- Important workers around the world are calling for a fairer recovery.
- These include higher wages, better working conditions and more protection.
- Insider spoke to leading activist Ai-jen Poo about the importance of an equal recovery.
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When life came to a standstill due to the spread of the coronavirus, some workers turned bedrooms into offices and adapted
Calls from home.
However, many key workers were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, whether they lost their jobs in private households or were forced to the front lines for low wages. As the world waits for a recovery, key workers and activists are calling for a different type of economy. One such activist is Ai-jen Poo, co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Domestic workers are housekeepers, nannies and housekeepers. In the US, 2.2 million people typically work in private households, according to a study by the left-wing Economic Policy Institute. Nearly 92% of these workers are women, and over half of them are Black, Hispanic, or Asian-Pacific Islanders.
A report by the United Nations International Labor Organization found domestic workers were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with working hours falling by 50% in 13 countries.
Courtesy of Essential for Recovery
Poo was at the forefront of the domestic worker movement and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2014. She spoke to Insider about what domestic workers need for equitable recovery ahead of a three-day summit called “Essential for Recovery” where international workers and activists alike – including Poo – will present a framework for recreation.
There are three issues that important workers around the world are calling for for equitable recovery.
Unite a dispersed workforce for collective bargaining
Domestic workers are far more likely to be part of the informal economy – which means they do not enjoy the legal protections or benefits of full-time employment. A recent ILO report found that eight in ten domestic workers worldwide are informally employed; One in five domestic workers in the US gets health insurance through their job, according to the EPI report.
“The vast majority of domestic workers lost their jobs and incomes at the start of the pandemic; 82% of domestic workers did not have a single paid day of sick leave before the pandemic and there was no job security, ”Poo told Insider. “People lost their jobs and their incomes overnight, and it’s been a struggle with a series of impossible decisions ever since.”
Domestic workers are also excluded from the National Industrial Relations Act, which gives workers the right to form trade unions or take other collective action, the EPI report notes.
For domestic workers, Poo said, change means “ensuring that workers have a voice in their workplace, where they are affiliated with unions or organizations, where they can break out of the isolation of that work and work collectively to raise wages”.
Make sure workplaces are safe and healthy
“That’s everything from making sure people have clean water and sanitation to having PPE,” Poo said.
A survey of 636 mostly Asian and Latin American workers in California by Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and UC Berkeley found that only 12% of home and home healthcare workers were receiving N-95 breathing apparatus on a regular basis.
At a basic level of safety, this means ensuring that vulnerable workers are provided with PPE; The group also calls for resources and safeguards to protect against sexual harassment and violence, from paid leave to flexible work arrangements for survivors.
Ensure social protection such as childcare, health care and education
“If we are serious about creating economic mobility and economic security for the global workforce, we really need to think about what kind of social protection can make this possible,” said Poo. She said the lack of care infrastructure and universally paid sick leave are “some of the strongest causes of inequality that nobody talks about”.
The ILO report found that half the world’s population does not have access to social security such as health care, stable income, childcare or pension plans – and noted that the onslaught of the pandemic created a moment when it is possible to do so change.
“I think the pandemic has really shown how interdependent we are in our economy and otherwise – nothing like a public health crisis reminding us that we as societies are fundamentally interconnected and interdependent,” said Poo. “And when there is a group of workers who are unprotected and very insecure, there is a downward pull that will put more and more of us at risk.”