U.S. Domestic-Worker Struggles Show Long-Term Recession Damage

House cleaners and caretakers are still struggling financially six months after the first widespread coronavirus layoffs, a National Domestic Workers Alliance survey showed.

About 36% of Hispanic female domestic workers remain jobless, four times more than in the pre-Covid-19 era, according to a survey by the not-for-profit alliance released Tuesday. Of the 14% of respondents who applied for unemployment insurance, less than half received it, because many in the industry are undocumented and don’t qualify. Half the respondents said they were unable to pay their rent or mortgage for six straight months as they lost jobs and wages.

The recession hit women and minorities particularly hard, and the labor market could become more challenging and dangerous for domestic workers in coming months, as coronavirus cases top a previous daily record. Many domestic workers are undocumented workers in the U.S., people who have largely been left out of federal aid packages.

“It is now a full-blown depression for domestic workers as they continue to experience housing and food insecurity, struggle with childcare, and a dangerous work environment,” Ai-jen Poo, the NDWA’s executive director, told reporters on a call.

The unemployment rate for workers employed in households jumped to 14.8% in September, more than triple the January level, according to Labor Department data.

The NDWA surveyed more than 20,000 Spanish-speaking domestic workers from March to September online. About three-quarters of the respondents are the primary breadwinner of their household and nearly 90% had school-age children.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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