The high cost of low wages

In Oregon, an estimated 412,000 workers (25 percent of the workforce) make $12 an hour or less, and 9 percent make minimum wage (which is currently $9.10 an hour), according to a study released Jan. 8 by the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center (LERC), “The High Cost of Low Wages in Oregon.”

The figures are worse for women and minorities: 45 percent of Latino workers and 50 percent of African-American workers are in low-wage industries. And those at the bottom of the barrel for hourly wages are also more likely to have little or no health or retirement benefit, less predictable work schedules, more volatile paychecks, and to work part-time.

Low-wage jobs are concentrated in a handful of occupations, including retail, restaurant,  janitorial and landscaping, personal care, and health care support.

The report argues that many low-wage workers rely on publicly funded safety net programs to meet basic needs — particularly food stamps, Medicaid, and employment-related day care assistance — and thus that those programs are being taken advantage of by big corporations.

The report was funded from six labor organizations and authored by LERC faculty members Raahi Reddy and Bob Bussell, along with UO sociology professor Ellen Scott and Ph.D. student Shauna Dyer, and Daniel Morris, research director Our Oregon.

The full report is available here.

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