JUNE 2, 2004
3:27 PM
Sarah Massey 202-637-5018
New AFL-CIO "Ask A Working Woman" Survey Spotlights Women's Top Concerns in 2004

WASHINGTON - June 2 - Finding and keeping a good job with basic benefits in today’s economy is the leading concern of working women, both personally and as public policy, according to a new survey of women nationwide commissioned by the AFL-CIO.

Nearly half—48 percent—of working women say they have been out of work in the past year or have a family member or close friend who has been out of work. And having a job does not ensure having basic benefits, the survey finds. One-quarter to one-third of employed women lack basic benefits including affordable health insurance, prescription drug coverage, pension or retirement benefits, equal pay and paid sick leave. Rising health costs are the biggest worry for working women, leading to a dramatic increase in support for laws to make health care more affordable since 2000.

The “Ask A Working Woman” survey, the fourth in a series, was conducted for the AFL-CIO by Lake Snell Perry & Associates. It confirms that working women contribute a majority of their families’ incomes, and many work irregular hours and shifts different than their spouses or partners.

The report results reflect high economic insecurity due to steady job loss. Even though there has been a slight uptick in recent months, the country has lost 2.2 million private-sector jobs since January 2001, with the heaviest losses in the manufacturing sector. Overwhelming numbers of working women of all races—90 percent—say they know how tough it is to find a job that pays well and provides benefits in today’s job market, the survey finds.

“This survey dramatically demonstrates that the jobs crisis deeply affects America’s working families,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO Executive Vice-President. “New jobs being created offer 20 percent lower wages, on average, than those that have been lost, and many don’t offer basic benefits. Women from all backgrounds and from across the country fear for their future, because they find it harder and harder to find good jobs.”

Women of color have the greatest personal experience with job loss. Sixty-one percent of African American women, 56 percent of Latinas and 52 percent of Asian Pacific American women have or know someone who has been out of work in the past year.

A surprisingly large share of working women say they lack key benefits that are important to them:

95 percent say secure, affordable health care is an important job benefit, but 31 percent say they lack it.

93 percent say prescription drug coverage is an important benefit, but 36 percent do not have it.

93 percent also say equal pay and paid sick leave for themselves are important, but 25 percent say they do not have equal pay and 31 percent do not have paid sick leave for themselves.

In addition, a shorter, non-scientific survey on the AFL-CIO web site received over 13,000 responses from women. Eighty percent of Internet respondents answered one of two online questions—“If there was one thing you could tell President Bush, what would you say?” or “If there was one thing you could tell the other candidates running for President, what would you say?” The over 10,000 responses were delivered to President Bush and 9,000 to Senator Kerry on Tuesday, June 1.

Support for laws to make health care more affordable has risen sharply over the last four years—81 percent of working women say such laws are personally very important today, compared to 69 percent in 2002 and just 57 percent in 2000. Laws to make health care more affordable, laws to strengthen Social Security and laws to strengthen pensions are women’s top legislative priorities.

The survey also found that more than nine in 10 working women support stronger laws to constrain corporate America. Working women want to see overtime pay guaranteed, limits on CEO compensation, stronger equal pay laws, stronger affirmative action laws and stronger laws to challenge discrimination. Women of all ages and races support these laws.

Strong support for legislative solutions to job problems may reflect the primary role women now play in household finances and the changing nature of jobs. The survey confirms that many women work irregular hours, and most contribute half or more of their families’ incomes, increasing the pressure they feel concerning good jobs. Four in 10 working women work evenings, nights or weekends on a regular basis, and one-third work shifts different than their spouses or partners. Women of color are more likely to work evenings, nights or weekends and are more likely to work shifts different than their spouses or partners. Three in 10 working women make all or almost all of their families’ incomes. Three in five earn about half or more of their families’ incomes.

The AFL-CIO is the nation’s largest organization of working women with more than five million women members.

The 2004 Ask A Working Woman survey report is based on a new national telephone survey of 1450 working women over the age of 18 nationwide. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percent.

To get a copy of the survey report, please phone the AFL-CIO Media Outreach Department at (202) 637-5018.