Biden will inherit the most challenging labor market in decades

The United States has 9.8 million fewer jobs than it had before the pandemic, and an unemployment price of 6.7 p.c — far above the 3.5 p.c from a 12 months earlier. Addressing these deficits is certain to be an necessary barometer by which the Biden administration will be judged early on.

But the public well being disaster that brought on the issues stays in its worst stretch but, complicating makes an attempt to handle joblessness in industries that depend upon face-to-face contact, akin to tourism and hospitality, in addition to meals service institutions, together with eating places and bars, which were hit the hardest.

“All the walls are caving in for restaurant workers, that’s really how it feels right now,” mentioned John deBary, co-founder of the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy group.

The virus additionally has laid naked long-standing inequities in the financial system that economists and advocates assume might be improved via coverage.

Unemployment charges stay considerably larger for Blacks and Latinos. Women have left the labor power at a a lot larger price than men, reflecting in half an absence of kid care after colleges in many jurisdictions closed for in-person lessons.

“We need a care-led recovery, and one that prioritizes unpaid care as well as paid care and the people who perform that care,” mentioned Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, a professor of women’s and gender research at Rutgers University. “And I would say first and foremost of that, and it would be quite revolutionary, would be to have in the U.S. universal free child care. It would revolutionize our workforce and make men and women workers more productive and enable them to enter the labor market — and stay in the labor market.”

As many as a quarter of workers lack sick pay — making the United States an outlier among developed and wealthy countries, and a public health vulnerability that has drawn particular criticism during the pandemic. The lack of laws requiring mandatory paid parental leave remains another issue where the United States lags behind other wealthy countries.

The minimum wage is likely to be a priority as well, as Biden has been vocal about his support for a $15 minimum. He could begin addressing the issue through the Labor Department’s oversight of the massive web of companies that contract for the federal government — requiring that they pay their workers $15 an hour, for example.

Democrats also have high hopes for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a broad bill to strengthen labor protections and union rights that the House passed last year.

The legislation would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that retaliate against employees who organize and grant hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights. It has languished in the Republican-controlled Senate, but could potentially find new life in the Democratic-led Senate.

A federal safety standard that workplaces will have to adhere to during the pandemic is likely to be at the top of the agenda for Biden’s Labor Department as well.

“As we build out of the pandemic, the question is going to be: Do we build toward a more equitable economy where workers have a voice, where they have leverage to get wage increases that are long overdue?” mentioned Celine McNicholas, the director of presidency affairs at the Economic Policy Institute. “Or are we sort of returning to a system the place you’ve gotten low union protection, little or no employee voice, employee energy, staff aren’t sharing in wage will increase as productiveness will increase, they usually’re working in unsafe circumstances with out many protections.”

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