The Coronavirus pandemic has raised many issues regarding workers, their rights and the labor market as a whole. On the one hand, the rate of unemployment continues increasing while on the other hand the concept of an “essential worker” has come into our lives. Without these essential workers, the things that are necessary in our lives would not exist. These essential workers hold many different positions. There are those whose profession allow them to work from home, while others are required to interact with the public and therefore are exposed to greater risk of Coronavirus infection.
Who are the essential workers most at risk of infection? A report we published last month takes a close look at this issue. The report was written in collaboration with Dr. Naomi Friedman-Sokuler, an economist at Bar-Ilan University, and aims to characterize the workers at risk of Coronavirus infection, including their income level, education and age. The report also examined whether or not these workers have been compensated for the heavy burden they are carrying.
Data showed that essential workers are often placed at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of their work and are often low-income workers. In fact, the lower the wage, the greater the exposure to risk. The workers that are placed in a more fragile position are more likely to be infected. For example, our research showed that hourly workers are more likely to be infected with the Coronavirus than full-time workers. The fact that essential workers already come from the most vulnerable populations in Israeli society was a common thread running through the data analyzed as well.
Our findings also showed a link between education level and risk of Coronavirus infection. Over 49% (49.6%) of workers with a high school education have a high exposure to infection compared to 22.1% of those with education beyond high school. In terms of age, those over the age of 55, have the highest exposure rate. Thus, those with the highest exposure to infection are the most at risk of developing severe and life-threatening symptoms.
Regarding gender and the nuclear family, women are 24% more likely to work in a position with high exposure to the Coronavirus compared to men. And single parents have a higher probability of being exposed than workers who are married.
The data presented in our report are not surprising, unfortunately. But we can see them as an opportunity, a chance to acknowledge these workers and re-examine society’s attitude toward them. The Coronavirus epidemic gives us a chance to examine anew the income level and social status of the workers we need the most. The epidemic is an opportunity to correct this injustice, raise wages and improve the rights of these workers who are most exposed to the Coronavirus pandemic.
There is active discourse around the world regarding the status and wages of essential workers. An analysis of the average salaries of essential workers in the United States reveals that their wages are much lower than the average wage in the labor market. In contrast, Canada raised the wages of essential workers. This month, Israel enacted a policy to cover the costs of a worker’s required quarantine; however, the policy did not take into consideration the problems faced by low-income workers with greater exposure to infection.
We at Kav LaOved will continue to monitor this issue and to advocate for improved status and rights of essential workers in Israel who are exposed to greater risk of infection from the Coronavirus.
If you don’t see the report click here
To the full report: