New Research Highlights Racial Inequities in the Workforce and Makes Actionable Recommendations for Equitable Economic Recovery | Burning Glass Technologies
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Data from Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle show workforce challenges are inextricably linked to economic development, housing, criminal justice, transportation, and childcare

New reports show that there remain deep racial inequities in the labor market that are made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Coupled with disaggregated data analysis, the reports identify workforce equity strategies that should be implemented across systems to foster broad economic prosperity.

The Advancing Workforce Equity reports, released today by the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, in collaboration with PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute, Burning Glass Technologies, and JPMorgan Chase, uncover data that highlights the stark realities for workers in five U.S. metro regions – Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle. Key observations that emerged across these regions include the following:

  • Racial inequities in income are a drag on regional economic growth. The unrealized GDP ranges from $33 billion in Seattle to $348 billion in the San Francisco Bay Area and will only increase as the workforce diversifies.
  • Occupational segregation, where workers of color are crowded into low-wage jobs, is entrenched and perpetuates inequities. In the Dallas region, Black workers are about 18% of the total workforce but almost half (48%) of healthcare support workers and just 12% of both computer and mathematical jobs and management positions.
  • Black and Latinx workers earn substantially less than their White counterparts at every education level.
  • There are not enough good jobs to go around, and workers of color are overrepresented in low-quality jobs. In all five communities, only 40-50% of workers are in “good jobs.”
  • Workers of color face significant, disproportionate risk of job loss as a result of automation.

“Shared prosperity demands bold solutions that center racial equity and dismantle systems and structures that disadvantage certain groups of people,” said Michael McAfee, president and CEO of PolicyLink. Equity—just and fair inclusion into a society in which everyone can participate and prosper—is the superior growth model. It is not only a matter of social justice or morality: It is an economic necessity.”

Although there are similarities across the reports, the recommended actions emerged from the local data insights and reflect the power of local leadership, design, and influence. Traditional workforce activities — education, training, and job placement — remain a priority, but this research demonstrates that achieving workforce equity will require greater public and private sector coordination, collaboration, and solutions that can cut across multiple systems, including housing, transportation, and childcare.

“The data supports what we’ve seen for a long time. Racial inequities are entrenched in all aspects of the workforce system,” said Amanda Cage, president and CEO of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. “The time for talk is over. It’s time to get to work, and the strategies outlined in these reports offer a concrete way to get started.”

The following recommendations are among those highlighted in the reports:

  • Focus on improving job quality and/or increasing the number of quality jobs.
  • Use skills-based hiring, retention, and advancement strategies to reduce racial occupational segregation that results from hiring bias and degree inflation.
  • Invest in proven workforce training programs to remove barriers to entry and advancement in the labor market.
  • Invest in solutions that increase worker voice and power, and support worker rights.
  • Connect workforce programs to economic development initiatives with specific equity targets and outcomes.

“As workers across the country, especially in Black and Latinx communities, continue to face barriers to good jobs, it’s critical to work across sectors to address these inequities,” said Monique Baptiste, vice president of global philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “With data-driven insights and collaboration, and as part of JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to advancing racial equity and preparing people for the future of work, we can begin to close the gap, grow opportunity, and define a clear path forward to a more inclusive economy.”

The regional reports, data, and analysis can be found at https://nationalfund.org/advancing-workforce-equity-reports/.

The Advancing Workforce Equity reports were developed through a partnership of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, PolicyLink, USC Equity Research Institute, and Burning Glass Technologies, with support from JPMorgan Chase.

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