March 9 marks Equal Pay Day for Asian American and Pacific Islander women, the day that AAPI women have to work into 2021 to earn the same amount of money that white, non-Hispanic men earned in 2020, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).
On average, AAPI women are paid 85 centers for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, according to the NWLC, a policy-focused organization that fights for gender justice.
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“This group faces one of the smallest wage gaps, but the loss of 15 cents on the dollar, it adds up,” Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the NWLC, said. “It’s $833 [lost] a month, $10,000 a year and $400,000 over the course of a career, and those are just lost earnings.”
This year’s AAPI Equal Pay Day comes at a particularly tenuous time specifically for women, who have been hit disproportionately hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic, which has put more than 2 million women overall out of the workforce.
AAPI women are facing an unemployment rate that is now double their pre-pandemic rate. Asian American women are facing the highest long-term unemployment rate among women of any race, according to Tucker.
“There are all of these hurdles that they’re facing, and if they were paid what they were owed all of this time, they may have been able to weather this storm a little bit easier,” Tucker said, adding that 45% of unemployed Asian American women have been unemployed for six months or longer.
AAPI women are also fearful of their own safety during the pandemic, which has also hurt them economically, according to Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, a nonprofit organization that works to amplify AAPI women’s stories and experiences.
Amid a spate of violent attacks on Asian Americans across the country, reported to be fueled in part by biases pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic, Asian American women are reporting crimes and harassment at nearly three times the rate as Asian American men, according to Choimorrow.
“That is the reality that we live in right now,” she told “GMA.” “And all of these factors limit our economic potential.”
When it comes to the gender wage gap for AAPI women overall, there is also a large disparity in the wages different groups of women under that same umbrella are making. If the data is not disaggregated in order to paint a fuller picture, it can be damaging to AAPI women, according to both Choimorrow and Tucker.
Tucker points out that while Japanese women make 95 cents for every dollar that white men make, Burmese women, for example, make 52 cents on the dollar. Similarly, Filipino women also make much less.
“While [the data] says we’re making 85 cents to a white man’s dollar, there’s so much nuance that goes into that story,” Choimorrow said. “There are [AAPI] women who make 50 cents to a white man’s dollar, and we don’t often hear those stories, and they’re not the names that we often see.”
“I think the bigger issue that gets overlooked is that women in these communities often don’t have the kind of whatever limited safety net our country creates for people in low-income situations,” she said, noting that information on government programs like unemployment insurance is often not automatically translated into multiple languages and is therefore inaccessible.
The pay gap for AAPI women is, at 85 cents, one of the smallest wage gaps overall. Overall, women in the U.S. who work full-time, year-round are typically paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, according to the NWLC.
“I think this group is skimmed over a lot, because they tend to make a little bit more money, and they face the model minority myth, but AAPI women are in households that have lost income, they’re more likely than any other group to be looking for employment that is long-term, and they’re behind on their rent and mortgage payments more often than white people,” Tucker said. “They’re in a crisis, and there are ways to fix this.”
Tucker suggested items such as holding employers accountable for diverse hiring and promotions, raising the minimum wage, passing the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress and creating a better child care infrastructure in the U.S. as solutions that would help AAPI women as well as all women.
“If we’re not going to do this now, when everything has been exposed, every problem that we have, all of the racism, all of the sexism, the lack of child care, all of the problems that existed before the pandemic, now there is a spotlight on them,” Tucker said. “If now is not the time to do something, I’m worried that it will never be the time.”
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