Women, People Of Color & Lower-Income New Yorkers Suffered Disproportionately During The CoViD-19 Pandemic

Published on March 15, 2021, 3:55 pm
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites 13 mins

Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer and A Better Balance released the results of their jointly administered Work and Family Survey, which follows up on and extends their jointly-administered 2015 survey.

The Work and Family Survey, launched in October 2020, sought to better understand how New Yorkers have navigated professional and personal responsibilities during the CoViD-19 pandemic.

The findings are clear: New York City is facing an unprecedented crisis of care. Women, people of color, and low-income New Yorkers – overrepresented in frontline jobs, among part-time workers, and caregivers – suffered disproportionately during the pandemic and face barriers to workplace flexibility, despite a greater need for time off to care. Responses to the survey mirror national data that show women, in particular women of color, are leaving the workforce in record-high numbers.

Comptroller Stringer and A Better Balance outlined recommendations to improve workplace flexibility for all New Yorkers, including ensuring equitable access to affordable child care, expanding on the City’s existing right-to-request law, strengthening enforcement, outreach, and education for paid leave benefits, and enacting robust emergency leave rights.

“No one should have to choose between their job and their own health or the health of their loved ones,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “If we want to tap our city’s full economic potential, we must provide protections for New Yorkers who need it the most – including women, low-income workers, and frontline workers who are facing extraordinary caregiving challenges while trying to make ends meet. We must guarantee support for workers by ensuring that everyone in our city—regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, income, or disability—is able to balance protecting their health, caring for their families, and earning a steady income.”

“The pandemic has created seismic shifts in all our lives but we must remember who is carrying the greatest and most unequal burden in our City: mothers, especially mothers of color, and low-wage workers,” said A Better Balance Co-Founder and Co-President Dina Bakst. “They are being driven out of the workplace in droves because they need to care for children, loved ones, or themselves and lack access to the fair and supportive workplace policies they need. These are not private problems to be solved individually, but rather matters of public concern requiring systemic solutions. New York City can and should be at the forefront of devising the solutions that ensure all workers, especially the most marginalized, can take advantage of their rights and have the legal protections they need to work with dignity and provide care.”
 
The survey found that more than half (52 percent) of women caring for children cut back on paid working hours during the pandemic, compared to only one in three (34 percent) men. Women of color were more likely than white women to have needed to take time off to care for a child (36 percent to 29 percent) and less likely to have paid leave available to them, indicating a greater lack of access to safe, affordable child care options and an urgent need for emergency leave rights.

An overwhelming majority of respondents across income levels and industries—roughly nine in ten working New Yorkers (92 percent)—reported that they would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time, if given the option. However, access to flexible work arrangements remains highly unequal, with low-income and part-time workers being far less likely to have access to and likely to experience retaliation for requesting these benefits than higher-income or full-time workers. Many workers remain unable to access paid leave—either because there is no leave available to them, or because they are not aware of or able to exercise their existing rights to paid leave.

Key findings from the survey revealed:
 

  • The pandemic accelerated seismic changes to the nature of work in New York City. While those with more flexibility were more satisfied with and want to preserve their options, the vast majority of New Yorkers balancing work and caregiving want to see further changes now and after the pandemic ends.
     
    • More than three in four (78 percent) New Yorkers experienced a change in their employment, work location, or work hours due to the pandemic, with many higher-income respondents transitioning to remote work and lower-income respondents reporting higher rates of job loss.
       
    • Most New Yorkers, across income levels and industries, want the flexibility that working from home offers. The overwhelming majority—roughly nine in ten working New Yorkers (92 percent)—reported that they would prefer to work remotely at least some of the time, if given the option.
       
    • Caregivers, especially those who care for young children, are less likely to report being satisfied with the amount of flexibility they currently have at work than non-caregivers – 55 percent compared to 69 percent. 
       
    • Lower-income respondents, who are less likely to have access to flexible work arrangements, are also less likely to be satisfied with their employers’ level of flexibility than higher-income respondents: 71 percent of respondents with incomes over $100,000 were satisfied with their employer’s flexibility, compared to only 48 percent of those with incomes below $50,000.
       
    • More than one in four (27 percent) respondents reported that they would consider leaving their job if their employer denied a request for flexibility.
  • Lack of quality, affordable child care is putting many New Yorkers, especially women and people of color, in an impossible position:
     
    • More than half (52 percent) of women caring for children cut back on paid working hours, compared to only one in three (34 percent) men. 
       
    • Women were also twice as likely as men (33 percent to 16 percent) to need to take time off from work due to child care responsibilities.
       
    • Women of color were more likely than white women to have needed to take time off to care for a child (36 percent to 29 percent) and less likely to have paid leave available to them, indicating a great lack of access to safe, affordable child care options and an urgent need for emergency leave rights.
  • Fair and flexible work was crucial for New Yorkers struggling to balance the competing demands of work and care during the pandemic, yet access to flexibility remains inequitable:
     
    • 58 percent of working respondents reported having a flexible schedule, defined in the survey as the ability to change one’s work schedule, reduce or increase work hours, or seek alternative work arrangements such as working from home.
       
    • While 73 percent of respondents with incomes over $100,000 reported having access to a flexible schedule, only 41 percent with incomes below $50,000 did.
       
    • Women had less access to flexibility than men, with 56 percent of women and 65 percent of men reporting that they had flexible schedules.
       
    • Women of color had among the least access to flexibility. About half (52 percent) of women of color reported having such access, while 63 percent of white women did.
  • Many New Yorkers are facing challenges at work based on their caregiving responsibilities and need for fair and flexible work:
     
    • Women were more than four times as likely as men to experience retaliation related to their responsibilities as a caregiver, while individuals who live with someone with a disability were twice as likely as those who do not to have been retaliated against for this reason. 
       
    • Caregivers with income below $50,000 were about twice as likely as those with income above $100,000 to experience retaliation after requesting more flexibility.
       
    • 11 percent of respondents of color reported that they experienced retaliation during the course of the pandemic, either for requesting more workplace flexibility or because of their caregiving responsibilities, compared to only 6 percent of white respondents. The most common forms of retaliation were being reassigned or excluded from certain job functions.
  • New York City and New York State have passed groundbreaking paid sick and paid family leave laws, yet low-income and part-time workers still report a widespread lack of access to the leave rights they are guaranteed by law. This is especially concerning during a global pandemic when such laws are a key public health tool, ensuring workers can maintain their health and economic security.
     
    • Despite the outsized impacts of CoViD-19 on low-income workers, their access to paid time off for health needs remains abysmal. While 88 percent of workers making over $100,000 had access to paid time off to care for their own illness, only 33 percent of low-income workers reported the same, indicating that many low-income workers may not be receiving in practice the sick time they have the right to by law. 
       
    • Part-time workers also struggle to access leave, despite clear legal rights to sick leave, a serious concern as the nature of our economy continues to change with part-time work growing more ubiquitous. While 76 percent of full-time workers had access to paid time off to care for their own illness, only 24 percent of part-time workers reported being able to take time off for illness. Only 15 percent of independent contractors had access to paid sick leave.

To improve workplace flexibility for all New Yorkers, Comptroller Stringer and A Better Balance offered the following recommendations:

  1. Ensure equitable access to quality, affordable child care. 
     
  2. Broaden New York City’s right-to-request fair and flexible work law.
     
  3. Strengthen outreach, education, and enforcement of the City’s and State’s human rights laws that support caregivers, pregnant workers, and workers with disabilities. 
     
  4. Strengthen the City human rights law so that workers who need to provide care for themselves and their loved ones are able to do so and maintain their financial security and are not penalized at work. 
     
  5. Strengthen enforcement, outreach, and education for existing paid leave laws. 
     
  6. Enact robust emergency leave rights in response to the pandemic and expand permanent paid leave rights. 
     
  7. Strengthen workforce protections for independent contractors and fight misclassification. 
     
  8. Ensure New York City serves as a model employer and supports businesses and workers in this changing landscape. 

To read the full report, please visit here.

NYC DOF - Deed Fraud
Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | Bronx.com - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.