Latinas represent 9% of New Jersey’s labor force, filling many essential, frontline roles and contributing to their local economies. However, a new report by the Rutgers Center for Women and Work, in partnership with the Latino Action Network Foundation, reveals many Latinas are struggling with low wages, non-existent benefits, no childcare access, and virtually no time or money to do anything other than work and care for their family.
“These women are doing the work that no one else wants to do, like cleaning homes and working in factories,” said Glenda Gracia-Rivera, a researcher at the Rutgers center and lead author of the report. “The gender pay gap is well known, but this report goes beyond the numbers to demonstrate what life is really like for Latina immigrants in our state. The findings are frankly alarming.”
New Jersey ranks near the bottom of all states (49th) on pay equity for Latinas, with only California faring worse. Latinas in New Jersey earn, on average, 45 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white man earns, totaling just $27,000 to $30,000 per year. Part-time and seasonal workers earn even less. Many Latinas lack affordable housing, childcare, healthcare, mental health services, paid time off, unemployment insurance, and other social safety nets. Compared to second- or third-generation Latinas, immigrants are even harder hit by these deficits.
Rutgers researchers interviewed 69 women who receive services at the Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers to learn more about the lived experiences of Latina immigrants in New Jersey. Based in Asbury Park, Camden, Dover, and Newark, these non-profit HWRC’s provide free community health, education, and employment services to a rapidly growing number of clients. The interviews revealed a pattern of economic and employment challenges.
“This study highlights the important work Hispanic Women’s Resource Centers perform in Latino communities across the state, addressing the wage gap and helping families enter the middle class,” said Jesselly de la Cruz, executive director of the Latino Action Network Foundation. “The case for investing in New Jersey’s Latina women is clear. LANF looks forward to working with Governor Murphy and the Legislature on increasing investment in this critical program so that more New Jersey families can benefit from these community resources.”
The HWRC’s have seen a massive spike in demand, jumping from 209 clients in 2016-17 to 3,309 in 2020-21. They are the Community Affairs and Resource Center in Asbury Park and Lakewood; the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey in Camden; the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs in Dover; and La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark. The authors recommend that New Jersey expand its support of the centers by:
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