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Spanish-speaking domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID-19: report

Spanish-speaking domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID-19: report
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More than a third of Spanish-speaking nannies, caretakers and house cleaners did not have jobs in September and roughly 75 percent were not compensated when they lost work, according to a report released Tuesday by the nonprofit National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA).

The NDWA polled more than 20,000 Spanish-speaking domestic workers via an online chat tool since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March and found dire consequences for some of the most vulnerable workers.

The number of jobs held by domestic workers plummeted as surging coronavirus cases forced widespread business closures and near-total shutdown of nonessential economic activity through much of the spring. With millions of Americans now working from home or out of work, domestic workers saw a stunning drop in hours that has only slightly recovered in the six months that followed.

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“This pandemic has been devastating for our workforce, creating dramatic losses in jobs and income with limited access to forms of relief for domestic workers who have continued to work through the pandemic as essential workers,” said NDWA Executive Director Ai-jen Poo on a call with reporters.

“It has meant a series of impossible choices for how to continue to work on taking care of your own children and families and staying safe while minimizing risk of exposure to the virus," Poo added.

More than 90 percent of domestic workers lost jobs by the end of March due to COVID-19, according to the report. Joblessness among domestic workers peaked at 68 percent in mid-May before dropping to 30 percent in late August and rising to 38 percent by Sept. 18. 

Just 9 percent of respondents to the NDWA poll did not have jobs before the coronavirus pandemic, 19 percent had at least one, another 19 percent had between three and five, 35 percent had between five and 10, and 18 percent had more than 10 jobs per week.

Both part- and full-time workers saw their hours drop after the pandemic, and 75 percent of workers were not paid for canceled jobs. 

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Domestic workers also reported receiving lower wages upon returning to work. Just 9 percent of domestic workers were paid between $16 and $20 an hour as of Sept. 18, compared to 26 percent before the pandemic. The percentage of workers being paid less than $10 an hour shot up from 16 percent to 35 percent in that time, and those making between $11 and $15 an hour increased from 39 percent to 51 percent. 

The report focused on Spanish-speaking domestic workers — 72 percent of whom report working primarily as house cleaners and 28 percent working primarily as caregivers for children, elders or people with disabilities. While NDWA did not collect racial or demographic information on the respondents, they used “the Latinx population as a comparison group, as we believe it is the best reference group for respondents’ demographic,” the report reads.

The report is the latest window into the unique toll of the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse on women and communities of color. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. domestic workers are Latina, and roughly 60 percent of house cleaners are Latina, according to Census Bureau data cited by NDWA. 

The coronavirus pandemic has forced far more women than men out of the workforce, according to federal data. Roughly 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force, compared to just 216,000 men, according to the September jobs report.

Black and Hispanic Americans also make up a disproportionate number of U.S. coronavirus deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.