Rutgers researchers interviewed 69 women who use services at Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers around the state for the report. (Courtesy of Rutgers University)
Latinas, who represent nearly 10% of the state’s workforce, largely struggle with low wages, lack of access to child care, and basically no time or money to do anything but work and care for their family, according to a new study out of Rutgers University.
New Jersey ranks nearly last in the country on pay equity for Latinas, who overwhelmingly settle for working low-wage jobs, like home care, according to the report released Monday from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, in partnership with the Latino Action Network Foundation.
“These women are doing the work that no one else wants to do, like cleaning homes and working in factories,” Glenda Gracia-Rivera, the report’s lead author, said in a statement. “The gender pay gap is well known, but this report goes beyond the numbers to demonstrate what life is really like for Latina immigrants in our state. The findings are frankly alarming.”
Latina workers often lack employer benefits like insurance, paid time off, and retirement plans, according to the report, and they also face barriers to employment, rely on inconsistent public transportation, have little knowledge of English, and must take care of their children after school.
Rutgers researchers interviewed 69 women who use services at Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers around the state for the report, titled “Una mano amiga en este pais,” which translates to “A Helping Hand in this Country.” Based in Asbury Park, Camden, Dover, and Newark, the centers offer English classes, employment services, and immigration services. They receive support from the Latino Action Network Foundation.
Most of the participants in the survey didn’t know about New Jersey’s paid sick leave law, signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021. It requires employers to provide at least 40 hours of paid earned sick leave per year. Most of the women surveyed said they’d show up to work even if they were sick because they couldn’t afford a day without pay.
One woman reported returning to work one week after giving birth to her son via C-section. She was paid $7.70 an hour, and told researchers she was scraping by with no help.
Only two of the 69 women said they had extra money for any leisure activities, and only four women said they had the time for these activities anyway, according to the report. They described taking on extra household roles, like cleaning and child care, and saving money to meet basic household expenses or pay off credit card debt.
About half of the women in the study said they financially supported other family members, either in their home country or in the United States. One participant said the responsibility of family is not taken lightly in the Latino culture, and that “it is an expectation that we are going to help our families get ahead.”
Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers saw a massive increase in demand during the pandemic, jumping from 209 people served in 2016 to 2017 to 3,309 in 2020 to 2021.
The Rutgers researchers recommend an increase in funding to expand these centers to underserved communities, like Passaic County, and to expand the services they provide. In a statement, Jesselly de la Cruz, executive director of the Latino Action Network Fund, called on Murphy and the Legislature to increase state investment in the centers.
“This study highlights the important work Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers perform in Latino communities across the state, addressing the wage gap and helping families enter the middle class,” she said. “The case for investing in New Jersey’s Latina women is clear.”
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