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Working from home during pandemic found widening U.S. inequality

by Matthew Lavietes | @mattlavietes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 7 April 2021 09:19 GMT

People wait in line at the St. Clements Food Pantry for food during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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Job losses skewed heavily towards Hispanic and Black Americans, the Gallup survey found

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, April 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Longstanding inequalities in the U.S. labor market have worsened amid the coronavirus pandemic with working from home fuelling the divide, according to a Gallup report released on Wednesday.

Gallup surveyed more than 7,700 U.S. adults in the final quarter of 2020, with the findings showing 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%, multiracial and Hispanic workers, and those without a college degree, said they had been laid off during the pandemic compared with 31% of overall respondents.

Only 11% of the survey's top earners, whose 2019 incomes were in the top 10% of respondents, 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, with the top earners reaping 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.

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(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.