New Analysis: Undocumented Workers in Service Sector Most Likely to be Harmed by the COVID-19 Pandemic

New Analysis: Undocumented Workers in Service Sector Most Likely to be Harmed by the COVID-19 Pandemic



TRENTON, NJ (April 27, 2020) – New Jersey’s service sector industries, which rely on server-customer interactions, will be the hardest hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP) and Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations professors Janice R. Fine and Todd E. Vachon. 


The policy brief, Undocumented Workers in Service Sector Most Likely to be Harmed by COVID-19, explains that, due to decades of racial and ethnic discrimination, workers in these low-paid industries are disproprotionately immigrants, many of whom have been excluded from the federal government’s stimulus packages.


“In many ways, immigrant workers make up the backbone of New Jersey’s economy,” said NJPP President and co-author Brandon McKoy. “Immigrant workers, who often perform the dangerous work that allows many of us to comfortably practice social distancing, will be hit the hardest by the economic fallout of COVID-19. It’s imperative that state lawmakers center these workers in pandemic response bills to ensure no one is left behind in New Jersey’s recovery.”


The industries most hurt by the necessary social distancing and public health directives include restaurants, bars, hotels, entertainment, non-food retail, passenger transportation, and personal care services.


“The sectors highlighted in this report, accounting for almost a million indispensable jobs in our state, have been decimated by the pandemic and left tens of thousands of Garden State families in crisis,” said Janice R. Fine, Associate Professor at Rutgers University and Director of Research and Strategy at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers. “Low wage immigrant workers quite literally make it possible for the Garden State to work, every day. They were already facing unacceptably high rates of wage theft and on the job injury before the COVID-19 crisis. A just recovery demands attention and action.”


Taken together, these industries accounted for nearly 800,000 jobs in 2018, representing almost a quarter of New Jersey’s private-sector employment at 22.9 percent. These industries also accounted for $25.9 billion in annual payroll, or 11.4% of total private sector income.


“Since the first COVID-19 death in the U.S. on February 28, we have witnessed the high price of decades of corporate influence over public policy through deregulation, privatization, cuts to the safety net, and a general prioritization of profits over people,” said Todd E. Vachon, postdoctoral associate in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University and co-author of the analysis. “From the lack of paid sick time, to stingy and restrictive unemployment benefits, to the lack of universal healthcare and internet access for students, the pandemic lays bare the deep structural inequalities that define our contemporary society.”


Read the policy brief here:


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