WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) commemorate Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) Equal Pay Day as the day when the earnings of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women “catch up” to what white men made the year before.
On average, NHPI women earn 60 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. Wage data typically combines Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders together or overlooks NHPI people altogether, erasing the wage disparities faced by these communities. When disaggregated, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians earned 66 cents and 57 cents, respectively, on the white, non-Hispanic male dollar. When combined, AANHPI women made 75 cents per white, non-Hispanic male dollar.
“The pandemic has revealed inequities for NHPI women in the workforce, yet they have continued to remain resilient in providing for their families,” says Estella Owoimaha-Church, executive director of EPIC. “The wage gap leaves NHPI women without financial security, causing them to work multiple jobs and/or longer hours. We demand data disaggregation and expansion of NHPI subgroups, including Marshallese, Chuukese, and Palauan women. In addition, we demand data for Queer and Transgender Pacific Islanders (QTPIs), who are also impacted by the wage gap. We will continue to advocate for our communities until these demands are met in order to achieve true equity.”
NHPI women are disproportionately represented in low-income jobs that have been deemed essential since the pandemic began, putting their livelihood and health on the line. Many NHPI women live in multigenerational households, caring for children and aging parents, leaving them with the difficult choice between working to care for their family and endangering their lives.
Previously, wage data has only considered full-time work, which overlooks the lowest paid workers and gives disproportionate weight to white-collar workers. With the impacts of COVID-19, it has become even more important to represent part-time, seasonal, migrant, and gig workers who have borne the brunt of the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Faced with wage discrimination, NHPI women are forced to work long hours, multiple jobs, and take on employment without benefits such as paid leave, employer-based healthcare, or access to retirement plans. These circumstances require women to delay or forego crucial care, including access to contraception and abortion care. Additionally, saving for retirement while providing for their families becomes impossible, requiring them to work much longer over their lifetime than their white male counterparts.
“NHPI Equal Pay Day draws attention to the long overlooked experiences of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” says Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). “The ‘model minority’ myth has cast a shadow over NHPI women for far too long making their unique experiences and barriers to wage parity invisible. Every NHPI woman deserves to live and work with dignity and the autonomy to make the best choices for themselves and their families.”
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The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) is the only multi-issue, progressive, community organizing and policy advocacy organization for Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women and girls in the U.S. NAPAWF’s mission is to build collective power so that all AAPI women and girls can have full agency over our lives, our families, and our communities.
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC) is a pro-Black, pro-Indigenous, anti-racist national organization based on Tongva land that advances social justice by engaging Native Hawaiians & Pacific Islanders in culture-centered advocacy, leadership development, and research.