the final quarter of 2020. The findings showed that pandemic-related job losses skewed heavily towards Hispanic and Black Americans, as well as those with lower education and income levels.
More than 40% of Americans whose 2019 incomes were in the bottom 20% – $25,600 or less – multiracial and Hispanic workers, and those without a college degree, said they had been laid off during the pandemic. That compares to 31% of overall respondents.
Only 11% of the survey’s top earners, whose 2019 incomes were in the top 10% of respondents – $158,000 – were laid off, the report found.
“We brought into the pandemic all of these structural problems and they played out in a way that made life worse for people who were already struggling,” Gallup’s principal economist Jonathan Rothwell told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Aid needs to be disproportionately targeted to those disproportionately affected.”
The study found that remote working had created new discrepancies.
Respondents who were able to work remotely were more likely to report an improvement in job quality versus an overall decline, 45% of respondents versus 33%.
On the flip side, respondents who were not able to work remotely throughout the pandemic were more likely to report deteriorating working conditions, 43% of respondents versus 30%.
But as with job security, the researchers found that access to remote work was conditional upon income. The top earners reaped the benefits.
Half of the survey’s top earners in 2019 reported that they currently always work from home compared to one in five workers whose income was among the bottom 20% of respondents.
“There needs to be some kind of compensation for the burden that they take on by exposing themselves to disease, not just during a pandemic,” said Rothwell, referring to workers who have jobs that make it impossible to work from home.
(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.)