AFRICANGLOBE – Even though the federal government under the administration of President Barack Obama has said that the Great Recession has been over for four years, large-scale unemployment and underemployment persists in the African American community. The National Urban League has released its annual report and the results portend much for the future of the labor market inside the United States.
This report is called “One Nation Underemployed: Jobs Rebuild America,” and makes the not too surprising claim that the underemployment rate for African-American workers is 20.5 percent, in comparison with 18.4 percent for Latino workers and 11.8 percent for White workers. Underemployed usually describes those who are working part-time or less but are seeking full-time jobs.
The same study also asserts that African-Americans are 100 percent more likely as Whites to be out of work. The jobless rate among African Americans was 12 percent in February, whereas it was 5.8 percent for Whites.
These statistics reveals the ongoing racism and national oppression within the U.S. Despite the existence of an African American president and a Democratic Party administration, no concrete programs are in existence which seeks to employ at living wages the tens of millions of the working poor. The Obama administration maintains that only private corporations can create jobs while even profitable firms are not hiring younger workers, particularly those from Black communities.
Massive lay-offs are also being carried out in the service sectors including banking and retail. Even fast food restaurants and retail chains are announcing the closure of outlets that will result in large-scale job losses.
Marc Morial, the president of the NUL, said that “Many Americans are being left behind, and that includes African-Americans who are being disproportionately left behind by the job creation that we see. More must be done in post-recession America to try to help people and help communities close these gaps.” (April 3)
Race And Class Divisions Widening
The analysis of the finding of the NUL report is based upon what they call an “equality index.” This index takes statistics from various governmental agencies including the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the NUL, African Americans rank as low as 71 percent in comparison with Whites in the areas of education and healthcare. Nonetheless with respect to what they characterize as economic performance, African Americans rank as low as 55 percent.
Figures for 2014 represent a decline in achievement of over one percent for African Americans since last year. These figures are reported at the same time that governmental Bureau of Labor Statistics reports make it appear as if unemployment is declining.
However, what is often not reported is the shrinkage of the labor participation rate which indicates that more people are dropping out of the job market due to the lack of available employment. When people stop looking for jobs they are no longer counted as being unemployed and must be measured using other indices.
In regard to the Latino population, the so-called “equality index” rose slightly to 75.8 percent in comparison to last year’s 74.6. However, mirroring a similar crisis facing African Americans, there was a decline in the economic performance index from 60.8 last year to 60.6, in the recent figures.
What is most striking about these statistics is the rate of underemployment for African Americans standing at 20.5 percent. Consequently, those who are even able to find work face a high probability of remaining in poverty.
The NUL is advocating policy reforms which are designed to pass legislation that will increase the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 or slightly more per hour to $10.10 as advocated by the Obama administration. There are currently petition drives and legislative proposals designed to increase wages by less than three dollars per hour.
However, the question becomes will the raising of the minimum wage at such a paltry level bring people out of poverty and economic uncertainty? Trade unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have been waging a struggle around raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour largely in the areas of fast food service and retail.
Neither the raising of the minimum wage to $10.10 or $15 will be sufficient to bring tens of millions out of poverty or level the economic field for Whites and the nationally oppressed in the U.S. The inequality within the system of wage labor is deeply rooted in the history and legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and modern-day capitalism.
The “equality index” examining performance and achievement within the areas of healthcare, education and household wealth is crucial in the process of tearing down the walls of institutional racism and class oppression. During the period of the Great Recession, African Americans were disproportionately impacted by home foreclosures, evictions and access to quality healthcare and education.
At present there is no specific program to address these issues of inequality and national oppression. The Obama administration has systematically ignored the plight of African Americans suffering from high unemployment, underemployment, the loss of housing and educational access.
A program called “My Brother’s Keeper” has been announced by the White House. However, the program offers no jobs or scholarships for youth and only advocates “personal responsibility” and “educational achievement” absent of addressing the underlying structural problems facing tens of millions of African Americans.
The signing of two executive orders by Obama related to pay scales for government contract employees and the reporting of compensation for employment will not create any real change in job creation and the lifting of people out of poverty. During 2012 the government conducted over $500 billion in business with companies that pay such low wages to its employees.
Modern-day Capitalism Breeds Low Wages and Super-exploitation
Such measures aimed at raising the minimum wage cannot be successful absent of a concerted effort to eliminate racism and national oppression. The failure to address these core issues will mean that more people will be forced into poverty across the U.S.
The ruling class is only advocating programs that effectively lower wages through the downsizing of the productive workforce, the elimination of unions and the evisceration of the public and educational sectors of the economy. In Detroit and other cities around the U.S. where inequality and racism run rampant, even retirees are facing systematic efforts to rob pension funds and healthcare programs that have been promised to workers through collective bargaining agreements and previous governmental legislation.
Consequently, the only solution to the crisis of low-wages, increasing poverty, gender discrimination, institutional racism and national oppression is the transformation of the capitalist system to one based on equality, anti-racism and self-determination.
By: Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Dr. Claude Anderson – Powernomics