Despite Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women leading as one of the quickest-growing demographics of entrepreneurs, the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, along with the widespread anti-Asian hate that arose from it, has caused lasting employment issues for these women and their families who depend on their income.
This article discusses the lasting employment problems facing Asian American Women due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent discrimination they have faced, and the ongoing battle to confront these issues.
According to a 2021 article by NBC News titled: “Why Asian American women have had highest jobless rates during last six months of Covid,” “Forty-four percent of unemployed Asian American women have been out of work six months or more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to Black women at 40.8 percent, Latina women at 38.3 percent, and all women at 38.6 percent.”
Although Asian American women occupy a range from highly paid professionals to food workers, many Asian American women work in the service field, including leisure, hospitality, beauty, retail, and restaurants including restaurants, leisure, hospitality, retail, and beauty, leading many to lose jobs in countless restaurants, stores, and nail salons shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the number of women working in the service industry does not entirely account for why many Asian American women are still unemployed in 2023.
According to the Asian/Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce, over two million businesses in the United States are owned by Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders. Yet, in parallel to the increase in unemployment among Asian American women in the service industry, an article from CNBC News reveals that “the number of AAPI business owners is estimated to have decreased by more than a quarter since the start of the pandemic.”
The article continues to explain the reasons behind this significant decrease: "Some of this decline can be attributed to structural issues that have afflicted other minority entrepreneurs. Many of these businesses are in the industries hardest hit by job losses since the start of the pandemic, including restaurants, retail, and personal care services.”
As the pandemic has led to an outburst of anti-Asian hate, it can undoubtedly be argued that the number of Asian American women left without jobs is intertwined with discrimination in the workplace. Because different media outlets and political figures have branded COVID-19 with racist titles such as the “Chinese virus,” many Americans have adopted a fear of Asian Americans, leading to a resurgence of the “Yellow Peril,” a racist metaphor that depicts the people of East and Southeast Asia as an existential danger to the Western World.
This anti-Asian discrimination has led to hate crimes such as shootings, the refusal to eat Asian cuisine and support Asian restaurants, and more. For this reason, Asian Americans and Asian American women, in particular, have lost jobs, as perhaps their colleagues or superiors continue to fear they risk spreading or receiving COVID-19 if they were to come in contact with an Asian or Asian American person. As the article by NBC News states, “Like the virus itself, the Covid-19 recession has hit communities unevenly. Women, in particular, have been walloped by unemployment.”
In terms of the ongoing fight to combat this discrimination, Asian American Christians from various denominations have been urging churches to fight racism in their congregations and find ways to support Asian American businesses.
According to another article by NBC, “While some efforts have been embraced, others have faced opposition or apathy.” While it is unclear as to how religion plays a role in the loss of Asian American Women’s jobs, Churches across the United States must play a role in not only supporting these women who are religious with a sense of community but perhaps also working to end anti-Asian discrimination through their teachings to aid in the regrowth of the community.
Furthermore, from a federal standpoint, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was implemented in May 2021 to improve hate crime response, reporting, and prevention. According to Health Affairs, this act“provides resources for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to help state and local law enforcement more accurately identify and report hate crimes to the FBI, including specialized hate crime units and hotlines, and provides resources accessible in multiple Asian languages for those with limited English proficiency.”
Finally, increasing mental health services for Asian Americans geared towards providing trauma-informed care is another essential step toward healing the community. Health Affairs states, "Hospitals and health systems can work toward providing more culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS) designed to respond to the growing diversity of patients’ cultural beliefs, practices, and languages.”
Despite a myriad of obstacles in their path, both AAPI Women Entrepreneurs and Asian American women as a whole are focused on their strength and resilience. As Yvonne Hsu, the chief policy and government affairs officer at The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said in a statement for AAPI Equal Pay Day, That’s the magic and strength of AAPI women,” she says. “We trust in our resilience and, especially after surviving the pandemic, the attitude is, ‘Whatever comes next, we can tackle it. We’ll figure it out.”
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