Friday, June 19, 2020

Not every worker is protected

America's 2.2 million domestic workers, the majority of them women of colour, the crisis is particularly acute.

More than 70% saw their incomes cut or jobs eliminated at the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, an organisation that advocates for nannies, housecleaners and home health aides.

With wages that average about $12 (£9.50) an hour, few have robust financial cushions. And because of informal work arrangements or immigration status, many are not eligible for the relief offered by the government.

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of women who have absolutely no access to protection or support," says Tatiana Bejar, a New York City-based organiser at Hand-in-Hand, a non-profit that advocates for domestic workers.  In the US, many shutdown orders didn't think to address in-home help at all. Official guidance on how to handle return has also been sparse. Hand-in-Hand, which aims its actions at employers, has urged families to keep nannies at home at full pay, but the official ambiguity means figuring out what to do has often been a fraught family-by-family decision.
"Just because domestic work continues to be invisible, therefore employers of them were also invisible," Ms Bejar says

Kenya Williams worked as a nanny in New York for 22 years,  explained "Our profession, I found out during this time, we just don't matter. We have to fight so hard for things that other people get easily," she says. "I would just like to be able to be like, 'Ok, I know I'll be ok to some extent."
The hardship faced by Ms Williams matches global patterns, which show women, minorities and people working in the informal economy have been hit particularly hard by the lockdowns. In the US, the unemployment rates among Hispanic and black women approached 20% last month - nearly double that of white men.
The uneven economic impact is likely to add "significantly to existing vulnerabilities and inequalities", the International Labor Organization warned this spring. It called on governments to respond by increasing efforts to extend social protections to those people, like maids and nannies, whose work often occurs beyond the reach of government rules.
 Haeyoung Yoon, policy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, pointed out that "The coronavirus pandemic has really put a spotlight on the structural inequities that workers were already living through," Ms Yoon says. "We need to really address these issues at a structural level so that workers are able to have access to good wages and good working conditions. But just because working people are reminded, doesn't mean that our policymakers are going to legislate and change policies to meet the needs," she adds.

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