Asian Americans struggling post-recession: report

AAAJ-L.A. at a May Day rally in 2014

AAAJ-L.A. at a May Day rally in 2014

Despite growing buying power and job creation in the past, communities see declining net worth and growing numbers of low-income workers among Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI).

This is according to a report by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles and the American Federation in New York. Citing recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, the report released this week shows Asian communities are among the nation’s fastest growing and these immigrant communities have made significant contributions to the economy through their labor in key industries and entrepreneurial activity. Yet the report notes that Asian Americans and NHPI were also impacted by the recession, experiencing significant declines in net worth and growing numbers of low-income workers in recent years.

The report, “Making America Work: Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the Workforce and Business,” found that Asian Americans in both white- and blue-collar occupations are driving key industries throughout our nation’s economy. Demonstrating the considerable social and economic diversity within these communities, data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Asian Americans make up nearly 1/3 of medical scientists and more than half of all personal care workers nationwide.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners, Asian American-owned businesses in the United States employ over 2.8 million workers, creating nearly 600,000 jobs from 2002 to 2007 alone. The report found that approximately 74 percent of Asian American workers and 82 percent of Asian American business owners are immigrants.

“Immigration brings the American workforce new skills and an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are playing important roles in our nation’s economic recovery, bringing new ideas and creating millions of jobs for all Americans.”

Yet like many communities, Asian Americans and NHPI are struggling in the aftermath of the economic recession. Data from the Census Bureau show that the median net worth of Asian American households declined 59 percent between 2005 and 2010, caused by significant decreases in home equity. Data also show that the number of poor Asian American workers increased 38 percent from 2006 to 2012.

“Low-wage workers and small business owners are still reeling from the economic crisis,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation. “Our communities continue to need social safety-net programs, workforce development programs, and strong employment and labor laws. Small business owners need access to loans and both programs and training in their language.”

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