Millions of working women struggle to make ends meet every day. Although women now make up close to half of the national workforce, they substantially outnumber men in holding low-wage jobs. In addition, women of color are disproportionately affected, resulting in an increased risk of living in poverty.
Low-wage, women workers face uniquely tough times. These women are often highly concentrated in occupations such as food preparation, farming, and domestic work, where they earn wages that most often only meet or slightly exceed minimum wage.
These workers tend to be more vulnerable because most lower-paying jobs offer no job security or critical benefits like health insurance or sick leave. As a result, the inability to balance work-life issues can have devastating economic effects on these women.
President Barack Obama and Secretary Solis are committed to strengthening the rights of low-wage and vulnerable workers. To shed light on this issue, the Women’s Bureau is hosting the first of a series of “Working for Women: Your Job, Your Rights” forums today. These events will provide an opportunity to discuss the challenges faced by working women, as well as the department’s initiatives and resources to help women get back to work and protect their rights.
For example, the department’s Wage and Hour Division is proposing revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would ensure fair pay for the 1.8 million workers who provide in-home care services – 92 percent of whom are women. Nearly 40 percent of in-home caregivers must supplement their income with taxpayer funded public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps. Many of these female-dominated low-wage jobs have grown more than others, and are projected to grow even more through 2020. As low-wage work expands, many working women and their families will continue to suffer. It is time to take care of the people that take care of our loved ones.
During these difficult economic times, we need to make sure that we are lifting up every woman, in every community. The Women’s Bureau wants to ensure they have the support needed to become financially stable and thrive by having the skills and training they need to make it into-and remain in- the middle class. As President Obama said, “If you lift up the most vulnerable workers, you lift up all workers, our economy, and our country.”
Find out more about our programs by visiting the Women’s Bureau website at www.dol.gov/wb.
Latifa Lyles is Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.