Eighty-five percent of Upwardly Global job seekers live below the federal poverty line. All are vulnerable to continued legal and administrative changes in immigration policy, including public charge and asylee work-authorization. Many live in cities hardest hit by the Coronavirus: New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago. They frequently lack sufficient social support—information, resources, job market access and social networks—to re-enter into their professional fields, leaving them unemployed or in low-wage, temporary jobs.
COVID-19 has heightened immigrants’ vulnerability to poverty. In a recent rapid needs appraisal of 74 UpGlo job seekers, we learned that nearly 50% experienced job loss or reduced income from their survival jobs in the past 10 days. This comes at the heels of the closure of non-essential businesses, leaving survival jobs in restaurants and ride-share services plummeting and job seekers without a primary source of income. As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many more job seekers are at risk of slipping into deeper poverty. Of our job seekers, 69% have no savings or less than one month’s worth of savings. With no safety net and deep isolation, meeting basic needs is harder. Currently, 28% of surveyed job seekers are unable to meet their basic needs, including payment for rent and/or food. We expect this trend to continue and worsen the longer our job seekers are unable to work.
At the same time, immigrants have valuable skills to contribute to our response to COVID-19, but are on the sidelines. UpGlo job seekers are clustered in key sectors— healthcare and tech—and they have resilience, problem-solving skills, and more.
A sign of the times, 73% of job seekers reported that they are struggling to continue skilling programs or the job search. 40% experienced a slowing job market, including hiring freezes, postponed interviews, and suspended credential and training programs.
At times of economic recession, immigrants often remain on the fringes of local economies in which they live. We know that investing in contributions and skills for all Americans is necessary to weather this storm together, and be prepared to build a strong future workforce.
Upwardly Global is responding to COVID-19 by building:
- Pathways: Putting job seekers’ skills to work in critical fields, including healthcare. As COVID-19 strains the capacity of our healthcare system, Upwardly Global believes foreign-born and -trained healthcare professionals have much to contribute. Our job seekers—physicians, nurses, researchers, technicians, nutritionists, and therapists—have medical degrees from their home countries, experience in health care, employment authorization and an eagerness to serve. Ninety-three percent (93%) of UpGlo healthcare professionals expressed a desire to support the U.S. in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. UpGlo is in touch with partner organizations and local officials to explore pathways to put this incredible talent pool into service.
- Investments: Encouraging employers to invest in their workers and communities.
As companies consider long term economic recovery, we believe that they hold a responsibility to lead on investing in the future workforce and in their communities. UpGlo is bringing employers together to explore medium-term inclusive solutions, such as expanding work-based learning and bridge programs to provide needed skills-building and career pathways.
- Resources: Offering tools for all U.S. workers to skill up for our workforce needs. Investing in the soft skills and market aligned technical skills that enhance competitiveness in a changing job market. This is particularly acute for immigrant workers, who are disproportionately impacted by a segmented labor market. Many immigrant workers, both high-skilled and otherwise, hold jobs that put them at risk of layoffs. A continued barrier for immigrant job seekers remains a deficit in cultural soft skills. This will continue to lock them out of opportunities, even when they possess the technical know-how. In addition, the shifting landscape of the job market, means a time for investment in reskilling and upskilling to realign with market demand. UpGlo will be building out market-aligned career pathways to consolidate re-/upskilling with employer demand. We are further sharing our online courses and know-how with community partners across the country so that we can collectively reach more people in need of career pathways and skills-building.
- Bridges: Creating digital networks and virtual volunteer opportunities to connect mentors and support job seekers. Physical distancing exacerbates social isolation for already marginalized communities. Building networks remains critical to develop and improve skills set, get informed about latest industry trends; keep a pulse on the job market and opportunities; and meet mentors. Upwardly Global is investing in infrastructure to build out volunteer opportunities and meaningful virtual networking events to ensure continued access and connections for job seekers.