Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

During Pandemic Asian American Women Had Highest Rate of Unemployment of any Racial or Gender Group

Women are often disproportionately impacted by pay inequity. Discrimination, societal norms, and other forces can affect women’s occupational choices—and their pay

May is Asian Pacific Heritage month and for Asian American, Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Women (AANHPI) women, the inequities they face are extremely hard to change. Equal Pay Day this month, highlights their heritage in the American workforce.

Millions of Asian American mothers live in multigenerational households and shoulder the brunt of caregiving for their children, their elderly parents and extended family members. Very often, they are also the breadwinner in the household.

AANHPI women suffered the highest rate of long-term unemployment during the pandemic of any racial or gender group. Almost half, or 44 percent, of those who experienced job losses in 2020 stayed out of work for longer than six months.

“These are women who will never ‘catch up’ to their white male counterparts,” National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) chief policy and government affairs officer, Yvonne Hsu explained.

AANHPI women, on average, earn 75 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic, men. This wage gap drops even further for certain ethnic subgroups. Thai and Vietnamese women, in particular, earn 56 and 52 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men.

Among the ethnic subgroups, the wage gap is the widest for Pakistani women earning 48 cents and Nepalese women earning as little as 44 cents per dollar.

“Equal Pay Day shatters the pervasive ‘model minority’ myth or the idea that Asian Americans are high-achieving immigrants with resources and stable incomes,” says Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of NAPAWF.

“The wage gap is drastically different for each community and these differences serve as a reminder that all AANHPI women deserve to live and work with dignity, provide for their families, and make critical decisions that allow them to thrive,” Choimorrow said.

Over the past year, nearly 75 percent of AANHPI women report experiencing racism and/or discrimination, with more than half or 53 percent of women identifying a stranger or someone they didn’t know as the perpetrator. In February 2022, two Asian Massage Therapists were murdered within the space of one month.

“Too often, mainstream conversations about the wage gap overlook AANHPI women. Many struggle to afford life necessities such as health care, including access to contraception and abortion care. Choimorrow said.

With Roe and the future of abortion hanging in the balance, access to reproductive healthcare will further compound the economic barriers that AANHPI working women face in their everyday lives.

For more information on 2022 AANHPI Women’s Equal Pay Day, visit: https://www.napawf.org/equalpay