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In 2019, 53 million Americans, or 44% of the country’s workers aged 18 to 64, worked in low-wage jobs that paid a median annual salary of $ 18,000.

According to available census data, about 51% of working people earn less than $ 35,000 per year, which is only slightly above the federal poverty line for a family of four – and less than what they earn. need to be able to afford a modest two bedroom apartment. A recent survey found that on average, a modest two-bedroom apartment with the average national market rent of $ 1,061 required an hourly wage of $ 20.40. This is an annual salary of $ 42,432.

Jobs with low wages, unreliable hours, and a lack of benefits dominate the American economic landscape for workers and their families. The pandemic has made this problem worse for low-wage workers whose work cannot be done remotely. In 2020, nearly 8 million low-wage workers lost their jobs, while others, like those in the meat-packing industries, were declared “essential” and forced to work in hazardous conditions.

Economic distress has shaped the lives of millions of workers for decades. Without savings, people are forced to resort to high interest loans to cover ordinary but unforeseen expenses – car repairs, dental problems, illness. On an already insufficient budget, this creates a financial crisis that can push low-wage workers into further debt.

Since 2010, the federal government has released an “Supplementary Poverty Measure” that takes into account programs to help low-income families and individuals who are not included in the official poverty rate. This figure often raises the poverty rate, but in 2020 additional measures brought it down from 11.4% to 9.1%. The Census Bureau attributed the decline to the success of government stimulus payments intended to ease economic hardship caused by COVID-19. These payments are complete.

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Julio V. Miller

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