- Sixteen percent of Hispanic or Latino workers are able to work from home, a notably smaller percentage compared to their Asian and white counterparts, according to a March 19 report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI) using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Nearly 20% of black or African American workers and 30% of white workers can telework. Asian workers had the greatest portion of remote-capable workers, at 37%, the report said.
- Remote capabilities correlate with wage, the survey found. Nine percent of workers earning less than or equal to the 25th percentile are able to work from home, while 61% of workers earning greater than the 75th percentile can do so, the data showed. These capabilities also vary based on industry. Fifty-seven percent of those in financial services can work remote, while 8% of workers have such capacities in leisure and hospitality.
Many of the workers who are unable to work from home face a host of related challenges. And, as EPI pointed out, more people in racial and ethnic minority groups make up this category.
Among the challenges workers without remote capabilities face, perhaps the most obvious is their risk of exposure. For the 91% of leisure and hospitality workers BLS estimates cannot telework, they report to jobs that require high amounts of personal contact. This is true outside the leisure and hospitality industry, too; Many workers with low-wage jobs will face a higher risk of infection, the Wall Street Journal reported.
If such workers do contract SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, they face another slate of problems including access to health insurance and paid sick leave. Recent legislation has aimed to ease the leave burden. President Donald Trump signed an emergency bill March 18 that expanded family and medical leave and guaranteed paid sick leave for certain workers, namely those employed by private entities or individuals with fewer than 500 employees.
Some low-wage workers are facing unemployment as businesses are forced to close temporarily, indefinitely or permanently. Jobless claims surged up 70,000 to reach 281,000 this week, according to NBC News reporting on figures from Goldman Sachs. The investment bank said the claims may jump to 2.25 million by next Thursday. Unemployment websites in states such as Oregon and New York were crashing this week due to an overwhelming number of applicants, Fast Company reported March 18.
A number of visible employers have taken measures to provide sick leave and other needed benefits amid the pandemic. Before the emergency bill was passed, Walmart rolled out a policy that amended its attendance rules and granted more paid leave, for example.