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A Hidden Crisis

April 2016

A Hidden Crisis

Underemployment in Silicon Valley's hourly workforce

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Silicon Valley is among the most prosperous regions in the United States. Yet one-third of workers in San Jose earn less in a year than the average annual rent for a one-bedroom home and even more working families are caught in an ever-intensifying struggle to make ends meet.

In the past four years, a broad, emerging economic-justice movement has won pacesetting minimum-wage victories in five cities throughout the Valley: starting with the groundbreaking Raise the Wage San Jose ballot measure in 2012 and continuing with four neighboring cities voting to follow suit.

In order for those higher wages to help provide for our region’s working families, employers must also provide employees with an opportunity to work suf cient and consistent hours for a reliable, livable paycheck.

In this paper, we find underemployment widespread in San Jose:

  • Among the estimated 162,000 people employed in hourly jobs in San Jose, the portion who have part-time or variable schedules at their main job has grown in the last ten years from 26% to 43%, meaning more than four out of every ten hourly workers do not have full-time work at their primary job.2
  • Today, roughly 64,000 working people in the city of San Jose — overwhelmingly comprising women, people of color, and immigrants — do not have full-time work at their primary job.
  • 63% of hourly part-time workers are women and 69 percent are people of color.
  • 77% of hourly part-time workers earn less than $15 per hour.
  • 58% of households with hourly part-time workers are rent-burdened — paying more than 30% of their total household income for rent.
  • 45% of hourly part-time workers lack access to job-based health insurance.
  • The United States has long set standards for work hours to protect working people and provide a level playing field for businesses. Yet this federal framework of rules has not kept up with the growing trends of contingent, part-time, and last-minute work scheduling that are impacting working people and their families in today’s economy.

    As the capital of Silicon Valley — a region at the bleeding edge of these emerging trends — San Jose has the opportunity to innovate in creating a community-centered framework that moves us closer to ensuring that every working person in the region has a chance to earn a family-sustaining income. That’s why now is the time for San Jose to continue the important work that began with raising the minimum wage by updating our workplace hours protections so that every working person earns a living wage with enough hours of work to care for themselves, their families, and our communities.

    Read the full report