COVID-19 Poses a Particular Threat to Low-Wage Workers’ Physical and Financial Health

The nation’s low-wage staff face a selected sort of bind.

They are inclined to work in service industries — such because the restaurant, hospitality and retail sectors – which might be particularly in danger for lack of earnings in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, or in jobs corresponding to well being care staff, grocery retailer staff and supply drivers, the place they could proceed to work however face a better threat of contracting the illness.

According to a new KFF analysis, over 25 million nonelderly adults labored in low-wage jobs in 2018, placing them among the many backside 20 p.c of earners. Such staff could have restricted capacity to soak up earnings declines or afford well being care prices, finds the evaluation, which examines the traits of such staff and the implications of the pandemic for his or her jobs, well being, and monetary safety.

Key findings of the evaluation embrace:

  • Most current unemployment declare filings are for individuals who labored in service industries. Workers in these industries are disproportionately prone to be low-wage, with a few fifth of low-wage staff employed in every of the leisure/lodging/meals companies (20%) and retail (19%) industries, and one other tenth in service (5%) or building (5%).
  • Many low-wage staff are engaged in positions which might be doubtless concerned with supply of products and companies to individuals who stay at residence below keep at residence orders (e.g., laborers/freight, inventory and materials movers, stockers/order fillers, and drivers/truck drivers).
  • 5 million low-wage staff are within the well being and social companies business, with the best variety of these (1.three million) working as aides or private care staff (e.g., nursing assistants or private care aides) whose jobs will convey them into frequent, shut contact with sufferers.
  • A majority of low-wage staff are feminine (58% vs 47% of all staff), 57 p.c are between the ages of 19 and 34, and a disproportionate share are Black and Hispanic.
  • One in 5 low-wage staff lacked well being protection in 2018, and the share doubtless is greater now amid the financial downturn. Even earlier than the pandemic, many low-wage staff reported issues affording wanted well being care. Nearly one in ten (9%) low-wage staff stories that they’re in truthful or poor well being, probably placing them at elevated threat for critical sickness in the event that they contract COVID-19.

For the total evaluation, in addition to different information and analyses associated to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit

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