How are AANHPI Women Faring in the Economy? | #JobsDay May 2024

by , | May 3, 2024 | Fair Pay

For today’s Jobs Report, which comes as we kick off Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, we are looking at how AANHPI women are faring in the economy. It’s important to note at the outset that we can’t tell this whole story. As we wrote in January, due to a lack of investment the jobs report doesn’t include monthly data for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women. This means that not only do Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities go 11 months of the year without up-to-date information about how the economy is working for them, the national conversation about the economy ignores their experiences throughout the year.

So what can we learn about Asian women from today’s data? While the unemployment rate for Asian women 20 and older (2.9 percent) is lower than for workers overall (3.9 percent), which might suggest that the economy is working better for them, a deeper dive suggests otherwise. The unemployment rate for Asian women in April is nearly a full percentage point higher than last April (2.9 percent vs 2.0 percent), more than double the increase experienced by all workers (3.5 percent in April 2024 vs 3.1 percent in April 2023). The unemployment rate for Asian women is also higher today (2.9 percent) than it was in 2023 on average (2.5 percent), the opposite of the trend seen for all workers (3.5 percent in April 2024 vs 3.6 percent in 2023). To do these comparisons, we have to use unadjusted data that doesn’t account for seasonal unemployment changes, such as holiday hiring. This is again because of a lack of investment in comparable data for Asian women workers.

Asian people are often held up as a model minority, with commitment to education cited as one of the reasons for their success. All of my life people have assumed I’m good at math because I’m Indian-American, and I’ve been told that Asians don’t experience any health disparities because they’re all rich. As individuals we know this isn’t true, and the data back us up. But the unemployment rate for Asian women ages 25 and older with a Bachelor’s degree or more was 2.3 percent in 2023 – higher than than for their white male counterparts (2.0 percent).

And as the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) has pointed out, Asian women often remain unemployed longer than other demographic groups. Our analysis of the latest data shows that this inequity amounted to an extra six weeks of unemployment for Asian women last month, compared to white men. These longer spells of unemployment mean less money for food, rent and health care – something Black women are also especially likely to experience.

What’s more, these topline data points obscure the diversity of Asian women’s experiences. National Partnership research shows that while AANHPI women overall are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, Bangladeshi women are paid as little as 49 cents and Nepali women 51 cents. These limited data also miss the diversity of jobs AANHPI women hold. Historically and currently, racist, xenophobic policies restrict AANHPI women’s immigration and limit their labor rights and protections, often forcing them into low-paid roles. National Partnership analysis also shows AANHPI women aren’t just more likely to be employed as scientists, but also as nail techs and garment workers. And policies that underpay and undervalue AANHPI women’s work mean they are paid less than men, across most of the jobs they most commonly hold.

This AANHPI Heritage Month, we’re grateful to our amazing partners like NAPAWF, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and others for their work to celebrate AANHPI communities – and to advocate for a more just future.

Read our full analysis of today’s Jobs Report on Twitter.

Click to open the full tweet thread in a new window.