Working women worse off in Dade

LABOR

Working women worse off in Dade

Miami Herald, The (FL) - Friday, April 17, 2009

Author: CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN cgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

Abstract: Women in the Miami area are more hard-hit financially than women in the rest of the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN cgoodman@MiamiHerald.com

While the entire nation is struggling financially, it's worse in Miami -Dade County for working women, according to a report released Thursday. Most of them are struggling to stay above the poverty level and earn enough for basic necessities.

The lack of economic security for women began before the financial collapse and threatens the entire community, according to findings of a report released Thursday by the Womens Fund of Miami -Dade.

The report, A Portrait of Women's Economic Security in Greater Miami , combines census information with findings from focus groups of low-wage workers to uncover for the first time the obstacles that are keeping women and families from thriving.

"Until now, we didn't know just how bad it was because there wasn't data," said Sophie Brion, Women's Advocacy Project director.

Much like the rest of the nation, many women in this region live paycheck to paycheck, turning to friends and family for help with loans to survive rough patches.

Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Locally that number is 72 cents for every dollar a man earns. There are more low-wage jobs here and more women in them, lessening their ability to get jobs that offer higher wages, according to the report.

SINGLE MOMS

Under particular strain are single mothers, whose families make up the largest group of people living below the self-sufficiency standard in Miami -Dade County: $38,627 per year for a mother and one child.

And while women are earning less, they also struggle to collect what they earn. The report says wage theft , or the nonpayment of money owed for work, is rampant in Miami -Dade County. This may be because immigrant women make up 63 percent of the female workforce, the report shows.

"Every possible way that these women can get scammed is happening," said Jennifer Hill, an attorney with the Workplace Justice Project at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

"It's even more of a problem with the downturn because they can't get second jobs to make up for the lost wages."

Another major hardship for women is lack of benefits. Fewer women who work full time in Miami -Dade County have healthcare coverage from their employers than the national average.

Paid sick leave is an issue, too. Only 46 percent of Florida workers have paid sick leave benefits, making it difficult for the large number of single moms in Miami -Dade.

SOLUTIONS

Brion says her report recommends four key strategies for improving women's economic security: help women build assets by teaching them financial skills, give them tools to fight for their rights, train women to enter high growth industries and invest in children and early care.

A Snapshot

Earnings of women in Miami -Dade County:

Only 46 percent of women who work earn enough to be self-sufficient.

Only 51 percent of women working full-time have healthcare coverage from their employer. The national average is 66 percent.

Seventeen percent of women are employed in low-wage occupations where the hourly median wage is under $10.

Half of all single family female-headed households earn less than $18,500.

Nationally, women average 77 cents earned for every dollar earned by a man. In Miami -Dade County, women earn 72 cents per dollar for every dollar earned by a man. SOURCE: Portrait of Women's Economic Security in Miami -Dade County.

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